Deer Management | Shooting Accurately, Food Plots (Episode 444 Transcript)

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

UNKNOWN: (Whispering)

GRANT: (Whispering) Which one?

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) The one on the left.

GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible) small (Inaudible) right?

UNKNOWN: (Whispering) Yeah.

GRANT: Last fall, the entire GrowingDeer Team focused on tagging a bunch of does.

GRANT: We needed to reduce the deer population to balance the number of deer – or the number of mouths – with the quantity of quality forage we can produce here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: This is not a simple mathematical formula, especially in timber country. You have acorn years and non-acorn years. You have droughts and good growing seasons. So, your safest bet is hold that deer population a tad bit lower than a normal production year.

GRANT: The topography here in the Ozark Mountains is steep. So, we’re limited by topography – or flat areas – and my budget on how many acres of food plots we can have. Even though the amount of acres of food plots we have is limited, they're extremely productive due to the techniques we’ve developed.

GRANT: The food plots, paired with all the native habitat improvement work we’ve done, well, it means our deer herd is very productive.

GRANT: I like a productive deer herd. I like seeing a lot of deer. But it means we have to constantly work on balancing the number of deer with the amount of food. That’s not a bad problem to have. I enjoy hunting. My family and the entire GrowingDeer Team enjoys venison. So, we’ve got a reason and a need to tag does.

GRANT: In Missouri, hunters have many more opportunities to harvest does with a bow than they do with firearms. This and many more reasons is a big incentive to be a proficient archer.

GRANT: I enjoy shooting a bow, but I enjoy it much more when I’m shooting accurately.

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GRANT: During the past few years, my primary technique to improve my archery skills has been the blind bale system. I was introduced to the blind bale technique several years ago when I had a bad case of target panic. I called my friend, C.J. Davis and I told him, “Man, I can't even hit the target at 20 yards, let alone hit the dot on the target.” It was right before deer season.

GRANT: He says, “Grant, what you’ve got to do is shoot blind bale for a couple of weeks. Don’t practice a target; shoot blind bale.” I thought, “You're crazy, man. Deer season’s getting ready to start.” It was some of the best advice about archery I’ve ever received.

GRANT: Blind bale means shooting with your eyes closed. That sounds odd but when you shoot with your eyes closed, you're not worried about aiming and you don’t have target panic or the need to punch the trigger when you're getting close to the dot. You simply focus on form.

GRANT: And then, I’m gonna draw just like I would in a tree stand. So, I’m not doing some big, “Ahhhh!” like that. I’ve got a deer out in front of me and I’m just gonna ease up. And I’m thinking nothing but form.

GRANT: It’s like shooting 100 free throws every morning. The blind bale system allows you to develop perfect muscle memory for shooting a bow.

GRANT: A lot of target archers use a release that’s basically pressure activated. In other words, did it have enough pressure or there a break or something – they’d pull their bow back. And when it breaks over, it drops down to 18, 20 pounds or so because that’s the weight they're holding back here.

GRANT: And when they just pull through that, they're not triggering anything. They literally just put enough pressure and they spread their shoulders that it pulls through and the bow goes off. That is great for target archery and some hunters use it successfully. But for me, I still get doe fever. I see that big nanny coming down the trail or mature buck. I might put an extra five pounds on there ‘cause I’m so excited and pull through a little bit early.

GRANT: So, for me, I’m not using that style of release when I’m hunting.

GRANT: When I had my release set longer where I would trigger it with just the tip of my index finger, thinking it was more sensitive and I could make it go off right when I want to, that was the whole problem. ‘Cause then, I stopped aiming and thinking about triggering the release.

GRANT: Through the years, I've shortened the strap down and I now trigger the release at my second joint – way up here where it’s not as sensitive.

GRANT: For me – and this isn't for everyone. But for me, this gives me the safety of a trigger release. I’m not just getting excited and pulling through a tension release when I’m hunting. And it allows me to have a surprise release. I’ve got less sensitivity back here. So, I’m just pulling through and it goes off. I’m not actually moving my finger. I’m just tightening my shoulders.

GRANT: By pulling through, I mean simply tightening my shoulders just a touch. I’m not thinking, “I gotta squeeze my fingernail.”

