Food Plots And Native Browse: Challenges And Solutions For Better Deer Hunting (Episode 453 Transcript)

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GRANT: This is my last episode before Raleigh and I leave for the Mayo Clinic. As many of y'all know, my daughter, Raleigh, is donating me a kidney. My transplanted kidney has failed and she has felt led to give me a gift of life.

GRANT: Recently, our hometown, Branson, Missouri, was struck by a wicked storm. I’d been out in the field and was returning to my house when I saw storm clouds to the north. They were approaching fast.

GRANT: For some reason, I felt led to take a time lapse video of this storm as it passed.

GRANT: The storm passed quickly but packed some violent winds. I could see mature oaks shaking as the storm passed.

GRANT: Later, I learned that the storm continued and hit Table Rock Lake which is due south about ten miles of The Proving Grounds. Unfortunately, the storm caused a horrible boating accident and 17 people lost their life.

GRANT: Our entire community was shook to the core. Our prayers and our support go out to the families that lost loved ones. And to the survivors that have horrible memories. And to the rescue workers that worked tirelessly during the rescue effort. Such horrible events are reminders that none of us are promised tomorrow.

GRANT: We should live every day being prepared for eternity and take time to hug a loved one.

GRANT: I encourage you to make sure you have a good relationship with the Creator and you seek his will for your life daily.

GRANT: As drought conditions here at The Proving Grounds continue, I’m still amazed at the results of the Buffalo System.

GRANT: This is a small hidey hole or staging area food plot. Right behind us is a creek that’s got a tree buffer. On the other side of the creek is a larger feeding area food plot. And just to my left is an 18-acre native vegetation or bedding area. So, you can imagine a lot of deer pour into this small, less than a tenth of an acre, plot.

GRANT: These small hidey hole plots – tenth of an acre; quarter acre or less – are great hunting locations.

GRANT: As good a tool as these small plots are, there’s also some challenges.

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GRANT: 15 years ago, we started implementing the techniques that are the foundation of the Buffalo System. They're simple techniques, actually. They're the same principles that built the rich soils of the Great Prairie.

GRANT: A few of these principles include the soil always being covered by vegetation and an active root growing as many months out of the year as possible.

GRANT: With the diversity of plants, at least during the portion of the year, because different plants capture different nutrients. When those plants die or are terminated, they create a mulch that is ideal slow release fertilizer.

GRANT: Each summer, I rely on Eagle Seed forage soybeans to not only provide quality forage for my deer, but to pump nitrogen into the soil for the fall crop.

GRANT: During late summer, I either use my Genesis drill or use a hand broadcaster to plant the fall buffalo blend into the standing soybeans. This results in an attractive green forage coming up among the ripening soybean pods.

GRANT: Using this technique, the table is never cleared like discing and I have an attractive food source there every day out of the year. This is important, not only for soil health, but as a hunter, to keep deer patterned into coming to that plot.

GRANT: As the winter progresses and the temperatures get colder, the pods will ripen and deer have their choice of the pods, which are energy rich during the cold days, or the forage, which is very attractive during warm days.

GRANT: This will feed my deer herd and other critters throughout the winter. And then come spring, I simply drill Eagle Seed forage soybeans directly into that standing fall buffalo blend. Terminating that fall buffalo blend adds another layer of great slow release fertilizer for the oncoming bean crop.

GRANT: This system has proven very effective, saves a lot of time and resources, and certainly improves soil health.

GRANT: However, like all systems, there are some applications that need additional refining.

GRANT: During the past two summers, we've noticed that in our small hidey hole or staging area food plots, we don’t get a lot of ground cover or mulch later on because of deer browse pressure.

GRANT: I need every acre productive here at The Proving Grounds, so I don’t want to leave these plots to be a weedy mess during the warm season.

GRANT: Everyone knows my favorite forage for the warm season, or the summer, is Eagle Seed forage soybeans. But, even those beans – as great as they are – probably wouldn’t survive the amount of pressure deer would put on this very small plot.

GRANT: Years ago, when there were way fewer deer here at The Proving Grounds, I could grow beans successfully in this plot. During the past few years, the deer numbers have increased significantly here at The Proving Grounds due to all the habitat improvements.

GRANT: Given the current number of deer here at The Proving Grounds, soybeans would not be productive in this very small plot.

GRANT: That led to an experiment with the folks at Eagle Seeds to design some blends that are beneficial to plant during the warm season in these small plots.

