Deer Hunting Prep: Scouting Bucks, Grunt Calling And More (Episode 404 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

JAMES: Notice it's got that higher pitch, but it still keeps that rhythm broke up…

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GRANT: I really enjoy hunting a mature buck. I find it really challenging to figure out how he's using terrain, where he's feeding and where he's bedding. I love to look for his shed and, of course, I love trying to pattern him using trail cameras.

GRANT: During the past few seasons, I've been chasing a buck we call Southpaw – unsuccessfully.

GRANT: Southpaw's core area seems to be in the northern portion of The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: We recently placed a Redneck Blind in a right-of-way that overlooks a food plot and a bedding area where we think Southpaw frequents.

GRANT: Many times when you're chasing a mature buck, it's almost like chasing a ghost. You hear stories, you might get trail camera pictures but you never see the real thing.

GRANT: Recently that changed as right before dark we saw Southpaw in a food plot right behind my house.

GRANT: As the light was fading, Daniel was able to capture footage of Southpaw.

GRANT: A couple afternoons later, I saw Southpaw out in the same Eagle Seed bean food plot. This time Daniel wasn't around, so I grabbed the iSpotter to capture Southpaw.

GRANT: If you're not familiar with the iSpotter, it's a cool, little tool that allows us to attach our smartphones to a spotting scope, binoculars or something else.

GRANT: Using this tool, you can use the camera capabilities and microphone of your smartphone, the quality optics you had – I had a Nikon spotting scope – and film without the expense of having a video camera.

GRANT: I really enjoyed watching Southpaw and some other bucks in a bachelor group but I know, here in a few weeks, that velvet will shed and those bucks are likely to change their pattern.

GRANT: Daniel wanted in on the fun, so he headed back to his stomping grounds in Northern Missouri and set up on a bean field to try to scout some bucks where he'll be hunting this fall.

DANIEL: (Quietly) I'm up in Northern Missouri doing a little scouting on a property that I can hunt right on the Missouri-Iowa lines. So, there's a creek that runs right on the back side of these bean fields and there's an 80-acre chunk of timber that I hunt right across the creek. So, I'm suspecting deer are gonna be bedded because it's warm on that east-facing slope where it's shady and cool, cross the creek, come out and feed this evening. So, I'm set up, got great wind – got kind of a north wind tonight. So, my scent is actually just blowing right down this lane. Deer are gonna feel safe out in the field. I suspect we'll probably see something here in just a little bit.

DANIEL: (Quietly) Just finished up my first interview. I look over out in the shadows, I see the first deer. So, it came right across the creek just like I thought. I don't see antlers. I think it may be a doe, but just a little yearling buck. He's hammering those beans though.

DANIEL: (Quietly) In the county that I hunt, it’s, it's been a CWD area and we haven't been able to use Trophy Rocks for several years. I get a lot of questions. You know, “How, how do I get pictures of deer when I can't have mineral or Trophy Rock out or anything like that?” Just find those bottlenecks; find, find those trails, those gaps that deer are gonna wanna shoot through. Um, that's where you hang your trail cameras when you can't have any attractant out. Mock scrapes are a great way to get deer in front of the cameras too, so.

DANIEL: (Quietly) It doesn't get much better than this: sitting out, watching the sun go down over a bean field and looking for deer.

GRANT: Several young bucks and some does fed in the field, but right before dark, he was able to record something else.

GRANT: Daniel kept filming this buck until dark and then slid out as he starts putting together his hunting plans for this fall.

GRANT: A couple years ago, I asked the guys at Hook’s Custom Calls if they would help us develop a call that had the tone and rhythm I wanted.

GRANT: I couldn't find anything on the market that really fit my need.

SCOTT: Kind of amazing to me how well it carries.

GRANT: Oh, it's stunning. I'm thrilled with that.

JAMES: I hear you. There it is.

GRANT: That's better there.

JAMES: Yeah.

GRANT: That's better there…

GRANT: That's where James got involved. He's a master call maker and an avid deer hunter.

GRANT: We shared several videos with James and talked to him, and he was able to make a call that produces sounds I wanted.

