Growing Bigger Antlers On Whitetails (Episode 120 Transcript)

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GRANT: Wow. Beautiful.

GRANT: March 5th at The Proving Grounds, we’ve had an exciting week finding sheds and doing projects to grow bigger antlers next year.

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GRANT: March 5th and it’s been a very exciting week at The Proving Grounds and doing some management practices to grow bigger antlers next year.

GRANT: Last week, Adam and I were out in Kansas on a coyote hunt. While we were gone, good friend of mine, Heath Martin, came up to The Proving Grounds, brought his dog and them and Tracy got together, did a little shed huntin’.

GRANT: Heath found Larger Left’s shed at North Boom, which is just about maybe a half mile or less from Boom Back, where we had out last pictures of him with both antlers on.

GRANT: At three and a half, this buck tends to like to run with other bucks. That will probably change as he matures into four and a half this summer, but we’ll find out and he’ll probably move on up to being one of our Hit List deer in 2012.

GRANT: Heath also found the right side of a buck we call Cave Road Crab Claw.

GRANT: This buck got his name because at the end of his main beam, which has been broken off, it had a tight crab claw. Like to see a little bit of fighting going on, that disturbed some people, but it tells me I’ve got competition in those older age classes, and that means for good hunting. Bucks responding to grunt calls, rattling, and I’ll be excited to see him as a four year old during 2012.

GRANT: I’m as happy about this set of matched sheds as I am any of the antlers up here and that’s because my 13 year old daughter, Raleigh, found ‘em on her own when she was shed hunting. Fairly small home range for a two and a half year old, but we’ll watch him another year, see what he does, and two years from now, he’ll probably be on the Hit List.

GRANT: This left antler is from a buck we call Clean Nine.

GRANT: Clean Nine’s a mystery buck. We had several images of him, during the real early season, or even pre-season, during our camera survey, and hardly any images during the rut. He just disappeared. Whatever the case, we got pictures of him in the late season with Pumpkin Face. I’ve always liked Pumpkin Face, but one thing about Pumpkin Face, I don’t know if it’s cause he’s ugly, or what’s going on, but a lot of other bucks like to chum with Pumpkin Face, especially in the late season. That’s reason enough for me to have Pumpkin Face around. If nothing else, that he’s just a little attraction roaming the property.

GRANT: Pumpkin Face has kind of a smushed in face and I just somehow thought it looked like a pumpkin, to me.

GRANT: We had a lot of images of him as a yearling, and then as a two year old, and he’s quite the traveler. He roams the property and today, Tracy and Crystal brings the antler of Pumpkin Face home.

GRANT: You found it over here?

TRACY: Yeah. No, (inaudible) stand right where I found ‘em.

GRANT: We’re really looking forward to seeing what Pumpkin Face does next year and he’s one of those bucks that no matter if his antlers totally changed configuration, which does happen at times, we will still identify him because of that pumpkin face.

TRACY: Well, what I thought was neat was right there by your stand, and they’re two different bucks.

GRANT: Hmm-hmm. Ummm-ummm.

TRACY: Look at how neat this one is, with the knobs. He’s all; he’s all gnarled up and dark.

GRANT: Ummm-ummm. Ummm-ummm.

GRANT: Almost not surprising, she found Balanced Ten’s shed, just steps away from where she found Pumpkin’s shed, earlier today. Balanced Ten’s body’s a little difficult for me to estimate an accurate age. I’ve bounced all over the chart on this buck, but looking at the basal circumference, and just how fine these tines are, I’m venturing he’s a super two and a half year old. And if I’m accurate, by the time he’s four, he’ll be a whopper for the Ozarks.

GRANT: Now, allowing deer to express most of potential requires two things: allowing them to grow, or get older, so they can express more of their antler growth potential and providing them good quality nutrition, so they can express more of their potential, as they get older.

GRANT: Food plots are different than maybe a big cow pasture, or a big ag field, and that in small food plots, deer come in, consume a bulk of the forage, if you’ve done it right – go back into the bedding areas, or the woods, and then defecate, or deposit some of those nutrients elsewhere, or those nutrients are tied up in antlers and the skeletal system.

GRANT: If your food plot is working well, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of nutrients are being moved off the site each year and if they’re not replaced with fertilizer, your crops will become less nutritious year, after year, after year, and less palatable – not attracting deer to that location.

GRANT: For 11 years, I had a research project in South Carolina and it was on a 6,000 acre plantation with about 50 acres of food plots.

GRANT: We did not have much of budget for food plots, so in those 50 acres, out of 6,000 acres, we would usually throw out some wheat in the fall, and maybe a little 10-10-10 fertilizer. We grew an average of about 105, 110 inch deer, year-in/year-out, at maturity. The last few years, our budgets changed, we started planting different varieties and just common wheat, and we started adding more fertilizer and that average antler size, in just a short period of time, jumped up about 10 or 15 inches.

GRANT: The difference was better nutrition. Just 50 acres of 6,000 acres made a difference.

GRANT: Likewise, here at The Proving Grounds, the soil is very poor, unless I work to improve it.

GRANT: March 5th, it’s an unusually warm spring, so it’s time to be collecting soil samples, here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Collecting soil samples is an extremely important part of deer management because what's in the soil and air, goes into plants, and what’s in the plant, goes into deer.

GRANT: So if the nutrients and minerals aren’t in the dirt, they can’t be transferred through the plant and then, to the consumer, or the deer consuming that. Big deer are a product of good dirt.

GRANT: When Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds years ago, this was literally just a gravel bank where the creek had changed paths over time. It’s very solid now, and we’ve been adding Antler Dirt, or composted and humified poultry litter for years.

GRANT: There was no black profile like this, when we bought the property, but now you can see we’re building it, and it smells like good, organic dirt, and there’s actually an earthworm right here, crawling around. That earthworm will contribute up to 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre, per year, at no cost, just by giving him this organic matter as a home. Building good dirt takes time – just like building a good deer herd takes time.

GRANT: The only way to know what to add to your property, to build better dirt, is through a good soil sample.

GRANT: About two and a half, three inches, of a core sample. That’s actually pretty deep for my property – almost solid rock below there. We will save these, what’s called cores; put them in a bucket, stir ‘em all up, and take a sub-sample of those, so we have a sample from the whole field and send that off to the lab. Now that I’ve collected my sample and made sure I had a good representation, sub-sampled that, and gotten a bag, I’m ready to seal it up and go to the next plot.

GRANT: Not all soil tests, or soil labs, are the same. I send all mine to Waters Agriculture – there’s a link right at the bottom here – because they understand deer management and that we need maximum yield in small food plot acres.

GRANT: I’m gonna label this.

GRANT: When submitting your soil samples to that lab, tell them you want maximum yield so you can get the maximum benefit out of each plot.

GRANT: Looks like Iowa, just shallower. (Laughter)

GRANT: Hey.

GRANT: We found this shed from a buck we call Bean Flipper, just over my left shoulder there about 100 yards, right in front of that cedar tree. Little bed area, looked like he’d been bedded down there. Just clearly a great find of a buck we knew. Love finding antlers from buck we know and the second reason is: you don’t want to drive over that thing with your tractor tire, or you won’t like deer quite as well.

GRANT: With all of that said, and even more reasons I didn’t talk about, it’s critical to take soil tests every year – make sure each acre you have in food plots is at maximum production, makes ‘em taste better and more yield, which will end up in healthier deer and better hunting experiences. There’s still plenty of antlers on the ground, throughout most of the whitetails’ range. I hope you get to get out this week, look for some sheds, or listen for turkeys, and enjoy Creation. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.