Why Hunters Come to GrowingDeer Field Days

By GrowingDeer,

We’ve been having Field Days at The Proving Grounds for many years.  Each time we welcome the visitors as strangers then find that by the end of the weekend we’ve made new friends. Most all the folks attending the tour watch GrowingDeer and this is our chance to get to know them just a little better. We love talking to them, hearing about their goals for their hunting properties, their hunting stories, and their families.

There were so many kind, friendly folks here at the Field Event: 128 folks from Georgia to New York to Michigan to Texas.  Each and every one of them were passionate about deer hunting and deer management. Here are a few of the folks and just a little insight into why they came.

Early arrivals at he 2018 field day gather at barn

Ron came all the way from Savannah, Georgia to see first-hand how we are managing The Proving Grounds for better hunting. I talked to Ron during the social time on Friday before the bow shoot started.  He said his hunt club members were all a bit “old school”.  Ron has taken the initiative to improve the club. He was interested in learning how to better improve the food plots in the sandy soils of eastern Georgia. The presentations and field examples of cover crops, crop rotation, and the “Buffalo system” we are using gave him ideas to take back and implement on his club.

Rick and Tina, a couple with hunting land here in Missouri came to the Field Day event looking to find a balance for their property between managed food plots and native vegetation along with how to use native grasses for bedding areas. The food plot demos and presentations along with the up-close, personal looks at the areas with prescribed fire were very helpful to them.  One of the last questions by Tina was for a recommendation of the best type of boot to wear when working a prescribed fire.  They plan on cutting more cedars and implementing prescribed fire on their property!

Paul and his son from the St. Louis, MO area; they came looking for tips to improve their hunting property – specifically how to get it to hold more deer.

Stephen and his son Chris from Houston, Texas: Stephen has been hunting for many years.  He wanted to introduce his step-son Chris to hunting.  He started by showing Chris the video where young Rylan White was hunting.  After watching Rylan’s hunt, Chris decided that if Rylan could hunt, he could too!  Now this young boy is “ate up” with hunting and watches all the GrowingDeer videos. Stephen and the family came to Branson for the weekend so that he and Chris could meet us and learn more about hunting.  Chris had the biggest smile on his face all weekend as he listened to the field presentations and then, during the social times met Rylan White.  It looked like the two of them were having a great time as they played around the office and had Crystal exhausted from hours of chase and fetch!

In addition to the social aspect of the weekend, Grant and Daniel were able to really jump in and get specific with some of the hunters with advice on their hunting land.

We spent some time getting to know Tom.  He had retired to Florida but returned to his home state of Michigan to hunt at his club.  The club is a lease on over 2,000 acres but with a lot of members in the lease. His concern: no one was harvesting does.  He wanted to figure out a balance between deer and food.  The reality was that he needed to harvest does…more than he could do himself.  Daniel gave him advice on how to work with members of the club as well as increase the available food.

Daniel was able to spend time with Tim and Taylor from Illinois.  Daniel reviewed their maps and discussed their current strategies for hunting the land. The final analysis was that their hunting strategies were good, but given they had the largest block of timber in the area, they needed a late season food source for after the harvest of the local ag crops.  He encouraged them to use the timber more as a sanctuary and hunt the edges of the timber.

Grant talking with Texas/Oklahoma hunters

We try really hard to present information and answer the questions from the hunters at our field events. It’s intense, but rewarding for everyone.

On Monday morning, we received an email from Mr. Orf, one of our previous clients that attended the event for a first-hand look at The Proving Grounds.  Mr. Orf had this to say after experiencing the GrowingDeer field day event: “I’ve been to a lot of seminar events like this for my business and I’ve not been to many that were as packed with really good information as this Spring Field Days.”

We’ll have highlights of the field day when we release the new video next Monday morning.  Check it out and watch for tips that might help you with your deer hunting and land management objectives.  It will also include a turkey hunting demo that received a very positive response.

A big thanks to all that came to the field day event. We were blessed by each and every one of you!

Enjoying His Creation and the spring rains –


For the GrowingDeer Team

Turkey Hunting: 7 Important Tips for Patterning Your Shotgun

By GrowingDeer,

We’ve been preparing for turkey season – practicing our calls, doing a lot of prescribed fire and getting our decoys ready.

