Food Plots: Predators, Protection and Possibilities (Episode 397 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: It’s the time of year when we celebrate the founding of our nation: Independence Day. Hard fought battles by our founding fathers and the tremendous wisdom they shared in our original documents: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other guiding documents and writings that we follow today. Join the Woods family; revisit those documents; apply them to your life as a citizen of the United States of America and be thankful you're blessed to be a member of the greatest nation the world has ever known.

ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops. Also by Reconyx, Trophy Rock, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester, LaCrosse Footwear, BloodSport Arrows, Flatwood Natives, Morrell Targets, Non-Typical Wildlife Solutions, Hook’s Custom Calls, Montana Decoys, Summit Treestands, Drake Non-Typical Clothing, Howes Lubricator, Genesis No-Till Drill, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, ScentCrusher, Antler-X-Treme, iSCOPE, BoneView, Mossy Oak Properties of Heartland, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

GRANT: It’s about two and half months ‘til the opening of archery season here in Missouri. And this time of year, it’s easy to monitor the results of our past food plot work and native habitat improvement by watching the average antler size of bucks per age class.

GRANT: As a result of the crop rotation, minimal tillage – we’ve drastically improved the soils. We’ve improved the native habitat by using prescribed fire and other methods and we've constantly worked to balance the amount of predators with prey. As a result, we’ve got a lot of deer.

GRANT: I used to struggle just to see a deer throughout the year. Now, I see a deer almost every time I go out on the property to do some work.

GRANT: As another measure, we’ve been harvesting 20 plus or minus does a year for the past several years and our deer population is still increasing.

GRANT: In this portion of Missouri, we can only take one doe during firearms season, so we’re dependent on archery season to take as many does as we can.

GRANT: All of us here at the GrowingDeer Team are getting ready for a busy archery season and we plan to increase our doe harvest substantially this year.

GRANT: During this change from almost no deer to a lot of deer, Eagle Seed beans have done a great job of providing a lot of high quality forage. In the last couple of years, as the deer herd’s continued to increase, some of the beans in our smaller food plots, well, they're really getting hammered. And we have to take some special techniques to provide bean pods during the late season.

GRANT: Daniel and I were out this morning and noticed a huge difference inside the Non-Typical fence versus outside. I enjoy doing these follow-ups on our projects so you’ll know what’s working and what’s not working so you can improve the habitat where you hunt.

GRANT: Go right down to that pole. When you get down there, lower it down and go right – you know, just follow the poles around.

GRANT: About a month ago, the interns, our crew and I put up these Non-Typical Hot Zone electric fences. They're very simple to install – a solar panel trickle charges a deep cycle battery and that keeps the fence hot. So, it’s a simple program, but what is amazing is this little fence – so short that I can jump, two layers, one back here, one three feet in front – is doing a great job at keeping the deer off those beans.

GRANT: When we put up the fence, we placed a Reconyx UltraFire camera looking down one line and we’ve noticed deer browsed close but never jumped over the fence.

GRANT: Most of the Reconyx videos of deer feeding are at night. And we expect that during the warm summer months. So, we set up our Hot Zone energizer – the thing that sends the electrical charge through the fence – to send out a pulse every two seconds during the day and every second at night. This setting is less of a drain on the battery and makes sure we’ve got a strong pulse when it’s most needed.

GRANT: The beans were planted before we put the fence up, so everything was crimped and planted exactly the same day. Same rain, same wind, same everything except difference in deer pressure. So, think about the amount of tonnage removed by looking at those beans versus here.

GRANT: Already, across this one-acre food plot, probably – I’m, you know, I’m guessing here, but – several hundred pounds or a ton or more of forage have been removed by deer.

GRANT: It’s easy to see that there’s no leaves missing here and this has, obviously, been browsed very hard. The difference is the fence. Now, these beans are feeding deer, making new leaves and providing super high quality forage for deer, bucks growing antlers, does producing milk for fawns.

GRANT: You may wonder, “Why do I have the fence up and leaving this small portion of the field unbrowsed at this time?” The answer is really simple. This will create a late season hunting plot. We’ve just fenced off, maybe, a quarter acre or less of the plot. I've got two Summit Stands over there; you’ve seen my daughter, Raleigh and others of us tag deer out of those before. I've got a Redneck Blind here. So, no matter if I’ve got a north/south or west wind, I can hunt this area and by leaving those to make pods – high energy source in the late season – take the fence down and it’s gonna be a magnet for deer.

