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GRANT: March 22nd. Had about three or four inches of snow last night. Took a little time to play with the kids this morning, but then its right back to work making that habitat better for deer and turkey.
GRANT: Working in a little tree plot today. Tree plots are pretty popular throughout the whitetails’ range. Think of a food plot, except you're using trees to produce fruit and attract whitetails and other wildlife here in the hunting season.
GRANT: My favorite trees are, of course, native trees like this persimmon. Doesn’t really require any maintenance; open grown, lot of fruit; nice design to it. But I’ve also got some apple trees Tracy and I planted years ago. Just like a food plot, fruit trees require annual maintenance to make sure they’re as productive as they can be and make a better hunting location.
GRANT: You notice I’ve got a utilization cage or a wire basket around it, because apple trees and other fruit trees have an aromatic wood. If you shave the bark, it actually has a strong odor and bucks love to rub on aromatic species because that scent carries their scent throughout the area and let’s other deer know there’s a sign post or a rub there. The first thing about an apple tree or a fruit tree is I want to protect the main portion of the stem from rubbing.
GRANT: Obviously, you can see a little ice on the limbs; snow on the ground. You want to wait as late in the winter season, the dormant season as you can to prune the trees. The reason is you don’t want to do a lot of pruning and make fresh wounds and have that open all winter before it grows and heals over with freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing and allowing insect and disease to penetrate the tree. Ideally, you cut; it warms up the next couple of days and starts growing over it. That’s the perfect scenario.
GRANT: I wasn’t expecting snow this week. March 22nd here at The Proving Grounds, but I do think it’s probably the last major winter storm coming through so timing’s perfect to prune these trees.
GRANT: So, in general, I want my limbs coming out at about a 60 degree angle so they can bear the weight of snow and ice or fruit in the late summer. Too steep will cause problems and too low will cause problems. When limbs come off too steep, bark will keep growing right there and actually build up and crack and that allows fissures for water and freeze and thaw to get in and it’s more likely that limb will bake – will break – all the way off the tree than a limb that comes out at the appropriate angle.
GRANT: Here’s another great example of a limb that’s just started – we call that first year wood – it’s growing down. As that expands out a year or two, if it’s not pruned, the weight of those apples will break that off or cause a crack right here. Again, allowing disease, insect or other structural damage to occur right there that could spread throughout the tree.
GRANT: A lot of people are scared. They clip a little limb here or a little limb here. I often will remove up to a third of the limbs or more off a tree; especially if I've skipped a year or two. Because ideally, I want a scaffolding structure – it’s called scaffolding. I want a layer of limbs coming out bigger – like the bottom of a Christmas tree; plenty of air space in between. Another layer of limbs coming out at about a 60 degree angle and those limbs should be staggered so my bottom row is here; my second row up would be here. And that’s because I don’t want shading to occur.
GRANT: An anvil is simply where you have a cutting surface here so it goes down to a flat surface and it basically cuts through – or pinches the limb off. That type of cutter will cause a lot of stress – both on a limb that’s removing off the tree so it doesn’t matter, but back towards the tree and we don’t want to crunch all those cells and do damage to that living tissue. We want to make a clean cut. That’s why my preferred tool is what’s called a bypass pruner or shear. And you can see that it has a cutting surface that goes past, that goes past, what would be on the other side so it slices all the way through cleanly.
GRANT: I typically start pruning from the bottom up. I think a lot of guys sit around here and putz around trying to decide what to prune. Just go to work. I look at this – here’s a limb coming out at appropriately the right angle. But it’s got a branch coming off at the wrong angle. It’s going to really weaken this limb and shade out the blossoms and fruit here. You know what? It just takes me a second to look at it. I got my bypass pruners. I’m close to it. Baby’s gone. This limb’s coming off at about the right angle. This one’s going down. A little too much competition in the arena there. Just keep on a moving.
GRANT: I don’t want two on here. That’s gonna be too much weight. This is the dominate side; this is the weak side – already showing weakness. If you're weak, you're out in nature.
GRANT: I really dislike limbs that are gonna rub on other limbs ‘cause that’s going to cause a scar and allow disease or insect to come in. Notice how we’re already getting a better structure; air is gonna flow through. It’s looking good
GRANT: If you compare the before and after and see how much air can go through here where sunlight can hit, there will actually be more fruit produced of higher quality than before we started the pruning operation.
GRANT: The last step, after you're finished pruning, is make sure you pick up all the limbs. A) You don’t want that fire fuel laying right around a tree you're working to improve and B) If there was any disease in that wood; cedar rust, other common diseases to apple trees, you want to remove it out of the area, ‘cause those diseases can be very contagious.
GRANT: Some other fruit trees need to have a little different shape or a little pruning, a little different pruning style, than apple trees and if you want some more detailed information, go to the Quality Deer Management Association’s website. Just search on pruning fruit trees and you can find some very detailed information about making your tree plot better.
GRANT: You may recall on a past episode that Adam and Brian worked really late in the night getting all our food plots planted before one of the only rains that was predicted for the fall came through. The germination and growth of that blend of food plot seed is what’s really carrying our deer herd right now. It was a lot of long hours getting the Antler Dirt spread and the food plots planted and everything going, but when I look at those Reconyx pictures now of deer out there in the snow, knowing they’ve got really high quality nutrition to put in their belly; to generate body heat; to make them healthy, so they're going in a growing curve through the winter instead of a downward curve, allowing them to produce bigger antlers and more fawns. Well, it makes all those long hours well worth it.
GRANT: AJ and I heading up to Warsaw, Missouri today. We’re gonna create another management plan for a new client. He’s got a big tract of land; several thousand acres. Always love walking around their new property.
GRANT: AJ and I were invited up to tour and develop a management plan for Brian Bell’s property. Brian’s property had been a large cattle ranch in the past and you can certainly see the impact of some over grazing and some poor timber practices in the past where they basically high graded. Took the best trees and left the rest and it will take a little time but with the appropriate guidance and good management practices, no doubt in my mind Mr. Bell’s property will be a hot spot in a few years.
GRANT: Thank you for the opportunity.
BRIAN: Thank you. I enjoyed visiting with you.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance this week to get out with your family and maybe do a little sledding like we did or whatever is appropriate in your area and always take time to thank the Creator for those opportunities. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: Might just turn around and get a little b roll with that snow on the…(Laughter)
ADAM: You better believe Blake’s using that!