In addition to scouting and practicing turkey calls, this is the time of year to make sure and spend some time patterning your turkey gun. In my opinion, this is the most important thing to do before a hunt. (I recently patterned the 12 gauge before our Florida turkey hunt.)

Patterning my turkey gun

Here are a few tips to consider when you are patterning your shotgun:

    1. The most important aspect to remember when you head to the range is to grab your hearing protection. Always, always protect your hearing when shooting or when around loud equipment. Good hearing is vital to turkey hunting and enjoying Creation.*
    2. While this seems obvious, it needs to be said: shoot the same shell that you’ll be using when turkey hunting. Don’t go the cheap route and use an off brand when testing your gun. Know how both your gun and the load perform together.
    3. Since you are testing the accuracy of the gun, take out the other sources of error. Use a gun rest or shooting bench, shoot from a seated position and measure the guns performance, not yours. You can go to a shooting range or do what I do and use a Lead Sled and Stable Table from Caldwell Shooting Supplies.
    4. Test the gun at different yardages. Notice how the pattern changes as the distance increases because when you are in the field that tom might hold up at 40+ yards or surprise you and come in really, really close! Making a kill with a turkey gun can be easier at 30 yards than 10 yards. This is because the shot pattern of a turkey gun is smallest at close range. It would be much easier to miss a tom at 10 yards, due to the very tight pattern, than at 30+ yards.I shoot Long Beard XR shells from Winchester
    5. Before you go to the range, check out this handy tool that I use: the Winchester Pattern Board Application on Winchester.com.
    6. What gauge shotgun will you be using? Consider the weight of your gear if you’re running and gunning. I have found that by carrying the light and collapsible Montana Decoys and switching to a 20 gauge, it’s a lot lighter when you're standing on one ridge and that tom fires off on the other ridge. Winchester now has a 20 gauge in Long Beard XR. I love the idea of toting a 20 gauge over these Ozark Mountains.
    7. Think about the benefits of using a scope on your shotgun. If you’ve ever shot the Long Beard XR shells from Winchester, you know how tight they pattern. And if you’ve got a bird at 20 or 30 yards or even 15 yards, you could miss easily if you're just using a bead. And if you're at 40 yards, you want to make sure the gun’s bead isn’t covering the entire tom. Plus, a scope keeps your head down and you know exactly where your point of aim is going.

Many of our friends across the southern portion of the US are already out in the turkey woods. We’ll be doing the same soon as we travel to hunt in Tennessee!

When you’re out there – remember to take time, look around and thank the Creator for all His blessings and the ability to live in a country where we have the freedom to hunt.

Enjoy Creation,


*When I’m hunting I wear WildEar hearing protection. These have been great to wear in the field. Small and custom fit that protect your ears from extreme noise and gun blasts that also provide hearing enhancement. I’ve lost hearing from years of shooting without protection. The WildEar helps me to hear turkeys and other sounds in the woods that I cannot hear with my natural hearing.

The Most Important First Step for the Best Food Plots

By GrowingDeer,

For 15 years we’ve worked to improve the habitat and nutrition for white-tailed deer at The Proving Grounds. We named the farm The Proving Grounds because this may be one of the hardest places in North America to hunt and “grow” mature whitetails. We thought that if the tools, practices and strategies we use here for growing and hunting whitetails succeed, they can work anywhere there are white-tailed deer.

We’ve had proven success with getting scrawny Ozark deer to grow antlers and increase body weights that are above average in our area. These increases are simply a bi-product of healthy deer. By improving the native browse and adding high quality forage through food plots, we have enjoyed great hunting opportunities.

However, if the right quantity of nutrients isn’t in the dirt, the plants have no available nutrients to transfer to deer. Simply put, if deer don’t consume food produced from good dirt, they can’t reach their full potential.

Given this very simple, but important fact, if you’re planting food plots it is of great benefit to collect soil samples each year. The price of having a soil sample analyzed is one of the least expensive and most important tools I use as a deer manager.

