Disney Got it Wrong

By GrowingDeer,

I often take a walk just after sunrise.  I spend this time listening to the Creator, thinking about my day, and getting exercise.  I often walk from my house down a mountain that drops 400’ in elevation to a creek crossing.  There is a food plot we call Barn Field just across the creek.  This morning as I approached the creek, I noticed a dead deer in the Barn Field food plot.  I quickly examined the deer for signs that it was killed by a poacher.  There was no blood obvious on the deer, the surrounding ground, or near the nostrils, which is common for deer that have been shot anywhere in the chest cavity.

I didn’t notice any boot marks, ATV tracks, etc.  I walked back up the mountain and called my local conservation officer to notify him.  I then changed clothes, grabbed a knife, camera, etc., and went back down the mountain to do a necropsy (examination of a non-human body after death) on the yearling buck.  Brad and I examined the deer closely as it was lying, then turned it over and instantly noticed a hole between the last two ribs.  There was no exit wound and the hole didn’t look like it was made by a broadhead or bullet.  I felt the wound channel, but nothing felt abnormal.

I began the necropsy by removing the skin from the opposite side of the buck.  There was no sign of an exit wound or trauma.  I then opened the chest cavity and the lungs and heart were in good condition.  There was no excess blood in the chest cavity.

I removed the skin from around the wound area and noticed there was significant bruising just below the wound entrance.  I then exposed the liver and noticed a lobe of the liver where the wound hole had been torn and excessive blood had pooled.  The conservation officer, Mr. Quenten Fronterhouse, used a metal detector to confirm that there was no projectile (bullet or broadhead) in the deer.  We placed a bullet in the deer to test the unit (I always like confirmation that tools are working) and it detected it without any problems.

The final diagnosis was cause of death by an antler gore – this yearling buck was killed as a result of a fight!  I don’t know where the fight occurred.  It was not in that plot as we didn’t locate any scuff marks.  It doesn’t matter.  Life for a deer is not like what Disney portrayed in the movie Bambi.  To the contrary, it is full of danger.

There were other valuable lessons learned this morning.  I took the opportunity to inspect the buck’s stomach content and it was full of soybean leaves, some green soybean pods, a few kernels of corn (probably from the adjacent food plot which has corn), and some pokeberry fruit.  There were no acorns.  Knowing what deer are currently eating is a major scouting tool.

Natural mortality is a common event for all wild critters that often goes unnoticed to human observers.  This buck just happened to die where I normally walk.  Talk a walk soon.  You never know what you might find.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Certified Seed!

By GrowingDeer,

I was taught many years ago the principle of “the price of non-conformance.”  Basically it means that it almost always costs less to do a task right the first time, even if it takes more time.  Rushing tasks and compromising on quality usually results in low quality results that cost as much or more than conforming to certain standards and “doing it right.”

After a very long and severe drought, a tropical storm changed directions and was predicted to produce rain at The Proving Grounds.  I rushed to purchase wheat seed.  I found some uncertified seed at a local dealer that was convenient and less expensive that the local source of certified seed.  I don’t like to plant uncertified seed.  I realize it cost more to purchase certified seed than a brown bag special that some seed dealers offer.  I’m sure much of the brown bag specials are good seed.  However, I like knowing that someone did, or should have, tested the seed for the germination rate and weed seed content.  However in my rush, I opted to save time and money and purchase the brown bag special.  We hustled to plant, it rained long and steady!  We broadcast that seed and used a no-till drill to plant some wheat I had purchased a few weeks ago from the National Wild Turkey Federation.  All seemed well!!  I should also mention that I didn’t test the germination of the uncertified seed.  (Germination rates can be simply checked by placing some seed on a plate, adding some warm most water, then waiting a few days and determining the ratio of seeds that germinated versus seeds that didn’t.)

I inspected the fields yesterday.  The fields that were planted with the wheat from the NWTF and using the no-till drill looked great!  The fields that were planted by broadcasting the brown bag variety are mostly bare.  Today I suffered the expense of purchasing certified seed, and replanting 13 acres.  The time, funds, wear and tear on equipment, etc., is a significant cost.

Further, because I didn’t do a germination test, I don’t know if the failure was due to the seed quality, mixing the seed with the Antler Dirt too long before I planted, or something else.  I can’t learn from this mistake because I didn’t heed the lesson of the price of non-conformance I learned years ago.

