Managing Food Plots for Hunting Season

By Grant Woods,

I enjoyed a great tour of The Proving Grounds Sunday afternoon with my friend, Robin Fisher.  It has been two weeks since the three Gallagher food plot protection systems have been installed.  There is already an amazing difference in the height and density of Eagle Seed beans inside compared to outside the fencing systems in the two smaller plots.  In fact, Robin and I immediately began strategizing about stand/blind locations to capitalize on the forage that I can make available when hunting conditions are right this fall.  This will be a very interesting project to monitor throughout the summer and will certainly be a great stop during our fall field day (date to be announced).

Field days at The Proving Grounds are simply a day for serious hunters and land managers to get together and learn from each other.  We’ll tour The Proving Grounds and discuss all of our habitat and hunting strategies.  I enjoy sharing and learning with other folks and such tours are a great way to see, touch, and experience our successes and failures.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Gobbling in June

By GrowingDeer,

Today is June 11th (my birthday).  It’s the first time I remember hearing multiple gobblers on my birthday in southern Missouri.  Gobblers were rattling the hills this morning.  I love the sound of gobblers, but I’m saddened at why I’m hearing multiple gobblers this time of year.  This is an indication of failed turkey nesting success during the normal time requiring an extended breeding season.  An extended breeding season requires much more energy and increases the amount of time turkeys are very vulnerable to predators.  Gobbling and strutting activities means toms are not fully alert to predators.  Hens are very vulnerable to predators while nesting.

I strongly suspect an abundance of predators contributed to the amount of nest failure that apparently occurred this spring.  The National Weather Service reports 2.5” more than normal rain occurred during May in my neighborhood.  There were no major flood events, etc.  We simply had a few more showers.  There have been years when conditions were much worse.  These years occurred during a time when Missouri’s turkey population was much higher.

Many states allow trapping and predator control during fawning/nesting season.  Missouri doesn’t.  My traps are in the barn and predators are removing turkeys.  There is no shortage of raccoons throughout most regions.  It is well published that Missouri’s turkey population has declined in recent years.  It seems to me something is out of balance.

Certainly the past few springs have not been ideal nesting conditions due to rainy and cold weather.  However, I don’t think predator control should be totally discounted.  I understand predator/prey relationships and cycles.  I spend the vast majority of my time creating quality habitat including nesting and brooding habitat.  I always recommend land owners focus the majority of their resources on habitat management.

With that said, I’m saddened more states don’t permit predator management during the nesting/fawning seasons.  It’s simply a tool for wildlife management.  It is not a cure, and has limited value without first developing quality habitat.  However, it is a tool that shouldn’t be taken away.

I’m not a quail hunter, but I really enjoy hearing quail.  I’ve yet to hear a single quail this spring at my place.  I have literally 1,000’s of trail camera images of raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and bobcats that were taken during the past month.  My family would rather hear a turkey or quail than see an opossum.  How about yours?

Growing Deer together,

Grant

53 Acres of Food Plots in North Carolina

By GrowingDeer,

I’ve been establishing 53 acres of food plots on a new project in coastal North Carolina.  20+ years of harvest data on this property has been accumulated and I am extremely interested to see how body weight, antler development, and fawn recruitment  responds to 50+ acres of soybeans.  Our food plot establishment on this project consisted of applying Glyphosate, using a no-till drill, planting 70 lbs. per acre of soybeans, and applying an appropriate amount of fertilizer.  We received the go ahead on this project June 1st so the plots were established a little late.  Their success will be primarily dependent upon adequate soil moisture now throughout the rest of the summer.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Creating Super Hunting Spots

By GrowingDeer,

I had a very enjoyable day in the field yesterday.  I helped install food plot protection fences around portions of three food plots where Eagle Seed beans have recently been planted. Installing a Gallagher fence at The Proving Grounds These are hunting plots.  They are small enough for deer to be comfortable using during daylight hours as long as hunting pressure is minimal.  Currently there are about 75 deer per square mile at The Proving Grounds, so the local herd can damage newly established soybeans crops in relatively small plots.  By protecting the soybeans until they mature or hunting season opens is like placing a candy bar in view of my children but telling them “not yet.”  When the food plot protection fence is taken down, the deer will come dine just as fast as telling my kids “Ok, you can have the candy bar now!”

I’ve placed some trail cameras near the food plot protection fences and will be posting images and video of this project throughout the summer – while waiting for September 15th – opening of bow season in MO!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Jumping Oak Gall

By GrowingDeer,

About seven days ago I noticed a mature white oak tree at The Proving Grounds with leaves that were brown, curled and appeared to be dying.  This was a very unusual observation for late May.  The oddity of the observation and the fact that it was a white oak made me a bit sad.  The timber on The Proving Grounds was grossly mismanaged before I purchased the property and as a result there are very few mature white oaks.  However, I know that trees age, get sick, are struck by lightning, etc., and die.

I was very suspect when I returned to that portion of the property a day later and noticed another mature white oak tree in the same area with brown leaves.  In less than a week, all leaves had fallen from the original tree and several more white oaks on the same hillside had brown leaves.

I prefer that deer at The Proving Grounds consume better quality food than acorns, but these trees were stately and very attractive.  There are no food plots on this hillside and it hadn’t been burned in two years.  Realizing I needed help diagnosing the problem I called a friend, Randall Roy with the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Randall manages several thousand acres of public land about an hour east of The Proving Grounds.  He called a forester at the Missouri Department of Conservation that stated his “phone had been ringing constantly this morning.”  To their credit, the Department had already mobilized some experts to identify the cause of this phenomenon that had been reported over a several hundred mile area.  Jumping oak gall is the early diagnosis.

