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GRANT: August the 24th, and the camera survey has yielded some good news and tough news, and we had a fire here at The Proving Grounds.
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GRANT: Watching the impact of devastating wildfires day after day on a television probably scares a lot of people from using fire as a management tool.
GRANT: A program of prescribed fire, on somewhat of a natural occurring rotation, every three, seven, ten years through an area, keeps that fuel load much lower, so when a wildfire due to lightning or arson occurs, it doesn't have that massive amount of fuels, and firefighters can control that fire much easier, with much less risk of life and property loss.
GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds, we use fire in the spring and fall to limit the amount of fuel in the neighborhood and to drastically improve the wildlife habitat.
GRANT: We've created several sanctuaries and/or bedding areas here at The Proving Grounds to make sure we've got the best cover in the neighborhood.
GRANT: Although cover is not as exciting as food plots or other things, cover is where mature bucks spend most of their daylight hours. If I'm limited to having cover, food, or water, I'd rather have cover cause that's where the bucks are gonna be when I can hunt.
GRANT: In our bedding areas, we need to repeat fire every three to four years to keep the hardwood saplings from shading out the native grasses and forbs; the deer like to bed in its cover and consume for a food source.
GRANT: Most natural and inexpensive way to limit hardwood saplings in our native grass areas is a fall prescribed fire.
GRANT: This portion of The Proving Grounds is steep and rough and is best served as a cover and feeding area. To cause that improvement, I need to remove these hardwood saplings and replace that with native forbs and grasses that provide cover and food, and are both very drought resistant.
GRANT: This case, we had a mountain full of hardwood saplings, so I wanted a really low humidity day, I wanted a head fire moving up through so it would gain more heat, preheating the fuel so the fire would carry through these shaded out areas, like behind me, and kill most of the hardwoods.
GRANT: In a different scenario, I might've waited for a little bit higher humidity day so the fire would not have been quite so aggressive, but in this case, given all the shadowing of the ground from these hardwood trees, I needed an aggressive fire.
GRANT: Fall burns have a totally different mission than spring burns, in that this tree will not be able to make new leaves before winter comes, therefore the root system, which was not harmed by the fire, will starve to death over winter.
GRANT: We also use prescribed fire in what I call savannah habitat. Savannah's are extremely productive habitat types for most species of wildlife, unfortunately, they're kinda rare anymore.
GRANT: When Tracy and I first purchased The Proving Grounds, we did TSI, timber stand improvement. We physically just cut trees throughout this part of the property, there was no timber market, and just left them laying and opened it up so the sun would hit the forest floor. Without the re-introduction of fire, these hardwood saplings would take this over because of all the seeds from those trees and would just be a mass of saplings with no food value and no cover value for most species of wildlife.
GRANT: But a simple, back burning, downhill fire has killed most of these saplings, will open this up so sun can do its work and cause herbaceous growth, or weeds, and little blueberries, and rag, ragweed to come in here next year, this will be a great area of grasses, weeds, and the occasional tree and it will be one of the prettiest areas on the property – all due to fire.
GRANT: Good habitat management, including fire in this case, is usually a good way to get that balance that ticks back down and allow game species to prosper.
GRANT: Unquestionably, fire can be extremely dangerous. Don't go out and just start a fire without the proper training and tools and enough help on that given day. Many states have fire workshops and schools so you can become skilled in using this tremendous tool for managing your property.
UNKOWN: That last 200 yards was hand to hand combat. (Laughter)
GRANT: Adam and I are in the middle of our trail camera survey here at The Proving Grounds, and so far, it's a good news/bad news story.
GRANT: The good news is I'm thrilled with the quality of bucks given the horrible drought we've experienced this growing season. Bad news is that some bucks we've passed, and expected to see this year, are not showing up in our trail camera survey.
GRANT: During this time of year, mature bucks tend to have very small home ranges. Food, cover, food, cover, food, cover. So when we put some Record Rack corn out on an area, we expect every deer in that area to find the corn and utilize the bait site for our camera survey.
ADAM: Gotta hurry up.
UNKNOWN: Hurry up.
GRANT: If a buck doesn't show up from start to finish, he might have a summer range somewhere else, but if he's showing up at the start of the survey and stops showing up, knowing that there's a lot of EHD in the area, it causes me great concern. Here's a great buck from my neighborhood that was showing up as we were doing the pre-baiting for our camera survey.
GRANT: Knowing that mature bucks tend to have very small home ranges at this time of year, and that this buck stopped showing up at our camera site, leads me to believe that he's probably dead by a water source due to EHD.
GRANT: For more information about EHD and how it's transmitted, check out the link right below me.
GRANT: East Glade 10 is a buck we had as three or four last year; I couldn't quite make up my mind. He's clearly four years old or older this year, and using a relatively small portion of The Proving Grounds. He's a great main frame ten, with a relatively narrow spread but long beam length. Adam and I have a couple of Muddy's hung almost center of East Glade 10's core area and given the right wind, we'll be in there chasing East Glade 10 this year.
GRANT: But, it was obvious when we saw this buck, that we would call him Large Left. We had Large Left last year, but he's showing up a lot more during daylight this year, at both Rifle Range and Crab Apple. Large Left frequented our camera sites last year but a change this year is that he tends to move a lot more during daylight.
GRANT: Another characteristic we like about Large Left is once he sheds velvet he tends to expand that range a little bit and hit a lot of our camera stations.
GRANT: Currently, Larger Left and East Glade 10 are overlapping slightly in their core areas and that would be a great place for a treestand to have two Hit List bucks using the same area.
GRANT: As you go through your Hit List, don’t just identify the age structure of the bucks, but look at the individual characteristics. Do they tend to move more in daylight? Do they cover a larger area and are they aggressive? We'll narrow down our Hit List to those that we think are most killable and set our stands accordingly.
GRANT: Whether you're working on habitat or a trail camera survey, I hope you take time to reflect on Creation and the Creator this week. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.