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GRANT: They precluded or stopped the fire. The cedars had no enemy. They took over. And our prairie (Inaudible) (Fades Out)
GRANT: The weather conditions are beautiful here at The Proving Grounds which reminds me it won’t be long until it’s time to plant spring food plots.
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GRANT: A beautiful day in the Ozarks, so it’s a great time to get outside and see how our winter food plots are holding up. The growing season last summer was awesome. It was the fourth wettest summer on record here in the Ozarks. And our beans responded well, many of ‘em got four to six feet tall and made a huge amount of pods. Even though we knew we had that great crop, we wanted to provide some greens also. So a portion of this plot we drilled right through the beans and planted Broadside.
GRANT: Broadside is a blend of radishes, a forage wheat, a couple of types of brassicas and soybeans. The design is the soybeans come up first – get the deer nose down, right in the plot early during bow season. Then the radishes kick in, then the forage wheat and late winter deer really go for the brassica – forage on top and the bulbs down below.
GRANT: The Broadside worked perfectly. When I walk through here now, of course I don’t see any of the soybeans – they were all consumed. The radishes are all gone. That made room for the forage wheat to really expand and as the temperatures started warming up in this late winter, it looks awesome. A lot of stems are squared off and I can tell deer are foraging in here currently.
GRANT: The brassicas, we don’t see many of the big, tall brassicas here cause they ate down that forage during the winter, and some of the bulbs have certainly been eaten on. At the same time, right behind me, you see almost no pods on the Eagle Seed soybeans. We had a heck of a crop but between the pods there and the Broadside here, we provided quality food throughout the winter.
GRANT: In the areas where we drilled the Broadside, we had a great germination rate. It’s provided a lot of forage. And in fact, the deer are still using it today as a source of nutrition. We talk a lot about the forage food plots provide for browse but there is something much more important we need to discuss.
GRANT: The quality of the food plot – in fact, the quality of the deer in the area – are totally dependent on the soil quality. If this plot had of just been soybeans and nothing planted on top of it – the rain, snow, whatever precipitation we’ve had during the winter would have caused nutrients to leech lower and lower in the soil profile. But this growing vegetation serves to capture those nutrients in the root system, bring ‘em up – not only on stuff for deer to browse on but what deer don’t browse – to decompose on top of the soil, rot down in and provide great nutrients for the next crop. This recycling, or mining of nutrients, is exactly what built the soils of the Great Prairie and the fertility of that region.
GRANT: The Great Prairie had different species of native vegetation growing throughout the year. Unless it was just so cold nothing would grow – there were spring annuals and then later in the summer and fall – something was growing throughout the year; capturing nutrients, dying, decomposing on top of the soil, and replenishing those nutrients.
GRANT: That’s the same strategy I use and promote for food plot management. I’ve got some brassicas still growing. Obviously, wheat is growing – pulling those nutrients up. And the portions of the food plot blend that’s already died or maybe been killed by deer, well, that’s starting to breakdown and rot and put those nutrients right back in the soil for the spring crop.
GRANT: We simply use a safe herbicide to terminate the wheat and whatever is growing come planting season. That provides a cover crop that limits weed production, holds moisture in the soil, and obviously decomposes and adds more nutrients for the next crop that we drill in.
GRANT: We’re in a different food plot that’s much smaller. Although it’s small, the beans did really well staying ahead of the deer herd. It was so small, I didn’t want to take a drill in here. So we simply walked through and broadcast the Broadside blend through the standing beans.
GRANT: We walked through and broadcast the seed during September. And these beans were full of foliage and very green. So, even though the seed made it to the ground, there wasn’t a lot of sunshine reaching the ground and it delayed germination by several months. Wheat’s very durable and you can tell that the wheat germinated but the brassicas didn’t do very well in that situation.
GRANT: The wheat is doing a great job now of recycling nutrients, providing browse for deer and keeping weeds at bay. As long as we’ve got a desirable crop growing, weeds don’t have a chance to grow and it makes it much easier to keep the weed seed base out of this field.
GRANT: We’re in a different food plot that has a whole different story. This food plot is about two acres. But the beans were browsed very heavily because it’s kind of isolated – has a large bedding area just to this side and a lot of timber to this side – with no other food plots close by.
GRANT: These beans were planted last summer, I’m sure within a week of the other beans, but they only made it about two feet tall due to all the browse pressure. They had great pod production given all the browse pressure. But rather than drill through here and damage any of those pods, we simply walked through on a rainy day broadcasting the Broadside. And in this field, because the beans were shorter and had been browsed heavier, much more of the seed received sunshine and obviously a lot better germination in this field.
GRANT: The wheat is not as tall in here, again, because of the heavy browse pressure, but we’ve got a carpet of wheat and small brassicas everywhere. It’s fed the deer herd all winter; it’s mining nutrients and I consider this a success.
GRANT: We spent over a decade tweaking this system. I’m really happy with the results. It saves money and we’re not using as much diesel fuel or fertilizer. It’s building the soil – that’s why we’re not using as much fertilizer – and it certainly does a great job of providing year round nutrition for wildlife.
GRANT: Better quality soil produces larger and healthier crops and deer. And by using these techniques to improve the soil here at The Proving Grounds, we’ve seen an increase in body weights, number of fawns and antler size.
GRANT: It’s the time of year when we start positioning our Reconyx cameras in areas where we think we can capture great footage of the sounds and behavior of turkeys. This time of year in the Midwest, most gobblers are gonna be flocked up together and sorting out their dominance. This annual ritual usually occurs in the same location day after day and even year after year unless the habitat is altered or the flock is disturbed.
GRANT: It’s not uncommon to see toms in open areas with their head down chasing each other, pecking each other and jumping up and spurring each other as they sort out the dominance.
GRANT: Often toms are more vocal this time of year, especially in the non-gobbling calls, than any other time of year. If you have a chance to locate where a flock is sorting out the dominance, it’s a great opportunity to study these vocalizations and become a better caller.
GRANT: Each gobbler is doing what they can do to achieve dominance. There will be a dominant gobbler over the whole flock, but within the flock, there will be several tiers of dominance – usually subdivided by age group.
GRANT: The topography here at The Proving Grounds is so steep that almost any opening or food plot on a ridgetop is prime strut area for gobblers. Therefore, we tend to move all our cameras to ridgetop food plots this time of year.
GRANT: Oftentimes, we’ll place a Reconyx camera way up on a Redneck blind or in a tree so we can monitor the whole ridge. And once we learn the portion of the ridge the flock likes to strut, we’ll take the camera down and move it even closer to get some great footage.
GRANT: Even for us, work often gets in the way of going out in the morning and listening for turkeys. But by using our Reconyx cameras, we can identify where turkeys are using, identify how many gobblers are in each general area and get us really excited for opening day of turkey season.
GRANT: If you’d like to learn more about our food plot planting and management techniques or our hunting techniques, join us April 1st and 2nd for our next field event. We’ll spend a lot of time going over – in great detail – exactly how we manage and hunt turkeys and deer.
GRANT: Adam and I are headin’ to Florida to chase turkeys and hogs this week. I hope you have a chance to get outside and enjoy Creation wherever you are, but most importantly take time each day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.