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WOODS: It’s July 30th and once again, Brad and I are out early in the morning. I can just see sun coming over the ridgeline here. It’s beautiful out here. It won’t be long until it’s “pffft”, bow season and I am getting excited. But before bow season while the bucks are still in bachelor groups and they're going food, cover, food, cover, is exactly when we want to do our camera surveys.
Right now, most of our bucks are coming to one site and that’s it. It’s not like the rut where you may get the same buck at four or five different camera sites. It’s one site. They're moving a couple hundred yards. Food, cover, food, cover. And that’s important to think about when you’re selecting your survey sites. Now, last week, we talked about where we position our cameras and the individual things like no brush in the way, and hopefully, a good dark background or at least an open field, but don’t have a bunch of sticks and limbs doing this where they can be confused with antler tines. So, we talked about how, where we want to set our cameras. And this week we want to talk in a bigger sense. We know that those deer are going food, cover, food, cover and that’s a real important reason for starting your camera survey as early as you can as long as the antlers are big enough to be uniquely identifiable. You don’t want to do it in May when there are just stubs sticking out and they all look the same. It’s either big or small, but it’s a stub. You want definition, but not late enough in the year where the behavior changes and the bucks are starting to move or bust out from those bachelor groups. You want to do it right now, in July, first of August, food, cover, food, cover.
WOODS: In addition to the considerations of your individual camera sight and nothing in the way, dark background, either black night or no cross limbs that might be looking like antler tines, we need to talk about the whole big picture. And I’ve owned The Proving Grounds eight years. When I first bought The Proving Grounds, I walked just every morning when I was home, a different ridge, a different bench, a different drain, trying to learn everything about it. All the time. Walked, walked, walked. On 1500 plus acres in a year of walking, I saw one deer. I remember it clearly, it was a tail going through some cedar trees in front of me and 11 sets of deer tracks. Well, you can see how rocky The Proving Grounds is. We don’t see a lot of deer tracks, but seeing one deer in a year of walking, could be discouraging. My wife tells me that’s, you know proof positive, I’m a little bit hard headed, but I wanted to hang out and show what we could do.
Now, I developed camera stations early on when our deer density was very low and it was pretty homogenous, because there wasn’t improved habitat yet, so there was just as likely to be deer here on this ole’ bony ridge we’re on right now as there was in the bottom or anywhere else, but we’ve taken the more level areas and made food plots. You can really tell from our camera stations now, the original camera stations, how the deer density in areas at this time of year has really changed. Boy, they're really on that food, cover, food, cover pattern. They're right next to our soybean fields right now. They're just, you know, soybean, cover, soybean, cover, soybean, cover, or ponds because we’re in a big drought right here in the Ozarks right now. Think about: your camera stations need to stay in the same place year after year after year to be relative. You may have to add additional camera stations if you can. If you drastically improve the habitat to pick up…because if I were basing my harvest objectives and how many deer I let my dad or my kids take on this old bony ridge station, they’d get about one bullet a piece each year.
WOODS: It’s kind of an exciting time because I’m as always excited to see deer, but I’m really excited to start counting how many deer we have. We’ve had our camera out now for over a week, actually; just a day or two over a week. We know it’s working, taking pictures, the batteries were working. We’ve got our Trophy Rock out. You can see they're definitely using that. You can see they're pawing all around it. Uh, we’ve got a corn out in a pattern that will spread the deer out. We want to uniquely identify each antler and, so everything’s working on all our stations across The Proving Grounds, so these pictures are going towards our actual survey.
WOODS: We use our camera on a 3 burst so, we’re gonna take a picture, wait ten seconds, take a picture, wait ten seconds, take a picture. That just gives them a great chance to shift around and we can see the full compliment of their antlers to uniquely identify them. You get that little kicker point or the bent brow or a pitchfork or whatever we have and uniquely identify those bucks. So, we can do that math and we’ll show you that here in a week or two, and come up with a great, very accurate estimate of our total deer density. Buck, does and fawns.
WOODS: One thing that worries me a little bit this morning is, as Brad and I have been setting up out here, is doggone gnats as a generic term. Biting gnats are biting the dog out of me. Hard for me to stand still and talk to you and not be doing that all the time and this time of year is when a particular couple of species of these gnats or midgets come out and they have big teeth if you see them under a microscope and they bite deer. And if one deer has E.H.D., Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, and a gnat bites that and gets a blood meal and flies over and bites another deer, that deer will get E.H.D. Some deer are very susceptible to E.H.D. They’ll get a big fever and a bunch of other bad things will happen. Their hooves will slough, their tongue will actually shed skin and they will go to water because of this big fever and they will die. That’s why, sometimes here in late, not really late July, but August/September, you’ll find a lot of dead deer around water. And it’s because almost always, they had E.H.D. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and all these biting gnats are scaring me. Now, you might say, “Well, Grant, you just, you just made deer come to one place and that makes a gnat easy to go deer to deer to deer,” and yes, there is some truth to that, but there’s a pond right behind us. That’s why this is a camera site and water at The Proving Grounds is pretty doggone limited, so all my deer are getting together around ponds and that’s just a factor. Now, E.H.D. has been here since before Daniel Boone. They’ve been finding deer dead in August and September, surrounding ponds or by ponds or in the ponds, because they had a fever for a long time. We can’t prevent it. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s part of life; but it’s just something to watch, because it’s hit some places and it can reduce a deer herd by half. A lot of times only five or ten or fifteen percent; people don’t even know it because not many people are out in the woods this time of year, but it can be devastating, so now is the time of year; now and the next couple of months; be looking around your water sources and watching for deer that are acting funny, got their head down or are dead and it’s most likely E.H.D. If you find that, you definitely want to get a hold of your state agency biologists because they like to track the spread of this disease every year and again, you can’t control it. It’s just good to know about it.
WOODS: Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted because I want plenty of deer to be flipping that Z7 at this year.