Turkey Hunt and Prescribed Fire Evaluation (Episode 25 Transcript)

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CODY: (Whispering) We had a bearded hen we could have shot, but we just let it go and everything ‘cause, uh, we want it to reproduce and everything, so…

SCOTT: Well, it’s May 5th here at The Proving Grounds.  Here with my buddy, Grant Woods and, uh, came up for a little turkey hunt.  We’ve got a couple of days here to try to harvest a bird.  This is my first experience hunting up here with Grant and seeing his place.  It’s a beautiful place here in south, southwest Missouri.

WOODS: It’s May 5th and my friend, Scott Smith and I went turkey hunting this morning here at The Proving Grounds.  We got a late start because Scott got in and we had to get a license and everything, so we got in the blind about nine and had a hen come into the call and worked a decoy a little bit.  No gobblers, but we’re in good shape tomorrow, right?

SCOTT: Absolutely.  We’re, we’re good to go.

WOODS: All right.  We’ll get out there early and roll in in the morning but while Scott is here, I want to review some fires we did about a month ago.  You may recall that we did about 500 acres of prescribed fire and I was telling Scott about it.  I gotta tell you, Scott, looking around here I am thrilled with this fire.

SCOTT: With good reason.  This looks great.

WOODS: This was a backing fire which means it’s, it’s not rushing downhill.  It’s not rushing uphill, it’s just easing through the woods and the wind’s not really pushing it.

SCOTT: Hmm.  Hmm.

WOODS: And this is the first burn on this section of woods since I’ve owned it, so at least eight years.  And our mission here was to thin out some of the understory and maybe even a, a, larger tree, maybe a diseased tree that had a hole at the bottom of something and get some sunshine to the forest floor so we get some forbs and grass and stuff coming up instead of just a duff of six inch deep leaves that’s non-productive for anything, except ticks.  So, we’re looking around and the vast majority, I’m seeing, what 80 plus percent of the understory is top killed.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

WOODS: And when I say top killed, you notice this sprout right by here now.  It’s sprouting from the bottom already.

SCOTT: Right.

WOODS: And, and it’s, it’s not dead.  We didn’t get the fire hot enough to kill the root system.  That’s why all the big trees are alive.

SCOTT: Right.

WOODS: But, the small trees have such a thin bark that that heat level actually boils the cambium or boils any sap coming up.  We waited ‘til the sap was rising in the trees to burn.  The big trees have a thick enough bark or insulation.  It’s, it’s not killing them.

SCOTT: Right.

WOODS: We cut in here.  We can see there’s no sap.  It’s just dry as seasoned firewood.  You can tell how snappy it is.  It doesn’t try to hold or grip together.  So, this whole top part of the tree is dead.  But you’ve got, gosh I can’t count them all, but at least 15 years of growth, because it’s in a closed canopy, not getting much sunlight, of a root system down here.  This is actually extremely, just juicy, just flowing with moisture.  Tender and suckling and deer will browse on this some where they were not going to browse on that tree at all.  Now, once this hardens off, they won’t browse on it.  But, right now, it’s a source of quality browse.  It’s the only time hardwoods are going to be a source of quality browse in the vegetative state.  You know, I’m seeing Smilax or Greenbriar and all kinds of good forbs coming up here that are highly nutritious…

SCOTT: Right.  Right.

WOODS:  …that weren’t here last year in that leaf litter.

WOODS: Young Greenbriar or young grape is extremely nutritious.  You can just feel how succulent it is.  I’m surprised a deer hasn’t consumed this, but it is extremely rare you find that succulent young growth in the woods because deer have usually consumed it.  Especially in a closed canopy forest like this.  But we burned about 500 acres here at The Proving Grounds this spring so we’ve just overwhelmed them with super high quality growth.  And this is what we want, because for our deer herd to express some potential, every deer has to have all the high quality food they want to eat.  And, and one thing the fires helped us do this year was, was convert a lot of leaf litter and, basically, a biological dessert into high quality forage production areas.  Now, these will harden off as the summer goes as native nutrition usually does, but by then, our food plots are kicking in with high volume and mineral licks and everything else.

So, the cycle just continues, but early spring, tough to beat native vegetations.  Drought resistant.  It’s there and a little fire can make it more.

