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

Predicting Great Stand Locations

By GrowingDeer,

Archery season in Missouri begins September 15th.  I’m practicing with my bow almost daily and thinking about stand locations.  In fact, I think about stand locations year around.  I consider what has worked and hasn’t worked in years past, and what stand locations should I select for future hunts.  I believe and attempt to practice the advice of “don’t do the same thing and expect different results.”  Hence, if a stand location hasn’t produced the desired results in the past, then I need to change something.  The “change” may or may not be the location.  It may be how I approach the stand, the time of day, time of season, etc.

I’m also a huge fan of using M.R.I. (Most Recent Information).  Currently the most obvious MRI at The Proving Grounds is the drought.  Most of the creek that runs through The Proving Grounds is dry.  Several of the ponds are dry.  Water is a resource that deer currently must have daily that is in limited supply.  There’s no doubt in my mind that a stand location at or near water that can be approached without alerting deer is currently a great location.  The question is will it rain enough to fill other ponds, to allow some springs to yield water, etc., or will the locations with water continue to be visited often by mature bucks during the opening of archery season?

I’m going to place some stands/blinds near water now, and also hope that it rains!  I’d rather the deer and habitat have the benefit of rain!  However, I’m a predator and will pattern deer using that limited resource if the opportunity occurs.  As a predator with good observation skills, I’m most successful when I use those skills to identify limited resources and plan my hunts accordingly.

Growing (and hunting) Deer together,

Grant

Solving the Puzzle – – Making Sure You Have All the Pieces!

By GrowingDeer,

Today we moved the Reconyx units from the camera survey sites to scouting sites for the opening of archery season!  We’ve collected literally tens of thousands of images to analyze for our herd survey during the past three weeks.  Brad has been doing most of the analyses and will have some estimates of the number of deer, number of bucks, number of bucks on our 2010 hit list, etc, late next week.  This is always an exciting time.

Just as exciting is switching into scouting mode as archery season in Missouri begins September 15th.  At this time, the summer bachelor groups have begun busting up and mature bucks are typically changing their patterns from a food-cover, food-cover routine to a bit of overt dominance hierarchy sorting out.

This means that some bucks will shift to using other parts of their home range to avoid frequent conflict.  Their movement and behavior patterns are changing rapidly during this time of year, which means that M.R.I. (Most Recent Information) is critical, but difficult to obtain.  Information a week old can be out of date this time of year.  This makes selecting stand/blind sites tough.

In an effort to stack the odds in my favor I use a combination of M.R.I., past history, and knowledge of food preference when deciding where to place my stands/blinds.  For example, a recent Reconyx image (within few days) of a buck on my hit list, combined with knowledge that a mature buck has used that area in the past, and knowing what the current preferred food sources are during the first week of archery season is enough data for me to select and hunt a specific location.

Harvesting a mature buck year after year on the same property is like solving a really tough puzzle.  To solve a puzzle, one must have all the pieces.  Do you have all the pieces?

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Uncontrollable Factors in Deer Managment

By GrowingDeer,

It would be so nice to for farmers to know the weather months in advance.  They could certainly increase the yield of their crops by timing, maintaining, and harvesting their crops if they could accurately predict the weather in advance.  All of us would love to be able to schedule our vacation when the weather would be perfect.  However, farmers, vacationers and gads of others simply must put the odds in their favor and take their best shot.

The same is true for deer managers.  We need to plant our food plots at optimal times because weather prediction science is such that the five day forecast is rarely reliable, let alone the three month forecast.  The pendulum swings both ways, sometimes the weather is better than predicted, and sometimes it’s worse.

Monday of this week the weather forecast for The Proving Grounds called for a solid week of 100+ degree heat.  There was no rain in sight.  Yesterday, we were blessed to receive 1.5” of rain!!!  That rain may have added a few more inches of antler to a few bucks, more bushels of beans produced in some of my food plots, and a few more pounds to some fawns preparing for winter.  It was a huge blessing.  My parents live thirty miles away and they only received 0.2” of rain.

Resources for deer at my place would be very limited if the local population was higher.  The average stress level for each deer would be significantly more, and therefore the quality of each deer significantly less.  Weather is an uncontrollable factor in deer herd management.  Not only is it uncontrollable for free-ranging deer herds, it can be a limiting factor.  Given this, it’s always best to maintain the deer population at less than maximum capacity during good conditions.  That way, the herd will maintain or prosper even during unfavorable conditions.  Preparing for the uncontrollable factors is part of the art of deer hunting and deer management.

Growing Deer (in all conditions) together,

Grant