Do as I say and don’t do as I do, always purchase quality seed and perform a germination test.

Growing Deer (and learning) together,

Grant

Opening Day Stand Selection

By GrowingDeer,

Archery season opens tomorrow in Missouri!!  The temperature tomorrow morning is predicted to be 63 degrees with south winds that will be 5 – 13 mph.  It rained about 1/4“ this morning.  There are very few white oak acorns this year and not many more red oak acorns.  There is likely a white oak or two dropping acorns somewhere on The Proving Grounds, but I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to locate these trees.  Such efforts can lead to fast action, or can spook gads of deer before locating a stand location that is approachable without alerting deer.

I’ll probably hunt a stand on a ridge top where wheat was planted last week.  The wheat is already germinating, but is still less than 2” tall.  It’s not a food source yet.  However, this ridge is a known travel route that deer frequently use.  My Reconyx trail camera images have confirmed that some bucks on my 2010 Hit List have been using this ridge as a travel route between a feeding and bedding area.  Most of the images of mature bucks have been at night.  During the past two weeks, the trail cameras in that portion of The Proving Grounds have captured some mature bucks during daylight hours.  The bucks tend to be traveling from a larger field north of my stand location to a bedding area just south and west of the stand location.  I need to approach from the north also.  I will need to approach well before light and count on the thermals carrying my scent south (down the valley).  If I approach too late in the day the sun will heat the earth’s surface and the thermals will change direction and shift to the north.  In the early morning, I’m counting on a cross wind to carry my scent about 20 degrees away from the route I anticipate a mature buck will approach this stand.  20 degrees isn’t much, especially if the wind swirls.  However, in hilly/steep topography, it’s about as much as I can expect.  That’s my plan, unless the forecast changes.

If the wind shifts significantly during the hunt, I’ll exit early so I don’t condition the deer to avoid that location during daylight hours.  I’ll keep you posted.

Growing (and hunting) Deer together,

Grant

Planting Food Plots before the Rain

By GrowingDeer,

There are few feelings better than listening to it rain the night after finishing planting fall food plots.  I was anticipating the rain, caused by a tropical storm in the Gulf.  We hustled hard for two days spraying and planting.  We logged more than 26 tractor hours during those two days.  The first sprinkles occurred after the Antler Dirt had all been spread and there were only two acres left to no-till drill.

The first average frost date at The Proving Grounds is October 14th.  I like to plant fall forage at least 45 days before the first predicted frost.  However, there was no need to plant earlier this year at The Proving Grounds due to the drought conditions.

The range gauge showed 4 inches of rain this morning.  Most of the rain was in a slow even pace.  A huge advantage of using a no-till drill is that minimum soil disturbance occurs.  This combined with my program of simply spraying or mowing the existing crop and using a no-till drill means there is little chance of erosion.  The plots show no sign of washing even after 4” of rain.

The plots should be dark green with growing vegetation soon.  The deer and other wildlife will benefit from the nutritious vegetation and my family and guests will enjoy observing deer in the plots.

The rain was a huge blessing!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

13 days until the season opener!

By GrowingDeer,

There are 13 days until archery season in Missouri opens.  I have some stands and binds already in place, but need to put out more during the next few days.  I select where to hunt based on three criteria.  These include identifying a limited resource that deer require (food, cover, and water), will the wind be favorable during the time I should hunt that location, and can I approach the stand or blind location without spooking the deer I wish to hunt?  The answers to these are all based on M.R.I. (Most Recent Information).

For example, even though it rained 1.5” yesterday at The Proving Grounds, I didn’t notice any more water in the creek, or any of the dry ponds now holding water.  I did notice the amount of water in two of the ponds that have been holding water increased!  Hence, water remains a necessary resource for deer that is available in a limited distribution.  Hunting near water should be productive unless it rains significantly more before the season opens.

I have a stand at one of these locations and will place a ground blind near the other.  I can approach one either during the morning or afternoon as long as the wind is from the south or west.  The other location is on a bottom and I doubt I can approach it during the morning without spooking the bucks that are using that pond based on trail camera images.  However, I believe I can approach it during the afternoon.