WOODS: You know, one interesting thing is people think fire kills ticks.  Unless it’s a really fast moving fire, that’s not true.  They sense it coming.  They just bury down.  But what kills ticks is ticks need moisture or they get desiccated real easy.  And when we remove this leaf litter and turn this remaining leaf litter and whatever dirt there is here in the Ozarks black…

SCOTT: Hmm.  Hmm.

WOODS: …it’s dry.  Tick comes up from its little burrow in the ground, there’s no moisture.  So, really, after the fire is when you reduce the tick population.  You don’t get rid of them all.  I wish we could, but we can’t.

SCOTT: Right.

WOODS: But certainly reduce it.

SCOTT; Sure.

WOODS: I’m not even itching yet.

SCOTT: I’ve only found one on me today, so…

WOODS: And that wasn’t in here.

SCOTT: It wasn’t in here.

WOODS: Scott, man, you know, we’ve changed positions a little bit and walked around.  I’m just loving this.  We did a great job of knocking back these hardwood sprouts.  We’ve got forbs and native grasses coming up all over for 50 acres in here.  Got one little spot I see on the horizon where, you know, it got hot enough, we took out a few big trees, but that’s just a, a big area of forbs.  Couple acres out of 50 acres.  I’m loving it.

SCOTT: You got a 50-acre food plot here.  It’s a deer haven.

WOODS: Think you’d come hunt that this fall with me.

SCOTT: Uh, yeah.  I can make it up.

WOODS: Maybe?  All right.  Well, I tell you what.  Let’s go get us a cold water and tomorrow, I want to show you some of my ponds and some of my mineral stations.

SCOTT: That sounds great.

WOODS: You got time to stay around and hunt tomorrow morning…

SCOTT: Yeah.

WOODS: …and work tomorrow afternoon.

SCOTT: Sounds like a great plan to me.

WOODS: All right.  Let’s do that.

WOODS: (Whispering) He’s strutting down there.  Now he’ll work its way up here…just a patience game..I don’t want to call right now with that hen right there.  He’s huge.

SCOTT: (Whispering) Big bird.

WOODS: (Whispering) Yeah.  Here he comes.

SCOTT: (Whispering) Can I take him?

WOODS: (Whispering) Okay.  Pull your hammer back.  Okay.  Okay.

[Shot]

WOODS: You got him!  Scott, you got him!  Give it to me, buddy!  What an incredible hunt!  I am mentally exhausted!  Man, Scott just, is that your first turkey?

SCOTT: My first gobbler!  Can’t, huh, this is amazing!

WOODS: Well, let’s go check that big rascal out.  You want to?

SCOTT: I can’t wait.  I, I’ve been so excited.  My, my heart’s been racing.  It, uh, it’s just been a, what a beautiful morning.

WOODS: I’m shaking and I wasn’t even behind the gun.  I’m still shaking out here.

SCOTT: This is my first harvest of a turkey.  Um, I couldn’t be more excited this morning.  I’m still kind of shaking.  Uh, just what an exciting time.  What a beautiful morning.  The weather couldn’t have been better.  I’ve never been in a situation like this.  I’ve turkey hunted a few times and it’s never been anything close to this.  This was quite an amazing time for me because to hear all the gobbling.  Uh, to see the birds and then to see this big gobbler come in, and, and fan out this morning.  He, he was strutting.

WOODS: You were kind of thinking yesterday, we had a problem getting a license because the hunter safety number, you had, it was at home.

SCOTT: It was at home.

WOODS: You had to wait ‘til, you know, got home and then had to wait until the store opened…

SCOTT: Exactly.

WOODS: …and do all that.  So, we didn’t get in the blind until late.  We had a hen come in, but not, not a gobbler.  And then we did some other work in the afternoon.  And then, so that really made this morning’s hunt even more.  That much anxiety and eagerness…

SCOTT: It did.

WOODS: …and everything going.

SCOTT: It did.

WOODS: And we got in early, got in before daylight good.  And he’s all beat up.  He’s been doing some fighting, but he’s got some busted feathers and he’s been doing a lot of strutting.  These are just wet and worn off.  I mean he was strutting this morning.

SCOTT: Yes, he was.

WOODS: We watched him strut for almost an hour.

SCOTT: We did.

WOODS: He’s just worn his feathers off.  Big long beard.  I’m guessing.  We’re gonna measure.  But somewhere close to 11 inches.  You know and the way a turkey walks and feeds, they wear off at about ten inches.

SCOTT: Hmm.