GRANT: There is no one perfect way to shoot a bow. And different techniques will work best for different archers. But I encourage all of y'all to do what I’m doing and start practicing now; refining that technique so when it becomes deer season, you’ve got the muscle memory and you’ve got confidence to make the shot.

GRANT: Another way we’ve been busy preparing for deer season is planting our warm season plots.

GRANT: Tyler’s been planting our plots and I gotta tell ya, he’s doing a great job.

GRANT: No matter who is planting, including myself, it’s important to get off the tractor, dig in the dirt and make sure everything’s going okay.

GRANT: This plot got browsed very hard last winter. No acorns – a small plot, about an acre – in the middle of a lot of timber.

GRANT: It’s common in small, hidey hole hunting type food plots in the middle of a bunch of timber to be browsed so heavily, they don’t produce enough forage to really give a good mulch bed and control weeds.

GRANT: In that situation, it may be necessary to use a herbicide to terminate the cool season crop.

GRANT: That was the situation in this plot. So, we terminated what’s left of the cool season crop with the herbicide. Because the vegetation was dead, when the drill passed through, it knocked most of it to the ground, creating a fairly good cover of mulch.

GRANT: This area was covered in shrubs and when Tracy and I purchased the property, we cleared ‘em out and it was extremely rocky.

GRANT: Through years of using this system and allowing the mulch to decompose and earthworms and bacteria to do their work. We developed a dark looking, high-quality soil. It’s shallow. If I put my knife in, you can probably hear it. I hit rocks about an inch, inch and a half deep, anywhere in the plot.

GRANT: But, we’re able to get seed down. We’re drilling about an inch deep, making nice rows. And I’m gonna say, 90+% of the seed is covered. The best way to illustrate how rocky this plot is, is listen as we plant.

GRANT: Even with all those negatives, I’m confident – based on previous years – if we get adequate rain, we’ll produce high-quality forage and have some good hunting in this area.

GRANT: While we’re planting, I always go right behind the planter and check the seed depth. I simply take a knife or a stick or something and get on a planter row and carefully start moving soil. You gotta go slow ‘cause some of the seeds are small and you’ll push ‘em off to the side and won't realize there’s seeds in the furrow.

GRANT: If I’m finding a bean every two to three inches and it’s an inch deep or so, I know Tyler is doing a great job.

GRANT: Seed depth depends on the conditions. Here, we probably can't get more than an inch deep in this particular plot. But I certainly want ‘em covered. So, I’m looking for a half inch to an inch deep – especially ‘cause right now, we have great soil moisture; they're gonna germinate quickly.

GRANT: If it’s dry, I want ‘em a little deeper to try to get down to some soil moisture.

GRANT: Checking behind the planter is a key quality control step. Without these checks, maybe something shifted or got knocked loose or whatever and you might end up with a spotty stand.

GRANT: I’m confident in a few days, we’ll start seeing little rows of soybeans in Boom Back.

GRANT: In the fields that produced enough tonnage, we don’t need to terminate with herbicide, we’ll use the Goliath crimper.

GRANT: The fall Buffalo Blend did an amazing job in these plots. Our Eagle Seed fall blend is just about to mature and it’s time to plant in it now, but it’s not time to crimp it.

GRANT: Rather than looking at a date on the calendar, you need to look at your crop. Because this year was cold and dry and crops are maturing a bit later.

GRANT: Next year, we may have a warmer spring and wetter and they may mature earlier.

GRANT: Don’t go by a date on the calendar. Go by conditions in the field. And what I want to see is these pollen granules – the pollen starting to form on the heads of the tall cereal grains.

GRANT: When you start seeing the very first pollen forming, it’s time to drill the beans through here. We drilled through the standing crop. That makes it easier for several ways. You can see exactly where you planted. The drill passes through this actually a bit easier than when it’s crimped down. And this serves as a great greenhouse for the germinating soybeans.

GRANT: Another really important factor is that deer don’t like sticking their head down in three, four, five feet of vegetation and it gives the young beans a little bit of protection and lets them develop a root system before they're browsed on.

GRANT: Once the beans germinate in this standing crop – but before they make four leaves – we’ll bring in the Goliath crimper and terminate this crop, putting all this mulch on the ground to serve as weed control and slow release fertilizer.