GRANT: We’ll come in about mid-August, depending on soil moisture, and broadcast Broadside over the beans that’s been browsed heavily. That will give us a great amount of tonnage and an attractive food source for the early and mid-season.

GRANT: A secret to this fence working so well will be us monitoring the amount of acorns. As deer start cleaning up more and more of the acorns – they're looking for that high energy food source – we’ll take the fence down, have a big attraction right here for some great hunting.

GRANT: One thing I want to point out about the fence – this is 18 inches tall; the inside wire over there is about ten inches tall. And that’s not low enough to keep out groundhogs. Stay with me and I want to show you why groundhogs can be such a problem.

GRANT: Walked around the other side of the fence and you can tell the beans aren’t doing near as well here and I believe I’ve diagnosed the problem. I come in here; grab some beans and start inspecting the browse. I believe it’s easy to identify the culprit. These clips where the beans have been browsed are razor sharp. It’s like someone took a scalpel and cut it off. And that’s usually a sign that Mr. Groundhog is eating beans.

GRANT: We recently used prescribed fire in this block of forest here, so there’s a lot of undergrowth and it would be tough to get in there, find a groundhog’s den and put a trap out. I think a better approach is to put someone in this Redneck Blind with the Winchester and try to take care of the problem.

GRANT: Of course, deer aren’t the only critter that loves soybeans. Groundhogs are notorious soybean predators. And they can do a lot of damage to a food plot.

GRANT: Daniel hadn’t even gotten to the Redneck when he saw the groundhog in the plot.

DANIEL: He’s a big one. Mowing down the beans.

GRANT: Groundhogs frequently have a burrow close to a food source and when this groundhog ran out of the field, Daniel assumed he’d return soon.

GRANT: Daniel entered the blind, got the camera and the Winchester set up, and started to hunt.

DANIEL: Well, I’m out this morning doing a little predator hunting. A little different predator hunting than what you might suspect. I’m out looking for food plot predators – a groundhog. Groundhogs are doing a lot of damage to one of our food plots up near around the house. We’ve seen a large groundhog out in this plot several mornings. So, I decided to grab the Winchester, climb in the Redneck and see if we can catch him eating his last meal.

GRANT: We’ve worked hard to protect this portion of the food plot, but if we don’t take care of this groundhog, the beans could be gone.

GRANT: He didn’t have to wait long. When the groundhog returned, it came out behind a large overhanging limb, basically blocking most of Daniel’s view. He couldn’t get a good shot. Fortunately, he brought the Raptor – an arm that fits on our tripod that lets the camera have a much wider range of view – and he was able to swivel the camera around and get some footage.

GRANT: The groundhog finally moved so Daniel could make the shot, but it was moving too quick to get the Winchester and the camera on it at the same time.

GRANT: The groundhog made it to the cover but Daniel was confident he’d reappear soon. Like most hunts, this one turned into a waiting game. But Daniel was passing the time by being efficient, took his laptop out into the blind with him and was going through some Reconyx videos.

DANIEL: Two really nice bucks. There he is again. He’s tall.

GRANT: Soon, the groundhog returned to take down some more soybeans.

GRANT: Just as Daniel was getting ready for his shot, a truck drove by and the groundhog scampered out again. Just a few seconds later, the groundhog reappeared, but another vehicle came down the trail and spooked the groundhog yet once again.

GRANT: Daniel sat awhile and the groundhog didn’t show. He assumed that with all the disturbance, the groundhog was going back in the burrow for several hours. So, he started packing up and as often happens, the groundhog came back into the plot.

GRANT: Daniel worked quickly to get ready.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Right at 50 yards.

GRANT: At 50 yards, Daniel knew the Long Beard XR would do the job.

DANIEL: You talk about a hunt. Golly. You don’t really think about a groundhog putting it to you, but, man, he – I worked for that one. Golly. Man. It was just cat-and-mouse the entire morning.

DANIEL: I, I think it’s close to 12:30, 12:45. Been out here for about 2-1/2 – 3 hours. I’m ready to get outta here. It’s hot. I’m gonna go look at him.