WOODS: That’s, that’s why you get so many ten, ten and a quarter inch beards.

SCOTT: Okay.

WOODS: A really healthy bird on good habitat, those structures.  These are not really hairs.  They're modified feathers…

SCOTT: Ah huh.

WOODS: …are growing so fast that it, on good habitat, you get your 11, 12 inch beards.

SCOTT: Wow.

WOODS: Boy, is this?  I’m still shaking.  I’m excited! I wasn’t even behind the gun and I’m still shaking.

SCOTT: Well, I, I’m so excited.  And again, thank you for everything.  Um, it’s just been a, an awesome experience for me.  Once in a lifetime experience.  I appreciate this.

WOODS: Well, once in a lifetime ‘til next year.  Then we’ll do it again.

SCOTT: That’s right!

WOODS: I don't know if we can get one this big or not, but, we’ll do it again.

WOODS: Scott, you know, my mission has always been to grow healthy deer.  Because when I have healthy deer, big antlers are just a byproduct of healthy deer.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

WOODS: And great hunts are a byproduct of big antlers.  And that’s one reason I really enjoy having Trophy Rock out here, because you know, any NFL lineman can take a vitamin the size of my pinkie fingernail and get all the minerals he needs all day long and he urinates half of those out.  And that’s what’s so great about Trophy Rock.  Is just a few licks gives the whole daily compliment of 60 plus minerals they need.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

WOODS: That’s incredible.

SCOTT: It is incredible.  And we notice that deer hit this product year round.

WOODS: You know, here we are in, in turkey season, because you harvested a fine turkey this morning.  Kind of rubbed it in on me a little bit.  Look how worn out this is.  I mean, this is fresh.  You can see where some clover tried to grow right in here, but it’s worn out because of the traffic coming here.  They like this. They're coming to it.

SCOTT: I really like how you have it set here.  It’s on a well drained area.

WOODS: Hmm.  Hmm.

SCOTT: It’s not just getting all in the dirt, so the deer don’t have to eat the dirt.

WOODS: Right.

SCOTT: They can lick directly on the rock and they're gonna, they're gonna utilize more of that than they do if they try to eat the dirt.

WOODS: Absolutely.  Get the full compliment of minerals.  Of course, so we got healthy deer.  Like when I’m traveling and not getting Tracy’s home cooking, I’ve got my vitamin every day to keep me healthy.

SCOTT: Right.

WOODS: And not all deer have the equivalent of Tracy’s home cooking.  They're not living where there’s corn, soybeans, supplemental feed and all that stuff going.  They're out in the wild and it’s a drought or it’s too wet and the moisture’s being leeched out.  Whatever’s happening.  And all the nutrients; some of them are there, but not all of them are there.  This ensures they get the full compliment.

SCOTT: It’s very easy to use.

WOODS: Super easy to use.  So, I’ve got healthy deer.  Healthy deer just result in bigger antlers.  That’s fun.

SCOTT: Well, it, it, it makes for a successful hunt.

WOODS: Now, you're talking bigger antlers, but I know if I’m producing bigger antlers, that means I have healthier fawns; my does are giving more milk; they're able to fight off disease better and ticks better, so we talk healthy, big antlers, but that really means healthier deer.

SCOTT: Healthier herd, in general

WOODS: Healthier herd means better hunting.  And that’s what I like to do.

SCOTT: I’m all about better hunting.

WOODS: I’m all about; hey, thanks for your time today.

SCOTT: Thank you, Grant.

WOOD: Well, I’ve had another blessed week here at The Proving Grounds this week.  I’ve had some friends in hunting and Scott had a great, successful hunt this morning.  He, while we were hunting, he actually educated me a bit more about the different mineral component of Trophy Rock.  We were able to just talk.  You know, in general here and there.  I love learning.  And I just want to encourage you all to continue learning and remember, that you can have The Proving Grounds at your place if you have a full compliment of management programs going on.  Think food, cover, water and then different definitions of food, cover, water.  We want quiet water in small ponds.  Not a bubbling brook making a lot of noise that they can’t understand when the predator is coming.  We want food year round, not just one field of X-Y-Z brand of food that does good for two months and then it’s dead the rest of the year.  We want a full mineral compliment all year long.  And we want great coverage.  You saw from the fires, new vegetation.  So, think about all year long; not hunting season and enjoy your Proving Grounds.