Trees with jumping oak gallClose up view of tree with jumping oak gall

Jumping oak galls are produced by gall wasps. According to Johnson and Lyon (Insects That Feed on Trees and Shrubs, 1991, page 440), as the larva inside of a gall matures, the gall falls to the ground.  The gall then “jumps” repeatedly a few centimeters because of the activity of the insect inside.  I researched jumping oak gall and learned that most trees that have jumping oak gall survive.  I hope the authors are correct.  It’s tough to see beautiful trees become totally defoliated during prime growing season.

It seems I’m constantly being taught new lessons.  I’ve driven by this grove of mature white oaks hundreds of time during the past eight years.  I thought frequently about hunting in or near them.  A professional photographer friend of mine, Michael Engelmeyer, has taken multiple print ad and magazine cover images near these trees.  I’ve watched turkeys fly up and down from them.  I used prescribed fire to manage around them.  It never crossed my mind that I might out live them.  I hope I learn to not take natural beautiful spots for granted, even though I work outdoors constantly.  I hope they survive.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Planting Corn, Fighting Wireworm

By GrowingDeer,

Today is another day of learning at The Proving Grounds.  I checked all the corn food plots on the property yesterday afternoon.  The best stand of corn has a maximum of 30% of the population that it should (we planted about 26,000 kernels per acre).  The culprit is wireworm.  Wireworms live 3-6 years, are about 1’ long, brownish in color, segmented and they live to eat the carbohydrates out of the middle of a grain of corn.  This kills the grain of corn and prohibits germination.  I took a screwdriver and dug down several yards of drill rows where the corn was planted.  There was simply no seed corn to be found.  Suspecting this ahead of time (based on problems last year), I had already obtained enough corn to replant the plots after treating it with a much higher level of insecticide.  This insecticide doesn’t harm the corn or beneficial insects (like earthworms) that might pass by the kernel.  It only kills the pests that eat the corn.

Today we sprayed most of the existing corn with Gramoxone to remove any volunteer crops.  This may sound counterintuitive but volunteer crops are unwanted because of how closely together the plants usually grow.  Seedling corn simply views any other corn seedlings, beans, etc., as competition (weeds).    Gramoxone herbicide is a surface killer.  That is to say it is not active in the soil.  We couldn’t use Glyphosate as the volunteer corn and beans are Roundup Ready.  Because Gramoxone is only surface active, we literally unhooked the sprayer and attached the no-till drill.  Brad is planting corn as I write this update.

The soil temperature is warm and there is plenty of soil moisture, so we should know by next week who wins round two (us vs. wireworms).  I’ll keep you posted so you won’t have to learn this lesson the hard way.

Growing Deer (and learning) together,

Grant

North Creek Turkey Hunting

By GrowingDeer,

I returned from turkey hunting in Knox County, IL early this morning (2 am).  It was a very enjoyable hunt!  Even though it was raining and cold my hunting partner, Michael Engelmeyer, harvested a mature tom that responded to his calls.  I also had some birds respond.  Two jakes approached within a few yards of my blind the last morning of the hunt.  Then, about 11 am (turkey hunting is only legal till 1pm each day during season in IL) a mature bird came into view about 80 yards away.  He had been gobbling in response to my calls.  Blake, the GrowingDeer.tv editor, was with me and we were confident the tom would close the gap.  After he strutted at the crest of the hill so long Blake turned off the camera, the tom started our way.  He took a right turn rather than coming straight at about 40 yards out.  I wasn’t worried as the occasional gobble confirmed he hadn’t ventured far out of our sight.  At 12:40 pm I did begin to doubt he would offer a shot.  At 12:55 he appeared at 38 yards… That was an easy shot with my shotgun – that was in gun safe in Missouri.  38 yards is a bit far for me to shoot at a turkey with a bow in windy conditions.

I pulled the release off at 1 pm and joined Michael to celebrate his success!  There are those that joke about eating tag soup – a term describing what a hunter has to eat when they didn’t harvest a critter and all he has to eat is his tag.  I’ve came home with tag soup many times in my hunting career.   However, my experience tag has almost always been full after a hunt.  I learned more about a beautiful property (North Creek).  Michael shared with me some of his late season turkey tactics and I observed several bucks with velvet antlers above their ears already!  I hope you have the opportunity to fill your experience tag soon!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Reviewing Management Practices

By GrowingDeer,

I like to review the success or failure of all management practices implemented on my projects. Each hunting season is a management practice that produces quantifiable results (harvests) that can be compared year to year or from property to property.

We harvested six mature gobblers and one jake (GDTV 23).  We had more opportunities that did not end with a harvest for various reasons — the camera and shooter weren’t lined up together, etc.  Every hunter except one saw mature toms in harvest range.  Three hunters harvested their first bird.  Any way you measure, it was a great turkey season at The Proving Grounds!  However, other folks in our county didn’t share in our success.  The Proving Grounds is split by the Stone/Taney county line.  The following data indicates that that turkey population in Taney County is down.

Article containing 2010 Missouri county harvest totals

However, the establishment of good food, cover, and predator control helped build a great turkey population.  It was an oasis for wildlife and for hunters.  We enjoyed a fabulous turkey season at The Proving Grounds!  The good news is — you too can create your own oasis by implementing good habitat and population management programs and strategies.

Growing Deer (and turkeys) together,

Grant