This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: It’s another dry week here at The Proving Grounds, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling like celebrating America’s tremendous gift of independence. I want to just take a moment here, on July 4th, and really think about all the men and women that have sacrificed tremendously to give us the freedom to come and go, and hunt deer on public land, private land, food plot. I don’t think any of us can really understand the price we paid for freedom. I know it’s a cliché, but freedom is not free, and hunters have always been the backbone of what gave America freedom. I hope you and your family are blessed with freedom this week, spiritually, financially, wherever you are, and I hope you take a moment to be thankful for the freedom our forefathers gave us.
ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer.tv is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops. Also by Reconyx, Trophy Rock, Gallagher, Muddy Outdoors, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester Ammunition, Redneck Hunting Blinds, Derby City Turkey Calls, Ansmann, and Antler Dirt.
GRANT: May not be many fireworks around The Proving Grounds this year, ‘cause it is so wicked dry that if it doesn’t rain, I’m scared a few fireworks might be a larger prescribed fire than I really planned on this summer. The grass is brittle. Food plots are suffering. Creek is down. It’s tough conditions here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: We’re in a wicked drought. Wicked, evil is the only words that come to my mind, and the soybeans that are here have been all nipped off on top. And the ground’s just crunchy, there is no moisture and it’s gonna have an impact on antler size. So, who knows? If this drought doesn’t break soon, we may be harvesting does to get that number down, so we got enough food, and giving our bucks a pass this year, because there not any way they can express their antler growth potential. But we’ll just have to keep you posted, and these are decisions a manager makes in the real world.
GRANT: Our forage soybeans aren’t old enough to have that canopy closed and keep moisture from evaporating from the ground. That soil moisture’s all gone.
GRANT: With the early drought occurring right after we started planting, and lasting ‘til now, there’s no way for our forage crops to grow enough and provide enough tonnage to stay up with the deer herd. Even our biggest field, Crabapple Field, is suffering from being over-browsed, and that will make me think about our harvest strategy this fall.
GRANT: I’m not really an antler hunter. I’m a four or five mature deer hunter is what I like to hunt. Deer that are four or five years old, but it’s kind of a shame to take a deer out of their prime when he’s not expressing the full potential he has. I’m leaning towards setting our Hit List, our harvest criteria, on some of those five, six, seven year old bucks that may be here that never expressed a lot of potential, and letting those prime three and four year old bucks wait till next year, until they, hopefully, get better growing conditions and really can express their potential.
GRANT: Slightly different circumstances on the doe side of our harvest. Our deer herd density has been increasing, no doubt about that, and this year, our food quality dropped way down. Those lines are matched, are slightly adjusted in balance towards the deer density. I’m planning right now that Brad and I will be buying extra doe tags, which is part of the system here in Missouri, and probably taking out more does with the concerted effort than we have ever done in the past, to get that balance back in shape, or even drive that deer herd slightly under the amount of food. Harsh conditions will show you exactly where you need to manage your deer herd. You don’t ever want to manage it for just the best years. You want to manage it for the worst years, and on the best years, your deer really shine.
GRANT: Another problem with limited water sources – when it gets this dry – is, of course, all the deer are going to those few water sources. All the predators can key on ‘em real easy, so fawns that are kind of suffering from being young, and not enough water, and mother’s milk is not as good, are really vulnerable to predation.
GRANT: Just because the conditions are tough doesn’t mean we’re sitting on the couch going, “Woe is me,” because now is time to prepare for hunting season. Just want to share a few tips of what we’re doing here at the Fourth of July time period.
GRANT: Now is a great time of year to go prepare hidey holes. Hidey holes are just little small food plots, usually a quarter acre or less, simply made to attract deer to a hunting location. We’re gonna swing around that circle to about right here. We’re gonna cut the trees and we’ll paint the stumps, so they won’t re-sprout back, with a herbicide. Just kind of build a fence out of brush behind us, so even if a deer’s bedded back there, it’s got to swing a ways, hopefully, where it won’t catch our scent, and come in this way.
GRANT: Let’s fire up and make some trees drop down.
GRANT: There’s some criteria that I really go through before selecting a hidey hole food plot, and I study properties for years, not just one day, and kind of refine as I go. But I have to have a place that I can approach without alerting the deer that I’m gonna be hunting. I like a place that’s up high, or an area that has a constant wind direction – not in a valley where it’s gonna be swirling. I gotta be remain undetected, while I’m hunting, and it has to be a place where I can leave and not disturb the deer. So I got to get there, remain there, and leave, without disturbing deer, and I’m wrapped around that. Has to be a area that deer want to be – close to a bedding area, travel corridor, someplace they want to get a snack, coming and going to the larger feeding areas. Usually, tucked up to a bedding area, both a favorable wind where I can approach is an awesome location for a hidey hole food plot.
GRANT: Just went in with the weed cutter; cut down the remaining stuff; did some herbicide work. We plan on doing one more herbicide application after the weeds we cut sprout up and get some leaf surface area for the herbicide to penetrate and be ready to plant, either early season, or at a minimum, 30/40 days before the first frost date. And that happens to be about October 14th, here in Missouri, so doing our work now allows us plenty of time to get one more herbicide application, add fertilizer, add seed, and be ready to hunt by early in the season, or at least by the first frost date.
GRANT: It’s really important not to skip that herbicide step, ‘cause you don’t want a bunch of competing weeds in your little quarter acre hidey hole food plot. You want that to be the luscious, greenest, tastiest piece of fudge that a deer can slide by, grab a little fudge, before it gets to the buffet line of your big food plots. We’re talking about catching deer moving in daylight hours. The first place they go out in the afternoons, so there’s plenty of daylight, or at the last place they come into, before the bedding area. Catching mature bucks moving in daylight hours is what hidey hole food plots are designed for. You know last point I want to make about hidey hole food plots, they are incredible deer harvest tool. They’re not a nutrition tool, grow bigger deer. They’re a harvest tool, but the beauty of this tool is they’re extremely inexpensive, and you can use ‘em on the back of grandpa’s 10 acres, or if you got 5,000 acres to hunt. They’re really the tool for any hunter to use. A little sweat equity and you can have an awesome hunting stand. Not much expense involved. Get a couple of buddies; borrow a chainsaw if you have to; get a cheap backpack sprayer, little seed and you’re ready to have a tremendous hunting location.
GRANT: I hope, as we move past the Fourth of July, and all those fireworks going off, create a rain cloud somehow. We need a rain really bad at The Proving Grounds, but I hope the growing conditions are really good at your Proving Grounds, and we’ll look forward to sharing with you next week, here at GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: So, when you-you need to be seeing that center limb. You know you’re gonna go behind limbs every now and then, but think about where we can shoot a deer off that center limb.