GRANT: That seems a little scary. But those young soybeans are extremely pliable and the tractor and crimper won't harm them.

GRANT: Every year you follow this system – I call it the Buffalo System – your soils tend to get better. And here’s a primary reason why. When we crimped last year, there’s still some of that duff on the ground.

GRANT: That’s now decayed enough to really be releasing nutrients and it’s perfect earthworm food. When we crimp this new, green, raw material down, it’s not earthworm food. It hasn’t started decaying enough for earthworms. And many beneficial bacteria will start feeding on it and converting it to fertilizer.

GRANT: So, if I reach down in the ground, it’s covered with this – last year’s duff. It’s in the perfect state for earthworms to be eating it; holding moisture; great for bacteria to break down. But here in a month or two, it’ll all be gone. So, now is the time to put another layer down and keep the process moving forward.

GRANT: Crimping the first year certainly has shown great results. Crimping multiple years in a row – that’s where you start building super high-quality soil.

GRANT: So, let’s put a timeline on it. Start seeing the first pollen growing – it’s a good time to drill through or broadcast seed into the standing fall crop. When the mature cereal grains in your fall blend make seed heads that have the dough stage – when you squeeze ‘em and moisture comes out – then it’s time to crimp or terminate the crop.

GRANT: If you try to terminate this crop before they're in the dough stage, it will stand back up and become competition for the soybeans.

GRANT: I love the Buffalo System. And one of the things I love about it is anyone can apply it.

GRANT: For those that don’t have an opportunity to get access to a drill and a crimper, welcome to the baby Goliath. It’s a simple tool, man powered, that replicates what the Goliath is doing on a larger scale.

GRANT: Using this system, we broadcast seed into standing vegetation. I’ll use more seed per acre than I would with a drill. That’s because when you broadcast, not all the seed will make contact with the soil.

GRANT: I’ve been so impressed with the results of the Buffalo System and the cost savings of not needing to apply so many inputs, that I want to apply it everywhere. Even my small, hidey hole food plots.

GRANT: It was easy to broadcast seed into the standing crop, but we had a problem with terminating the crop without using herbicide. It’s often said that, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Maybe that’s the case here.

GRANT: But, doing some research, talking to other folks and working with Paul, well, we’ve come up with the foot crimper.

GRANT: I’m simply taking a step about six inches or eight inches at a time; letting my body weight do the work instead of a Goliath. And by foot – in these small food plots – I can get the same results.

GRANT: I described my desire for tools for these small plots to the folks at RTP Outdoors. Paul, the President of RTP Outdoors, has a small farm here in Missouri and he caught the vision quickly. If you're one of those guys that likes this technique, stay tuned and we’ll be sharing it more. I call it training for elk season.

GRANT: We’re in a plot we call Big Foot, and amazingly enough, this area was covered with cedars and brush about a year ago. We’ve cleaned it up and planted a summer blend of a lot of species that aren’t that palatable to deer to get a root structure in the ground and some biomass on top.

GRANT: Just before deer season, we drilled through that summer soil building blend with the fall Buffalo Blend. The Buffalo Blend fed deer all winter. In fact, there was a lot of browse pressure – too much for us to crimp. So, we terminated it just a few days ago with herbicide.

GRANT: Before the herbicide kicked in and the vegetation was still green, we drilled right through it. That was nine days ago and now the summer Buffalo Blend, well, it’s a couple of inches tall.

GRANT: There are many advantages to this system. One – the standing fall crop is protecting the young soybeans that just sprouted.

GRANT: Deer don’t like sticking their head down in this stuff to eat because when they do, it messes up several of their predator defense systems.

GRANT: The standing crop from last year is also serving kind of as a greenhouse to protect the young seedlings from dry winds, heavy rains and other elements that could damage them.

GRANT: I believe the summer crop coming on will make a canopy so quickly, given the conditions, that it will shade out any weed competition. Unless deer browse too hard and create openings in the canopy, we should be finished with this field until it’s time to plant the fall blend.

GRANT: Whether you're planting food plots or doing some other outdoor activity, always take time to slow down and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, find time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.

GRANT: If you’d like to learn more about these techniques or see the results, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.