JAMES: Yeah. Me and Grant got – you know, we got down there like a year and a half ago and started working on designing a grunt call. And we wanted something different than everybody else was running – just that old, deep, dominant buck grunt sound. We wanted something that had good sound, that was a younger buck that would actually, you know, get them dominant bucks to come in and challenge, and. You know, ‘cause a lot of guys, they want to shoot deer. They want to fill up their freezers and stuff. And we wanted to make a call that would call in does, young bucks, three-year-old bucks, you know all the way up, up the ladder.

JAMES: Well, we did it with Grant. I was with, working on the sound and the rhythms of the actual deer grunting and listening to live deer and real deer and seeing how they sounded compared to the grunt calls. And we started designing and developing the grunt call. And from that we got the Messenger grunt call.

DANIEL: Alright (Inaudible).

JAMES: So, our challenge was to get a call that whether that deer is 10 yards from you or he's 200 yards, you still got that same sound in there. And going at it like that. So, that's how we kinda started working and designing on the call.

JAMES: And we tested the Messenger out to about 250 yards, 200 yards, and the neat thing about it was sound was carrying and cutting through.

JAMES: One thing on the Messenger is we don't have an expansion tube on the bottom or anything. And what the expansion tubes were doing was actually restricting the sound. And when it was coming out, it was actually distorting in that tube. So when it – it sounded good from me to you. But, when it got out there at 80 and 100 yards, it didn't sound right.

DANIEL: Right.

JAMES: So, removing that tube, that sound is coming out as pure sound with no distortion. And it's actually cutting and carrying through the woods and the fields farther.

JAMES: And we're not blowing. The one good thing I liked about the call when I started designing it was, I wanted a call that would blow very soft. ‘Cause a lot of times when we're bow hunting out there, them deer may be 40 yards at you. And you want to grunt at ‘em or try to get ‘em to turn a little bit but you don’t want to do it where you blast ‘em and they spook.

DANIEL: Right.

JAMES: So, with the Messenger you can just barely – a little air into it – just…

DANIEL: And they turn.

JAMES: Yeah, and they'll turn.

DANIEL: They, they hear it. You think it's, you think it’s too soft sometimes, but they, they pick it up.

JAMES: Yeah, so they're versatile calls. I mean Grant's spent his whole life you know with deer, and studying deer, and I've spent pretty much my life building calls and stuff like that. So, it worked out great for us to pair up and get this call to where it's at.

JAMES: And when you get your call, you can see there's three grooves on the back of that call where that O-ring sets. Now, your top groove is actually for a really young buck or a doe. So, if early season, if you want to grunt at some does and get some coming in – like you guys had some video last year, some does just blasting in.

DANIEL: Yeah. Hit the grunt and the does just turned around and came right in.

JAMES: Yeah. So early season I leave it up on that first, that first setting and just. Notice it's got that higher pitch but it still keeps that rhythm broke up like an actual deer grunting. And you can get quiet on that or you can get loud on it.

DANIEL: Yeah.

JAMES: And from there…

JAMES: Now, your second setting – which is your middle groove – which all your calls when you get 'em packaged from the store and when I package 'em, they're all set on the second setting.

DANIEL: Okay.

JAMES: And that's gonna be like your two-year-old buck.

DANIEL: Right.

JAMES: Right in there, ready to go. Yup. And that's more of a, a little bit deeper, a little slower, a little slower rhythm on that and from there. And then if you want to get – let's say, a lot of guys like that rut hunting when them bucks are really chasing. Drop it down on that third groove and that's gonna be your three-year-old buck in through there, get a little bit heavier.

JAMES: Now, I blow my grunt call with my hand.

DANIEL: That's what I do.

JAMES: And I don’t really muffle the sound or anything like that, I just. Nice like that.

DANIEL: Yep.

JAMES: I have played with adjusting my hands on it. You can do that if you want to. It changes the sound up a little bit where you can go or just go.

JAMES: And when me and Grant was talking about designing this, we wanted a call that you can just pick up, blow into, and set back down because we didn't want to have to work with a tube or anything like that. So designed the call, just pick it up, the sound is right there.