GRANT: Based on my needs, and the needs of many hunters throughout the whitetails’ range, we started experimenting with blends of species that will work in these small plots during the warm season.

GRANT: We've used one of those experimental blends here and it’s looking great.

GRANT: Now, everyone wants to say, “Grant, what’s in the blend? What’s in the blend?” And I’ll tell you exactly why I’m not gonna say.

GRANT: This is an experiment. We are yet to see how it’s working out. And if I said we’d planted A, B, C and D in this amounts and it looks good right now, but next year is a lot rainier or something is different and it doesn’t work, I’ll get a lot of hate mail. So, let us do some experimenting; let us do it right, and as we refine this project, we’ll keep you posted.

GRANT: The important thing is we have some varieties in here that deer are certainly eating on. We have others that are doing great work to improve the soil and suppress weeds.

GRANT: And here, in about a month or so, we’ll come in and just drill in – or broadcast in – Eagle Seeds fall buffalo blend. That way, we’ve got a living root in the ground all the time; we’re attracting deer; and we’re preparing the soil for a very productive fall crop and a great hunting location.

GRANT: As part of the Buffalo System, of course, we want something growing year-round. So, anywhere I put my hand down, I’ve got the duff or mulch from last year’s fall buffalo blend. And that’s creating great food for the many beneficial critters that are improving soil health. That mulch is also helping suppress weeds.

GRANT: All in all, the system is working well and we continue tweaking it so all hunters can benefit.

GRANT: I enjoy experimenting and learning about food plot techniques and improving native vegetation.

GRANT: That is all kinds of good stuff here.

DANIEL: What do you see out there?

GRANT: There’s a lot of plants that attract pollinators, butterflies. I heard a few buzzing around of some bees and stuff. This is just this week or this time of year.

GRANT: In the spring, there is a whole different set of vegetation working in here and of course, I see little bluestem and big bluestem. It’s just a great composition of native species.

GRANT: Yeah. It’s, it’s all about, you know, sunshine is the source of all of energy on the planet. And if you're not getting sun to the soil, the soil can't be very productive. It’s just that simple.

GRANT: These chinkapin oaks are – you know – they were, they were created for this type of habitat, literally. It’s – they're very drought resistant; very fire resistant; really thick bark for oak trees. These south slopes were the first ones, probably, to have wildfire. You know, before the days of fire suppression.

GRANT: Fire would rip up through here. We’ve used head fires in here. You see a few dead trees around, but not many. Not many.

GRANT: Native vegetation is an important component of any habitat management plan. Native vegetation serves many roles – cover, loafing areas and food. Especially drought resistant food.

GRANT: This is a steep, south facing slope that, when Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds, was chuck full of large cedar trees. We came in, felled all the cedars and used prescribed fire.

GRANT: But, we left all the chinkapin oaks – native to this area – standing.

GRANT: The fire was intense, with thousands of cedars laying on the ground. And we took out a few of the chinkapin oaks, but we were left with a beautiful savanna type habitat.

GRANT: Since then, we’ve burned this area three times and it’s loaded with great-quality native grasses and forbs.

GRANT: Even though we burned it during cool season – probably March and April – and warm season – August, saplings started encroaching after we removed all the cedars.

GRANT: Those hardwood saplings were actually shading out the ground and limiting the production of native grasses and forbs.

GRANT: We’ve shared with you that two summers ago, we had the crew from Flatwood Natives come in and treat those hardwood saplings to allow sunshine to get back down and encourage the growth of native grasses and forbs.

GRANT: Two years later, reviewing this project, I could not be more pleased.

GRANT: There is a super-rich diversity of native grasses and forbs throughout the entire area. There is enough sunshine reaching the soil everywhere. It’s not shaded out by all the hardwood saplings.

GRANT: It’s a tremendous bedding and loafing and feeding area for deer and turkeys.

GRANT: You can see behind me, there’s great vegetation for cover and food throughout the area. And when the chinkapin oaks make acorns, you can bet deer are gonna be all over this area.

GRANT: We’ve came in straight down behind me and simply cut the dead hardwood saplings, because there’s a Redneck Blind about 50 yards behind the camera.

GRANT: It’s a beautiful shooting lane. It looks like a park or a picnic area. It’s ideal habitat for many species of wildlife.

GRANT: The deer population here at The Proving Grounds has greatly increased. I mean, tremendously increased. To the point we’re struggling to harvest enough does. And a big reason why is the improvements we've made to native habitat.