The results of a soil sample include the soil’s pH, the amount of phosphorous, potassium and several other trace minerals (depending on the analysis requested). This information is then used to determine how much lime and fertilizer is needed to produce a quality crop based on the forage you wish to grow.

To get high quality forage and therefore give the deer a better opportunity to express their full potential, it’s critical to apply the appropriate quantity and quality of each element required for each crop. Make sure you note on the form submitted for each soil test, the exact crop or blend of crops to be grown in that plot. If you don’t, the lab will either not provide any recommendations or provide a generic recommendation. Omitting the specific crop that will be planted usually results in producing crops that aren’t as palatable or nutritious for deer.

I just received the soil test results from Waters Agricultural Laboratories for every food plot at The Proving Grounds. The soil management practices, cover crops and crop rotations used on those plots that have been established for several years indicate that the soil has significantly benefited from those practices. In fact, I have not had to put any fertilizer on my plots in four years because nutrients are held and recycled! Soil tests are a fabulous tool to make sure that your deer herd has quality nutrition available. Remember, if it’s not in the dirt, it can’t get to the deer.

Growing Deer together,


Turkey Hunting: Favorite Locator Call #2 | The Crow Call

By GrowingDeer,

Last week we shared turkey hunting tips for locating turkeys with an owl call. The owl call is the first call out of our vests when we hit the turkey woods. As we go through the day, other calls start to come out to call in or locate those toms.

World Champion Caller James Harrison has some advice for those turkey hunts that don’t go quite as planned, when the toms went the other way or just go totally silent. In these type of hunting situations he considers one of the best tools to use to locate more gobblers a crow call.

Three big male turkeys walking out of brush

Crow calls are louder, sharper and will get the toms to gobble. It is one of James’ favorite tools to get turkeys gobbling.

In the early morning hours, if you’ve tried an owl call without response from the turkeys, James suggest changing things up. You can even use them right off the roost if you’ve got a lot of owls in your area. If the owls are hooting and the turkeys aren’t gobbling, make a crow call.

He definitely recommends using a crow call from midday on.

For those states that allow all day hunting, they are especially good for the afternoon and early evening before the birds go on the roost.

If you’re hunting with a partner have them step away from you (the caller) so that they can listen for the tom’s response to the call (just like with the owl call) as crow calls are extremely loud.

James recommends crow calls with a sequence of three to four short bursts, varied in length. Listen. Repeat.

If you’re “tuned up” you can get crows to respond back and actually call in crows! When another crow responds back, he’s actually locating the turkeys for you!

The more realistic you can be with your crow call the better off you’re going to be when turkey hunting! Locator calls like the owl call and the crow call can be practiced outside without educating the turkeys in your area as you “learn” the calls. So while you’re sitting on the porch, checking trail cameras, fishing at the pond, shed hunting, or just doing yard work – take your crow call along and get some practice in!

A special thank you to James for these helpful tips! We hope they will bring you success this year on your next turkey hunt!

Enjoy Creation,

Tracy Woods

Turkey Hunting: Using an Owl Call

By GrowingDeer,

What’s the first call to come out of your turkey vest?

To locate gobblers early in the morning one of the best calls to use is an owl call. It’s one of the best calls to get turkeys to sound off on the roost. (You'll see Daniel and Clay using an owl call in this turkey hunt linked here.)

After talking with world champion caller James Harrison, I’ve put together a few basic tips for using an owl call. James Harrison is the mastermind and creator of the Harrison Hootin’ Stick by Hook’s Custom Calls.

If you are hunting in hardwoods, it’s important to not call too loudly at first. Owls are naturally only so loud. If a turkey is nearby and you over blow, you’ll scare the tom into not gobbling. It’s best to ease into the call. A modest, softer first “hoot” is best. If all is silent, you can begin to crank up the volume.

Using an owl call

If you are hunting with a partner, send them a short distance from you (the caller). That way your partner can listen to see if there is any response to your calls. As the caller, you will have the sound of the call in your ears and may not hear a tom answer. 

If you are in open country, try holding the call at the end, grasping it with your thumb and index finger, making an “okay” sign with the end of the call in the middle. Then cup the other fingers to make an open “tube” on the call. This will help you get a little more range out of the call. The pitch is higher and carries a little further to get distant turkeys to gobble.