DANIEL: James how, how many of these do you make – are you making right now?

JAMES: Right now I'm working on 1,000. They're gonna be done this week. Then I'll have a couple more thousand coming in. So, we're gonna have plenty of calls in stock ready to go.

DANIEL: Great.

JAMES: You know. So, we're, you know, hookscustomcalls.com. You can check ‘em out on the website there; check ‘em out on Amazon. If you've got any questions about the calls, feel free to shoot us an email at Hook’s Calls. Scott will be more than glad to answer your questions or anything or get in contact with me. We'll go through it, and, you know, got any questions or anything on the calls itself, give us a holler.

GRANT: It looks like James is gonna be busy for a while putting together and tweaking calls but I'm sure he'll find time to get out in the stand and do some more field research this fall.

GRANT: The most important part of our hunting gear was where we hunt – the quality of the habitat.

GRANT: For more than a decade now, I've worked here at The Proving Grounds trying to improve the habitat. A big portion of that work has been cutting cedar trees on south-facing slopes and working to reestablish the native grasses and forbs.

GRANT: Native grasses and forbs are much better bedding areas and security zones than patches of hardwood saplings or cedar.

GRANT: Managing native vegetation or native habitat is critical to what we do here at The Proving Grounds and should be critical to everyone throughout the whitetails’ range.

GRANT: The first couple times we did a dormant or spring burn, and the hardwood saplings weren't up much – and they weren't carrying a lot of sap – so I knew it would not have much control on hardwood saplings.

GRANT: As the saplings started shading out, or competing for more sun and moisture with the native browse that I really wanted to feature in this area, we did a growing season burn with hopes of really suppressing the hardwoods.

GRANT: Even after years of using these aggressive techniques, it's obvious we have not limited the hardwood encroachment. In fact, in the lower portions of the slope where we couldn't have a fire as hot as the top – the head fire simply didn't build up as much steam. It's almost 100% shaded out.

GRANT: There's really not much cover – even though it looks thick. Once you wade in there down below, it's totally shaded out and there's certainly almost no food.

GRANT: Recently, the Flatwood Natives crew literally waded through with GPS units so they could tell where they were going – ‘cause you can't see in that mess – and treated this area with safe herbicides.

GRANT: They used a combination of a couple herbicides to take out all the species of the hardwood saplings but not damage any residual native grasses or forbs.

GRANT: In addition, I'm 100% confident there's a huge seed bank of native forbs – you know, annual flowers that deer love to eat – and grasses below these saplings that are simply being shaded out. So, by terminating those saplings and releasing that seed bank, we used prescribed fire to stir it up a little bit. I'm confident this will turn into a beautiful feeding and bedding area.

GRANT: And we’ll come back next spring – probably when we do a prescribed fire – and then follow it throughout the year to show you the transformation of an area that's really low-quality habitat and would set in that state for decades to come versus what one application of selective herbicides can do and the benefit it will yield as far as developing high-quality wildlife habitat.

GRANT: Mo and the Flatwood Natives crew have developed some really cool techniques for working in tough, mountain habitat like here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Mo, in this particular bedding area, if you've figured out, there's no road on top but (Inaudible) your crew walking a 100 yards up there – it's really steep and rocky – and then back down. You've strung a hose up there using a powerful pump to pump water up and they can refill their backpacks on top. Is that correct?

MO: Yes sir.

GRANT: And that's saving a lot of time. These guys are knocking out acres compared to, you know, going up there and spraying a four-gallon or so backpack sprayer, walking back down here to refill, and then walking up. It's just much more efficient.

GRANT: And the use of handheld GPS unit and marking dye along with the herbicide allows them to know exactly what they've treated and what they haven't. So there's not skips and we come next year to burn it and we got big ol' green patches in the middle of the brown.

GRANT: Quite candidly, we're so busy, if my limited crew had to treat a block this large – and we don't have all the pumps and fancy equipment – gosh, we'd be years doing this. And you're gonna get this done in what, two or three days?

MO: This will be two days.