GRANT: It’s too steep and way too rocky to have food plots here, but it’s extremely valuable habitat now.

GRANT: We will continue using prescribed fire to improve this area and keep the species diversity rich. The timing of the fire – well, it’s dependent on the conditions. If the conditions are right in the spring, we’ll go then. If we get a chance to burn safely during August/ September, that encourages a whole different set of native species.

GRANT: It can be intimidating for landowners to do a project that involves removing a lot of trees. That intimidation is justified. Trees do wonderful work for our environment.

GRANT: But in this case, the red cedars were invasive. This is a south facing slope and historically, based on what the early explorers wrote, this would have been a savanna habitat like you see here.

GRANT: The suppression of all wildfires, and the lack of use of prescribed fire, has allowed trees to encroach and cover up all these historical savanna areas.

GRANT: With some planning and sweat equity, these areas can be returned to their native state and super productive wildlife habitat.

GRANT: I shoot a lot year around. But, especially during the months leading up to deer season.

GRANT: Part of my practice technique is shooting blind bale – where I stand just about an arrow length away from the target and shoot several shots with my eyes shut, just to get my form perfect.

GRANT: All this shooting – well, it can cause a little wear and tear to your string if it’s not appropriately maintained. Think about how much pressure is on those strings as the cams roll over and then snap shut.

GRANT: To keep my string and my bow performing in top shape, I want to use the appropriate lubricants.

GRANT: To keep my bow functioning at 100%, I use Scorpion Venom lubricant products. The reason why – well, the guys that own it and create it, their chemist has specialized in just this. It’s not a me too product added on to a whole string of other products. They work specifically to make lubricants for bows.

GRANT: In addition, it’s easy and safe to use. In fact, the treatment I have for the bow strings has a really cool applicator. I’m not taking my finger and wearing it out. It’s got a little sponge applicator on there. Just gonna give it a couple shakes.

GRANT: And I’m using this on the string portion. Not where the servings are – but the string portion, because it’s that specifically engineered.

GRANT: I simply apply it, using the applicator, to both sides of the string portion, not where it’s served.

GRANT: I like this product because it’s penetrating all the way through the string.

GRANT: Another reason I like this product – everyone that knows me, knows I’m big into scent control, and it’s odorless.

GRANT: I get onto folks that have got an old sweaty release that they’ve been using forever and never cleaning up. You know, you take a bath, and you can smell your release strap for 50 yards away. Why would I want to put something on my bow that smells like oil?

GRANT: When I’m finished, simply put the cap on; shoot it for a week or so and apply again.

GRANT: The next step in maintaining my bow is taking care of the serving. The serving is obviously different than the bare string. And I use Scorpion Venom Cam and Serving Lube.

GRANT: This is easier to apply with a buddy or with a bow press. The reason is, you want the serving – or the string – fully extended. That way, when you apply it and let the bow back down – draw it, let it down – it works in the serving.

GRANT: All right, Luke. You ready? Can we trust you?

LUKE: Hmm. Hmm. I’m good.

GRANT: My fingers at bay. Keep your finger off the trigger of that release and pull her back.

GRANT: There we go. And I’m not gonna be on the wheel, but I’m gonna start real close to it here. I’m just putting a few drops on.

GRANT: You want to do all portions of the string that are serving – keeping it on the serving portion. It wouldn’t hurt the string. But, it’s best – this product is designed specifically for the serving portion of the string.

GRANT: For those of you that use colored strings or maybe a different colored serving, it makes those colors jump.

GRANT: Okay, Luke, pull that back a time or two; let that work in.

GRANT: Doing this, you know, once a week; once a month if you're not shooting that frequently, will make those strings last a lot longer. But get this – even more – your bow will shoot a little faster. Obviously, it’s lubed – less friction – and a little quieter.

GRANT: It makes a hunting bow that much better and a target bow even more accurate.

GRANT: The GrowingDeer Team is continuing practicing throughout the summer and, hopefully, we’ll all be ready to chase some deer and elk soon.

GRANT: Daniel and the entire GrowingDeer Team will keep everything rolling and Daniel will keep you posted on our social media.

GRANT: I plan on seeing you here in a couple of weeks. And until then, I’d appreciate your intentional prayers for Raleigh and our medical team.

GRANT: I always enjoy getting outside and enjoying Creation. But, every day, as I’m preparing for the day, I make sure to take time to be still, be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to me. And I encourage you to do the same.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.