Remember, scouting should be more than simply locating a sign around a limited resource.  It is just as, if not more important to also determine how you can approach the area with the limited resource without spooking the deer you wish to hunt and remaining undetected.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Prescribed Fire during the Fall

By GrowingDeer,

Brad and I had prepared to implement a 35 acre Rx fire yesterday.  We had fire breaks in place, plenty of water to keep us hydrated, etc.  With radios charged and drip torches in hand we hiked up the mountain.  The humidity dropped to 30% by noon and the winds were in a favorable direction at 3-7 miles and hour.

Brad began walking with his drip torch as I watched to see how the fire would react.  I watched and watched.  I’ve seen more smoke from a barbeque grill!  Even though the drought conditions are severe at The Proving Grounds and conditions were favorable for an Rx fire, we couldn’t get the area to burn.   The reason was there wasn’t enough flammable fuel.  We had burned this same area early this year in the spring.  It had responded with an abundance of forbs, native grasses, and some unwanted hardwood saplings.  Our management goal for this area is to serve as a sanctuary and provide native forage.  The fire this spring consumed most of the fine fuels and created a healthy environment for the vegetation that grew after the fire.  The number of deer beds, amount of scat, and the deer we observed while trying to ignite the area all confirmed the value of this area to wildlife.  The plants were healthy and fire resistant.

We learned another lesson yesterday.  The price of the lesson was some manpower and time that could have been spent on another project.  However, now I’ll be a better judge on the amount of fuel necessary to carry a fire.  Nothing beats the education gained by experience.  I’m a better deer and habitat manager because of the experience I gained yesterday.  I hope you have the opportunity to gain some experience related to managing and hunting deer this week.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Field Day 2010

By GrowingDeer,

This past weekend I hosted a Field Day at The Proving Grounds.  Folks from 14 states and New Zealand attended.  It was a great time of sharing, learning, and fun.

We toured a good portion of The Proving Grounds stopping to discuss food plots, timber management, road management, pond establishment, stand placement, etc.  Saturday night I presented a seminar and the 2010 Hit List showing the top 20 bucks this year that we’ve photographed at The Proving Grounds.  Afterwards everyone had the opportunity to shop at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, the #1 outdoor retailer in America, with a special VIP discount pass.

The attendees had a great opportunity to visit one on one with several well know members of the outdoor community and makers of products commonly used by hunters and deer managers.  This was a great learning event and everyone seemed to enjoy the chance to visit with other hunters and deer mangers.

That’s one aspect of deer hunting I always enjoy, learning from other deer managers.  Deer hunters from all walks of life usually have one thing in common – a love of all things deer.  I look forward to applying some of the tips I learned and hope the attendees feel the same way.

Missouri’s Bow season begins in three weeks and I’m ready to put these suggestions to work.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

The Bright Side

By GrowingDeer,

It remains extremely dry at The Proving Grounds.  No rain is predicted in the seven day forecast.  I’m amazed at how well the Eagle Seed Beans are holding up.  I attribute this to the hardiness of Eagle Seed Beans and the organic content of the Antler Dirt that is apparently holding moisture from the last rain event.  There is a food plot that borders one end of my yard.  My yard is totally brown while the soybeans are green and erect.  Perfect – I like working with food plots and dislike mowing the yard!

However, the beans are beginning to wilt during the hot afternoons.  I’m sure the palatability and quality of the forage is decreasing as the drought progresses.  I’m thankful the drought is occurring now versus at the beginning of the antler growth.  Their survival or growth potential is strongly related to the quality of forage and level of stress they experience during the early summer months.

A serious drought during hunting season can provide some advantages to hunters.  The obvious advantage is that water is a limited resource that deer require daily.  There is very limited water in plants during a drought so deer are dependent on standing water.  Standing water is usually very rare during droughts so scouting should be easy!  That doesn’t mean that hunting will be easy.

Because water is limited, predators and prey are forced to frequent the same water sources.  It seems mature bucks are always alert when approaching a limited resource where predators and other competitors frequent.  I’ve started placing some cameras to monitor the few ponds that are still holding water at The Proving Grounds.  I’ll check them next week, and if the activity merits I’ll begin placing stands/blinds near the water sources.

There’s usually a bright side to every situation.  Currently, the bright side is the rare reflection of water.

Growing Deer together,

Grant