Habitat Diversity and Drought

By GrowingDeer,

It rained a tad more than one inch at The Proving Grounds last week.  It had been very, very dry locally.  I’m always amazed at how rapidly quality forage can respond to a much needed addition of water.  The Eagle Seed beans have been surviving very well considering the temperatures were higher than normal and the amount of rain was behind normal for the month of June.

June is a critical month for antler and fawn development.  Both would have suffered growth if the overall habitat wasn’t as diverse at The Proving Grounds.  During periods of stress is when having a diverse habitat really pays dividends.  Some of our ponds went dry during the drought.  However, the creek always had ample pools of water.  Some of the native vegetation in our cover area is extremely drought resistant.  We have food plots in bottoms and east facing slopes so the summer sun doesn’t cause as much evaporation of soil moisture.  The western facing plots do best when there is too much water (which almost never happens on the rocky soils at The Proving Grounds).

If we had only one species of cover crop, or one location for forage crops, or one source of water the herd’s quality would have suffered during the previous month.  I’m thankful for the rain and the diversity of the habitat that buffered the local herd from the stress of the drought during June 2010.  How’s the habitat diversity where you hunt?

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Good Property Management Requires Practice and Training

By Grant Woods,

I returned from working in New York at a property where the family that owns it has worked very hard with great skill to improve the habitat and herd.  Then this morning I had a guest come to tour The Proving Grounds.  I always enjoy such tours as usually the guest and I learn from each other.  This guest was a professional photographer. He provided me some great hints about using light and other aspects of his trade.  We toured many of the food plots, past prescribed fires, ponds, etc., at The Proving Grounds as I shared with him tips and techniques to use on his Proving Grounds in Oklahoma.

While touring, I was also able to see which food plots are doing well, which ones are showing too much browse for this time of year, etc.  This allows me plan where to concentrate doe harvest efforts, plan for future food plot expansion projects, etc.  It’s always obvious when touring other properties if the folks care about the property year round or only during deer season.  Most properties require year round work to express their full potential.  Yes, properties have potential just like bucks have potential.  It requires skill and application to bring out the potential in a property so the local herd can express its potential.  There are a few properties that naturally produce quality deer year after year.  However, they are about as rare as a top performing athlete that doesn’t require practice or training.  I enjoy owning a property that requires practice and training.  I find it very rewarding to learn and see progress as a result of my efforts.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Timely Rain

By GrowingDeer,

The Proving Grounds was blessed to receive ¾“ of rain on Sunday.  The amount of rain a property receives is a huge factor in antler and fawn growth.  This is especially true for late spring and summer months.  Too much rain may cause soil nutrients to leach deep out of the reach of most forage plants.  Too little rain and plants can’t transfer available nutrients in the soil to and throughout the plant.

Unless you irrigate, when and how much it rains is an uncontrollable factor in your deer management program.  It’s one reason why deer herds should be managed below the habitat’s carrying capacity.  By holding the deer herd’s density at the maximum capacity for the habitat to produce quality browse when ample rain is occurring means the herd will be overpopulated and damage the native vegetation at some point, because a drought will occur.  It’s simply a matter of when.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Summer Stress on Whitetails

By GrowingDeer,

Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as a constraining force or influence.  The deer at The Proving Grounds are suffering from a constraining force or influence.  Actually there are two sources of stress:  heat and drought.  The heat index has been over 100 degrees most days lately.  Although it has rained in the area, we haven’t received enough to measure in my gauges.  Some of our ponds are dry.  The creek is dry except for occasional pools.   This is evidenced by the hardening off of most native forage species.  This in turn puts more browse pressure on the planted crops.

Trail camera images indicate that antler and fawn development to date are OK!  This is due to the high quality habitat at The Proving Grounds.  We planted forage soybeans early in an effort to get as much growth as possible before the hot days of summer.  We’ve developed several ponds in various locations in an effort to ensure critters have enough water even during periods of drought.

We’ve managed to the extent of our budget and skill to offset periods of stress.  It’s important for all managers to realize that periods of stress during the summer can be just as damaging to deer and other wildlife species as harsh winter conditions.  This is one reason why it’s critical to maintain the herd’s density below the habitat’s capacity to provide quality forage, water, and cover.  If the herd at The Proving Grounds had been allowed to expand to the capacity of the habitat during good conditions, the herd would really suffer during this period of stress.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

Avoid Stress on Your Deer Herd

By GrowingDeer,

The heat index throughout much of the Midwest and South is predicted to be over 100 degrees today.  There are warnings posted for folks that work outside, the young, the elderly, etc.  Clearly heat can cause huge amounts of stress on humans.

Drought can also cause stress on plants, especially new, young plants.  Drought and heat stress are two of the primary reasons crops should be planted early.  A soybean plant with roots a foot or more deep can survive these tough conditions much better than a soybean seedling that only has established roots a few inches deep.

Planting any forage or grain crop as soon as weather conditions are appropriate during the spring almost always results in a more vigorous plant that is more resistant to drought stress, etc.  The end result will be a larger yield of forage and or grain.

The same is true for fawns.  A heat and drought combination is very rare during the normal fawning season throughout most of the whitetail’s range.  However, droughts can cause significant mortality among late born fawns.  Droughts directly affect plant growth and nutritional quality, which impacts the quantity and quality of milk produced by does, etc.  Drought can reduce the population of prey species which concentrates predation on the surviving prey species, etc.  Fawns born during the normal time-frame have a much better chance of surviving the harsh conditions of a summertime drought.  This is just one of many reasons responsible deer managers should ensure a herd’s adult sex ratio is in balance.

Like planting crops during the appropriate time, ensure fawns are born during the appropriate time by planning a deer harvest that results in a balanced adult sex ratio.  The yield of the resulting fawn crop will be better.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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