The more realistic you can make your calls the better off you are. It’s safe to practice owl hooting in the pre-season. Break out the calls, step outside and work on those hoots!

(To see how to use an owl call visit Hook's Custom Calls to see the “how to” videos on their page.)

Enjoy Creation,

Tracy Woods for the GrowingDeer Team

A Hunting Legacy: Glen Woods

By GrowingDeer,

These past few months have been very difficult for the Woods family. Last week was the most difficult of all as we said good bye to Grant’s father, Glen Woods. Glen, “Pops”, hunted with the GrowingDeer Team and became a familiar face to viewers of GrowingDeer videos.

Glen loved fishing and hunting. He passed on that love of hunting to Grant. He was a patient father, taking Grant out to hunt as a young boy. When Grant developed an interest in turkey hunting, Glen rose early to take Grant to the turkey woods even though he himself did not hunt turkey at that time. He waited at the truck while his “boy” chased turkeys around the Ozark hills and hollers. Grant was blessed to have his father as his best friend and best hunting buddy. Hunting and fishing kept them together with time to talk in the truck driving to hunts, in the hunting blind or fishing boat. These are memories Grant will treasure.

Many folks have written expressing their condolences which we very much appreciate. One dear friend shared a wonderful note of encouragement with Grant. His insightful words were so comforting that it is an honor to share part of them here:

I can still remember the first time I met your father. We were doing a prescribed burn on your farm (what is now known as The Proving Grounds) and he was in charge of being on the lookout for fire crossing the line.  There’s an old saying that I hear a lot, that you can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. This certainly holds true in your father’s case. When I shook his hand, it immediately told me a story about your father that was also verified by so many people at today’s service. His strong grip could have easily crushed my hand even in his 70s-80s. The rough skin told me that he had spent a lot of long days doing manual labor and probably spent very few days behind a desk. This told me immediately that your father was a hard worker and that I had my work cut out for me that day and that I was going to be giving my full 100% just to keep up with him. Hopefully I didn’t let him or you down.

That first time I met Glen his eyes also told me a story. I am sure that at his age there was a lot to be frustrated, grumpy or to complain about, but his eyes always told me that he was happy. I am sure that in his 87 years of living that there were probably a few frowns, but every time I ever saw him, his eyes told me that he was the happiest man on earth. Another thing that I saw was his love and respect for his children, especially you, Grant. I never had the privilege to spend much time around your sisters, but could tell that his family was perfect in his mind. He didn’t have to say much, just the simple words “Thank you, son.” and the way he said them told me that his love for you and your family was endless.

Your father always had a pair of binoculars either around his neck or within arm’s reach. It’s as if he was afraid that at any moment some part of God’s Creation might in fact try and sneak by without him noticing it. I doubt that even the sneakiest bobcat was ever able to get by without your father seeing it, and sure wouldn’t have gotten by if he had decided to take a shot at it! What an amazing shot he was…

Our friend really captured the essence of Glen in his note.  He really “saw” Glen.  We appreciate his sharing the impressions Glen made:  to be remembered well by friends and family is a blessing and an indicator of a life well lived.

Additionally, for those readers that are interested, here is Glen Woods’ obituary.

Glen Woods died peacefully on February 15, 2018, at the age of 87 in Springfield, Missouri.

Glen was born on October 18, 1930, in Springfield, Missouri, to Noah and Ola Elizabeth Woods. He accepted Jesus as his Savior as a young boy and followed Him all his life. In 1949 Glen married Jean Kirk. They were married for 68 years. During his lifetime, he was blessed with three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Glen started learning the construction business at a very early age. At first, he was a plasterer and then started building homes in Springfield and Republic and the surrounding area.  He worked on large construction projects in several states. He was an honest and skilled contractor teaching the building trade and life skills to many young men throughout his career.

When not working, Glen loved to go fishing and hunting. His other hobby was raising a garden and sharing his produce. Good tomatoes and cantaloupes and watermelons were his specialties! He and Jean also owned a farm at Republic where they raised sweet corn, green beans and all kinds of vegetables. Somehow, they also found time to raise cattle, hogs, and alfalfa hay.