DANIEL: Well, summer’s in full swing; our beans are really starting to grow and we’re excited today because we removed a food plot predator. That means this large groundhog isn't eating beans that our deer and other wildlife can eat throughout the summer.

GRANT: That seems like a fun hunt and, in addition, Daniel took out a predator that was doing significant damage to one of our plots.

GRANT: Big change this week here at The Proving Grounds as we have to go around and remove all of our Trophy Rocks. The Missouri Department of Conservation has some new regulations coming into effect very soon where all supplemental feed, mineral salt of any kind must be removed from Stone and Taney County.

GRANT: These regulations are part of the Department’s CWD – Chronic Wasting Disease – Management Program. Deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in several counties throughout northern and central Missouri.

GRANT: None in southern Missouri where The Proving Grounds is, but right across the line – actually 20, 30, 40 miles that way in Arkansas – over 100 deer and elk have tested positive for CWD. I have visited with several scientists that are wildlife disease specialists and, to my knowledge, no one has a good handle on CWD.

GRANT: CWD only affects the deer family. That’s whitetails, mulies, elk, moose, caribou, reindeer. And it’s been found in more than 20 states, two Canadian providences and even South Korea where there’s a captive elk herd where elk were imported from the USA.

GRANT: So, this week we’ll spend some time removing any unconsumed Antler-X-Treme and the Trophy Rocks. Of course, we’re gonna play by the rules. We follow bag limits. I even follow speed limits. We’re gonna do what’s right.

GRANT: And I want to encourage everyone else to do what’s right in their states. More importantly, I’m gonna share with you in an episode or two what’s known and what’s not known about CWD. And I encourage all my co-research professionals, hunters and everyone concerned about deer to work together so we can tackle this massive problem called CWD.

GRANT: In the meantime, there’s two things we know we can do that will help stop the spread of CWD.

GRANT: One – we can stop all transportation of live deer. Whether it’s a state agency restocking or for commercial sale. Deer spread CWD through their urine, defecating, saliva. And if you have an infected deer – and you probably don't know it because there’s no good live test for CWD – you can move a deer from a herd that hasn’t shown any sign of CWD in five years and still be spreading the disease. So, we need to stop all movement of live deer.

GRANT: Second – all hunters need to be very conscious about bringing parts of deer home. Bring the pelt home; bring the antlers home if it’s a male; bring the meat home. But leave the spinal cord, the brain, major parts of the nervous system in the field where you harvested the deer. Don’t just take the whole head back to the taxidermist. Cape it out; cut the top of the skull off; take the antlers and the cape back.

GRANT: This is serious, folks, and we all need to follow these steps whether it’s a rule in your state or a voluntary action.

GRANT: You know, it’s a sad day in the one way but a new chapter in another way. And I want to share with you how we’re gonna provide more than 65 trace minerals, Trophy Rock, to our deer now that we can't put the actual Trophy Rock out.

GRANT: A few years ago, we did some research with the guys at Trophy Rock and took some really fine ground up Trophy Rock – I mean, just, you know, like powder – and applied it to some native vegetation and some food plots.

GRANT: All forage plants need sunshine, water and minerals to grow. It’s a great way to provide minerals to your deer herd. So, in states like Missouri now – at least the counties where I live – where we can't put out supplemental mineral in a bulk form, if you will, we can spread it over our food plots – which is perfectly legal and beneficial to the soil. A standard agricultural practice – and let the plants take it up. The deer will crave the plants.

GRANT: Hey, you know what’s really cool? The deer will really crave these minerals now that they're not available in bulk form and seek out places that have this. What does that tell you about treating an area in front of your tree stand?

GRANT: So, for now, a great chapter in our deer management is closing and an even more exciting chapter is opening up. Treating forage; letting the plants take the minerals up; feeding all the deer; spreading ‘em way out and making some great hunting locations.

GRANT: As we’ve said, the only constant is change and things change around The Proving Grounds every day. If you want to stay up on what’s going on, check us out on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook as we post new information daily.

GRANT: In this crazy world we live in, there’s one constant that’s never changed. And that’s the enjoyment we can get from spending time out in Creation and with the Creator. Join me and take a little time daily to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.