GRANT: Two days you're gonna knock out this. This is a 16-acre area?

MO: Yes sir.

GRANT: So, knocking out 16 acres in steep, mountain habitat in two days. Gosh I can't even develop a food plot that quick.

GRANT: If you have some areas where maybe loggers didn't follow up with a treatment or something like that, using a follow-up treatment to convert sapling encroached areas into high-quality habitat.

GRANT: We've used this team to treat some areas in the past. I've been very pleased with the results. I can't wait to give you updates on these areas next spring.

GRANT: There's lots of habitat work around the whitetails’ range focused on deer but it's important to know that some landowners are focused on other critters.

GRANT: The sweetgums are gonna win that battle if you don't do something. Unequivocally.

GRANT: Recently, Daniel and I flew down to Central Mississippi to assist a landowner whose primary interest was wild turkey.

BRIAN: Having a place where I thought would be a habitat for turkey. It’s not.

GRANT: Yes sir. That's correct.

GRANT: You got all the potential with this mix of timber and fields. You got a lot of potential.

GRANT: As we toured his property, the most striking feature were several old ag fields that had been left alone and allowed to grow up in several invasive species.

GRANT: It just really depends how aggressive y'all want to be. We can turn this around for sure. But it will never get better left like this.

GRANT: If you just took this mosaic that we've been driving through – of fields and mature trees – and if you did nothing but convert that back to primarily soybeans in summer and a blend of, of uh, crimson clover and cereal rye in the winter. ‘Cause those fields are not serving turkeys at all right now. And you controlled all your weeds; you had the space right, so turkeys could walk down the rows of the beans in summer and bug. You would make a quantum difference over what you have now.

GRANT: And it would work around, you know, we'd work around some of the openings and creeks and it won't look exactly like this. It never does anywhere. You've got to work around the features. But that's the, the general gist of it.

GRANT: Habitats like this – super thick, no bare ground, almost head high – is not good turkey habitat. Adult turkeys don't like to go in there and poults can rarely survive in such habitat.

GRANT: A huge factor in turkey management or turkey populations is making sure we have successful poult production each year.

GRANT: An ideal poult habitat is what we call umbrella habitat: lots of bare dirt down below; vegetation growing up and making an umbrella a foot or two above the ground. That way the poults can move through there without being visible to most predators. Lots of soft insects in those moist shady areas, that's what poults like to feed upon. And hens can stick their heads up over the vegetation, look around or periscope, and see if there's any threats around, go back down, and continue feeding.

GRANT: After we visited and went over some maps and started touring his property, it became very obvious there were several large ag fields that had been left unmanaged for many years and had now taken over by weedy and invasive species.

GRANT: Daniel and I are working in Mississippi today, and we've noticed on this property, there's several old fields that have been left unmanaged and johnsongrass is invading these fields.

GRANT: Johnsongrass is an exotic species that's extremely invasive. It forms very large tubers under the ground so it's very resistant to a lot of herbicides, including Roundup, or disking. If you disk it you just simply cut those tubers and more johnsongrass comes back.

GRANT: In this case, we will prescribe an Imazapyr-base chemistry that's very safe. Imazapyr is spelled im-a-zapyr. That will kill this johnsongrass out and allow us to come back in and establish either native or cultivated plants that are much more beneficial to wildlife.

GRANT: If you see some johnsongrass developing on your property, you want to terminate it while it's still in a small area because it produces a lot of seed and can take over large amounts of acreage quickly.

GRANT: Based on his goals and objectives, we recommended several treatments for his property. But the primary one was converting these old fields that had been let go back into production soybeans or, at minimum, mowing them way before turkey nesting areas or using prescribed fire and letting them grow slowly throughout that turkey brooding season to provide much better quality habitat.

GRANT: We left the landowner with marked up maps, detailed suggestions and our phone number so we can continue assisting him throughout this project.

GRANT: I really enjoy working with habitat throughout different parts of the whitetails’ range.

GRANT: But no matter where I am, I try to slow down and enjoy Creation. And most importantly, I hope you'll join me in being quiet each day and listening to what the Creator is saying to us. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.