Amazing Antlers! Keys To Age Bucks And Food Plot Facts (Episode 348 Transcript)

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GRANT: During late spring and early summer, antlers are growing at an amazing rate. And biologically, the buck is transferring lots of protein to the circulatory system to developing antlers to cause that growth.

GRANT: As the summer progresses into mid and late July, the system changes. Blood flow is now full of calcium and phosphorous and the antlers are no longer growing but hardening or becoming mineralized. There is still velvet covering the antlers because you need all that blood flow to carry all the calcium and phosphorous to develop the hard antlers we all see.

GRANT: Given this, it’s no surprise that bucks readily seek quality trace minerals this time of year.

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GRANT: As we’ve shared in the past, we keep Trophy Rock out year round here at The Proving Grounds. But quite honestly, one of the more important times of the year to make sure it’s out is through the antler and fawn developing season. This is a time when those bodies are really seeking quality trace minerals to develop larger antlers and healthy fawns.

GRANT: This time of year, most of our cameras are placed over Trophy Rock because that’s a great way to get images of most of the bucks using The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Of course, we enjoy seeing those antlers develop. But just as importantly, we’re studying the body shape and size of each of the bucks. Because that’s the best way to estimate the bucks’ age and develop a hit list.

GRANT: It’s not just the overall size. But, usually, it’s the proportions. Like how far the neck comes down on the brisket, how developed the shoulder is or the sag of the back and belly.

GRANT: Here’s a bachelor group of bucks our Reconyx cameras have picked up at two different Trophy Rock stations. It turns out these stations are just a few hundred yards apart.

GRANT: This time of year, bucks tend to have pretty small home range sizes if they live where there’s good habitat quality.

GRANT: I think you’d agree there’s some pretty nice bucks in this group.

GRANT: If you're looking for mature bucks, you won't find many in this group. In fact, Adam and I think there’s only one buck that’s four years old or older. Only one of these bucks will be on our hit list this fall.

GRANT: We’d recommend a couple of these bucks to be shooters on some of the properties where we work. Those are properties in neighborhoods – or the landowner’s goals – simply don’t call for bucks to reach four years of age. But here, we want to allow the deer to express at least 90% of its antler growth potential and we hold out from harvesting bucks until they're four years of age.

GRANT: It would be easy to see one of these bucks coming through the woods during hunting season, draw back and take the shot. But by studying ‘em now and seeing their antlers configuration and estimating their age, it’s easier to hold back and meet the landowners’ objectives if they ask you to shoot only bucks that are four years old or older.

GRANT: It’s been an odd growing season here at The Proving Grounds. Super dry to start with, rain in the middle of July and now super hot again.

GRANT: We put up this Hot Zone fence right after we planted this food plot. Same amount of rain, same soils, exact same growing conditions. Inside the fence, the beans are waist tall on me and outside they're barely above lip high.

GRANT: These two soybean plants were grown a couple of feet apart. And just take a moment and compare the overall mass of both plants.

GRANT: Incredible, isn't it? Now this has grown and been browsed and browsed and browsed. It’s done everything it could. Just we’ve allowed the deer population to get slightly above what the habitat can carry here at The Proving Grounds. And this plant has suffered from being browsed on too much.

GRANT: This one’s been protected from browse and you can see it’s still putting on new growth – it’s got a lot of growing season. This plant will grow until a pretty hard frost. But look at the size of the leaves on this plant. They're huge. A few leaves would be a tummy full for deer – compared to here – they're walking all over the food plot trying to get their groceries.

GRANT: Another factor is the other side of the plant. Because this has huge leaves and is doing a lot of photosynthesis or converting a lot of the sun’s energy in the plant growth, look at the root mass. When we look up close, there’s literally dozens of nodules – or nitrogen producing nodules – on the bottom of this plant.

GRANT: When we come in here and broadcast or drill our Broadside blend for a fall crop, they're gonna take up all the nitrogen produced by these nodules, saving us that expense.

GRANT: This plant never made a lot of leaf surface area because it’s constantly being browsed and there’s nodules on this root system, but it’s not near as extensive as the plants protected by the fence.

GRANT: I’m very pleased at the amount of growth given the poor growing conditions we’ve experienced this summer here at The Proving Grounds. And even outside the fence where the plants did not achieve their full potential, they fed our deer herd all summer. But it’s a big wake up call to Adam, myself and the rest of the GrowingDeer Team that we need to harvest a lot of does this year. We need to reduce the amount of mouths competing for the resource. We can’t add a lot more food plots here at the Proving Grounds because the land is so steep. So, we have to keep the deer herd low enough for tough growing conditions to allow the forage to express its potential.

GRANT: We’re about ten yards away from the Hot Zone fence where we had placed a utilization cage right after we planted. And you can clearly see a tremendous difference. But the difference between the cage and the fence is another step. And that’s because when all those plants are by each other, they're shading out the ground around each other and protecting more moisture.

GRANT: Here in the smaller utilization cage, compared to the Hot Zone fence, the sun is clearly coming in – you can see sunshine underneath here – and evaporating more moisture. That’s why we work hard to get a full canopy in our food plots quickly to conserve soil moisture.

GRANT: As a biologist, I’m always excited to develop new techniques for food plots and other habitat management and share ‘em with fellow hunters. But what really drives me is the hunting potential. I’m never more excited than when I’m hunting. I’m more alive, more alert and I’m getting that feeling looking at this food plot. Seeing how this is browsed down, and knowing that they're forecasting a colder than normal winter. Don't know if that will happen or not – but that’s the long-term forecast.

GRANT: Look at these tall beans right behind me – right in front of the Redneck blind – knowing they're gonna make a great yield of pods and thinking about late winter hunts. Having those beans 20 yards from the Redneck, well, that really excites me.

GRANT: Even though there’s about three to four feet of difference in the beans between inside and outside the fence, they both serve a great purpose – feeding the deer herd now and providing great hunting during the late season.

LANCE: …but the survivability rates we’re seeing with this tree kit just skyrocket. So, if you're gonna invest…

GRANT: Field Day is August 12th and 13th and we’re super excited for you to join us. This year we’ve got lots of new, cool techniques to share with you. We’ve got our food plot planting, hunting techniques, where we place stands and how to approach ‘em. Lots of great information to share.

GRANT: Plus we’re taking landowners aside and visiting with them about their maps and their trail camera photos so we can help them develop a plan for their Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Flatwood Natives will be here during Field Day, not only giving a demonstration, but here the whole time to visit with everyone about perfect strategies for tree plots and what species are best for your neighborhood.

GRANT: In addition, they're offering a 15% discount for orders placed during Field Day and they’ll ship ‘em at the appropriate time next winter for you to plant and create your own tree plot.

GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get outside this week and watch for some velvet bucks. But most importantly, I hope you have time each day to slow down and enjoy Creation and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.