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GRANT: Today I want to share a couple of food plot techniques that make a huge difference in production of food plots and the yield of antlers.
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GRANT: The 4th of July is a very important holiday for the Woods family. God protected our forefathers and gave them the vision to set up this government based on Biblical principles and allow every man the right, the opportunity to have that freedom. And I can't stand the thought of giving it away.
GRANT: This year at 4th of July, I hope you get to enjoy your family and friends, but just as importantly, take a moment and get quiet, and think about the price our forefathers paid and the gamble they took, and the lives that were given just for the price of freedom.
GRANT: We often use Reconyx cameras to monitor food plots before and during turkey season.
ADAM: I'm trying to line up the camera.
GRANT: Recently, we've been shifting those cameras, looking over Trophy Rocks, and feeding stations, to watch antler growth here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: As I was reviewing some of those cards, I found one card particularly interesting as it showed a great series from May 5th, during turkey season, until recently and a development of that food plot.
GRANT: We call this food plot Gobbler Knob, it's about a mid-height knob here at The Proving Grounds, and it's named Gobbler Knob because it's traditionally an area where a lot of turkeys strut during season.
GRANT: As we start here at May 5th, we can tell the plot's already been sprayed and the brassicas and wheat from the previous winter are dead but still standing there, providing organic matter, and building soil.
GRANT: We had a late, cold spring and you can tell a couple snow flurries moved through and on May 13th, we drilled Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans in Gobbler Knob.
GRANT: It's easy to see why it takes so long to plant the food plots here at The Proving Grounds cause they're relatively small because the land is so steep, we have to turn, turn, turn so we don’t break the drill on all the rocks.
GRANT: You may notice that this plot was never disced; the vegetation from the winter is still standing as Adam drilled right through it. The drill will knock down some of that vegetation, then starts decomposing, adding organic matter and nutrients, right to the new seed bed.
GRANT: Before the crop germinates we put up a utilization cage – it happened to be right in front of the camera, just by chance, in this field. So we can monitor how tall the forage gets inside the cage where deer can't browse, versus outside. So we planted on May 13th – we put the cage up on May 17th. Until this time, we've seen a few animals just moving through the food plot because it's in a little bit of a travel corridor, but as soon as there's germination, we start noticing rabbits and deer spending more time in the food plot.
GRANT: Does are gonna seek the best vegetation in their area so they can provide the most and highest quality milk for their fawns, and that's obvious as we see this mature doe leading her fawn right through Gobbler Knob food plot.
GRANT: This fawn was clearly born before May 29th, the date of the Reconyx picture.
GRANT: This fawn's clearly up and mobile, so probably about a week old, and if we back date to that to conception date, or the day this doe was bred, it's about mid to three-quarters the way through October – right when the rut starts kicking in here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Even into early June, we've got multiple pictures of gobblers strutting and hens present at Gobbler Knob.
GRANT: I suspect there was some re-nesting going on as we had a very cold and wet spring, and several of the hens probably tried to re-nest after their poults didn't survive the cold wet season or predators busted up their nest.
GRANT: If you would have toured this field during early June, you might of thought that we didn't get a very good stand or not very good germination cause a lot of plants appear to be missing. But you can notice there's a full density of plants inside the utilization cage and a lot of browsing activity outside.
GRANT: It's interesting to watch both bucks and does browse through the area because they're obviously selecting something – individual plants. They don’t just clear the whole area like a groundhog does.
GRANT: It's well documented that deer are very selective feeders, feeding on the best and leaving the rest. If you have relatively small plots, like here at The Proving Grounds, and a relatively high deer density for the size of your plots, it's often advantageous, to plant at a higher seed density than maybe a row crop farmer would, to have more stems per square foot so after the deer browse during the early months of growth, there'll still be plenty of stems per square foot to make a full yield going into deer season.
GRANT: Even though we planted at a slightly higher density than normal, it's obvious that we're gonna need to harvest several does from this portion of The Proving Grounds this fall.
GRANT: Trail cameras can do a lot more than simply pattern a buck on your property. Using trail cameras to monitor vegetative growth, which animals are using the area, and other events, can give you a lot of insight to each food plot at your Proving Grounds.
GRANT: About 1:30 in the afternoon and the heat is on. If your plant density is such that the sun's allowed to reach the ground everywhere, it builds up tremendous heat in that first inch above the ground. I'll stick this thermometer in the ground about an inch, and we'll get a reading of how hot it is where there's no canopy covering the soil.
GRANT: The thermometer shows it's 132 degrees in the top inch of soil. In a matter of just a couple days, with this kind of heat, obviously there'd be no moisture in the reach of most of the roots of this plant.
GRANT: Just as my sombrero's providing some protection, and relief, from the harsh sun, right across the road is a food plot we planted about a month earlier, so the canopy is much larger and more developed. Those plants look a lot healthier, and I suspect it’s because the soil temperature is much lower in the heat of the day, therefore preserving more soil moisture and reducing stress on those plants.
GRANT: These forage soybeans are obviously much more developed; about knee tall on me, and that's the result of a few weeks earlier germination, adequate soil moisture, and cooler temperatures while they were growing those first couple weeks, allowing them to get off to a great start.
GRANT: So I'll just take my soil thermometer, stick it in the same depth here where there's a little bit more shade under this full canopy, see what the results are.
GRANT: That's more than a 30 degree difference, and we're not even at the peak of the heat of the day. It's about two o'clock now, think about five o'clock this afternoon, when the sun's been bearing down all day; this has been covered by canopy, and the other field’s been taking the brunt of the battle for hours.
GRANT: By controlling the evaporation, well that can be the same as getting another couple inches of rain each growing season.
GRANT: I won't bore you with intense calculations, but I will assure you that the difference between 130 degrees and less than 100 degrees, simply due to a full canopy, amounts to inches of soil moisture conserved and not lost to evaporation.
GRANT: A great technique to limit evaporation is plant the seeds of your forage crop at a high enough density that they shade the land, as soon as possible, during the growing season.
GRANT: Next spring, when it's planting season, think about planting as soon as soil temperature is warm enough so you can get your crops off to that head start and result in more inches of antler on your property.
GRANT: Using these techniques is a great way to understand more about Creation, but the best way is to slow down and listen to the Creator while you're out there. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
ADAM: I’m ready.