Life was busy for Glen and Jean as they travelled to many of the fifty states either for fun or so Glen could lead a construction crew building a new mall, hospital or business building.

Services for Glen were held on Monday, February 19 in Springfield, MO.

Thank you for keeping our family and the GrowingDeer Team in your prayers. We appreciate them more than you will ever know.

In closing, we would like to encourage you to spend time with your loved ones, take them out and enjoy His Creation.

Tracy Woods

Turkey Hunting Tips: How to Use a Pot Call

By GrowingDeer,

Do you use a pot call? As we gear up for spring turkey hunting, the GrowingDeer Team will have calls in hand (and mouth) to fine tune calling skills.

Hands holding a glass pot call for turkey hunting

With the help of World Champion Steve Morgenstern we’ve created several tips on how to effectively use a pot call for turkey hunting:

  1. Grip: Grip is everything. Grip the pot with your fingertips. Do not let it set flush with the palm. That deadens the sound. Keep your fingers extended with open space under the call. This creates a sound chamber and helps the call carry and sound real.
  2. Striker position: Rest your hand on the side of the pot. Hold the striker about an inch up from the tip of the peg. Tilt the striker peg slightly so that it will bite the surface of the call. Where you hold the peg determines the sound produced. Play with where you grip/hold the striker. Gripping the striker peg further down will give you a different pitch. Experiment to find the “sweet spot”, which makes the most realistic sound.
  3. Cluck: A simple, short, quick, straight rub of the striker against the surface. A slight snap often helps.
  4. Yelp: A Yelp is going to be your basic call. The yelp is a two note sound. You’ve got a high note at the top, a low note coming down.  Move the striker in a curving motion (think oval shape, fish hook, or J shape) to get high and low notes. Then develop a rhythm as you put them together.
  5. Purr: Lightly drag the striker across the surface, allowing it to skip slightly. It’s a softer call so keep it light and slow.

Thanks to Steve for these simple tips! Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing more expert tips to improve your turkey calling over the next few weeks as we gear up for turkey season!

Enjoy creation,


Shed Hunting Fools

By GrowingDeer,

We get so excited when we find a shed antler here at The Proving Grounds. It’s fun to share the excitement of finding antlers on Facebook and in our weekly episodes. You may be wondering what the secret is to finding all those antlers.

The secret to finding shed antlers is one word: persistence!

When I start to get discouraged I remind myself that it is impossible to find antlers if I am at the office sitting at my desk (or at home cleaning, cooking, watching TV) and not getting out into the woods. At least by getting out for an hour here and there, the odds increase in favor of finding an antler.

Staying motivated while shed hunting is a mental game. You have to congratulate yourself when you “spy” the unusual in the woods or the food plot: the turkey feather, the blue jay feathers, squirrel skull, etc. Congratulate yourself because your eyes are still working and seeking out the “difference” in the landscape.

turkey feather amidst the leaves on the forest floor

Did you notice this is a feather and not a stick?


Feathers from a Mocking Jay scattered on the forest floor

Congratulate yourself when you spy the unusual in the landscape.

The old bones, weird rocks, or antler shaped sticks are the kind of things I call “shed hunting fools”.

small bone lying on the ground near the skeleton of an old cedar tree

Frequent fool while shed hunting: old bones (look closely – center of image.)


forests floor scattered with leaves and branches

Limbs and sticks in the shape of an antler or an antler tine can fool shed hunters.

From a distance there’s just enough similarity to an antler to make you quicken your step to get a few feet closer to see if it’s really an antler or….not. I turn that disappointment around to serve as motivation to keep going and searching for the real deal.

This week I was ending a shed hunt without any antlers in my backpack. It was time to leave the woods so that I had time to get ready for Wednesday night Bible study. Just before I turned to head to the truck, I caught a glimpse of white on the slope just above me. I found not one, but two nice antlers within 4 feet of each other. Now that was a great way to end a hike! The reward for being persistent and staying motivated was at the end of the trail.

two white-tailed deer antlers on the ground amidst leaves in a forest

A reward at the end of the trail: 2 antlers! Test yourself. Can you spy them?

Next time you’re shed hunting. Don’t give up. Stay motivated and get back out there!

Hunting shed antlers,