Hit List Bucks To Burns: Tips For Prescribed Fire (Episode 191 Transcript)

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

GRANT: A legendary buck here at The Proving Grounds has showed up on our camera sites and we're constantly working on the habitat to make sure he, and other good bucks, want to call this place home.

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TRACY: She found 'em. Split Brow, yeah.

GRANT: Split Brow is a buck we've been following with our cameras and trying to hunt for a number of seasons.

GRANT: Based on trail camera photos, we estimate Split Brow to be seven years old.

GRANT: The Split Brow name doesn't seem to fit this buck this year. Currently he's showing sign of being a mainframe ten. A couple of hunting seasons ago, we were really trying to pattern Split Brow with our Reconyx cameras. During the late season, when Split Brow visited one of our trail camera sites during the night, it was obvious he had lost one of his eyes.

GRANT: It appears Split Brow won't produce as big antlers this year as he did the last couple years, but he'll still probably be number one on my Hit List just because of his age and the challenge he's presented in the past hunting seasons.

GRANT: There is no magic number to when buck's express their maximum antler or body size potential; it has a lot to do with the individual animal and the health of the habitat during those years.

GRANT: Oftentimes, as bucks mature, their home range will actually get a little smaller, simply large enough to include the resources they need for survival. Oftentimes, older bucks will decrease their home range size to the minimum amount necessary for food, cover, water and what they need to survive. Split Brow, still obviously very wise and able to survive the predator load here at The Proving Grounds, but we're seeing a little bit of a sign that he might be moving more during daylight hours and hopefully, will provide a little chink in his armor where we can have a successful hunt this year.

GRANT: Producing and keeping mature bucks like Split Brow here at The Proving Grounds means we've got to have better habitat than the neighbors.

GRANT: We're in the middle of July, but more importantly, we're in the third consecutive growing season drought here at The Proving Grounds. We are so dry that the food plots have been hammered. And our deer herd is basically dependent on native vegetation at this time. But native vegetation requires management, just like food plots. One of the very best management tools for native vegetation is prescribed fire.

GRANT: I receive a lot of questions about prescribed fire. Probably the most common one is how do we stop the fire from going where we don't want it to go?

GRANT: In areas covered with hardwoods like The Proving Grounds, our primary tool for creating firebreaks is a backpack leaf blower. When creating a firebreak, our objective is to remove the fuel so the fire stops on one side of the break and doesn't reach over or ignite the fuel on the other side of the break.

GRANT: Leaves are gonna be the primary fuel that would carry the fire through the area. And by removing that leaf litter from the area, we've got a break, a source of no fuel, to stop the fire.

GRANT: In almost all circumstances, we're gonna start the fire at a break so it's a real low flame height, all the way around the fire, or start the fire at the top of a ridge at a break and let it back down to the bottom of a hill where there's a creek bed or a road, or we've created another break so we're never having a fire with full momentum come up to our break.

GRANT: Breaks where you're gonna start the fire don’t need to be as wide as a break where you're trying to stop the fire. A fire that's rolling towards a break will be throwing ambers and ashes over the break, and you need a much wider area with no fuel to stop the fire. When practical, we want to use existing structures that will serve as a firebreak, like this road or this food plot.

GRANT: In timber country, we don’t have a lot of these openings to serve as firebreaks, so we often have to get into the woods and create a firebreak.

GRANT: In this particular case, we're on a ridge top, so we're gonna start the fire here. It'd be a really low, six, eight inch flame. We've got about a ten foot break; that will be more than adequate to keep that small flame from jumping over here.

GRANT: The occasional dead twig is not a concern and that's especially true because we're starting the fire here and taking it that way. If we were trying to stop the fire and the flame height would be much taller, it might be possible for it to lap over, ignite this, burn it off, when this would fall down, catch those leaves on fire, and then start a wildfire – a non-prescribed fire – and take off doing damage in these woods.

GRANT: And in this area right here, I certainly don’t want to damage these nice, beautiful hardwood trees, but I want to remove all this leaf litter so it doesn't continue building up and have a bigger chance of uncontrolled wildfire. To do that we simply use our knowledge of fire and know that fire burns much slower downhill and into the wind than it does uphill.

GRANT: In this fuel load and going downhill, I'd expect the flame height to be six inches to a foot tall, and that's where the bark is thickest on these mature hardwood trees, serving to protect the tree from damage. On the other hand, if we ignited this fire at the bottom of the mountain, well heat rises and it would preheat the fuel.

GRANT: Even more damaging, when a head fire rushes up a mountain, it tends to wrap around a tree and that heat rises up this tree two or three times the height of the actual flame height, and what we call the chimney effect; and that does severe damage to trees.

GRANT: By removing this leaf litter during the late growing season, we can create a much drier environment ‘cause it rarely rains at that time of year; and significantly reduce the amount of ticks living in this block of the woods.

GRANT: Fire can certainly be very dangerous and this brief introduction to how we do prescribed fire is certainly not a license for you to conduct a fire on your property. Most state agencies offer training in conducting prescribed fire. With all the warnings and cautions that are necessary about fire, it's important not to discourage people from using fire. The exclusion of fire allows very dangerous fuel loads to build up and we end up with catastrophic fires like you see on the news out west. It's real important to realize that fire, used properly, is a wildlife and habitat enhancement tool, it doesn't damage those areas. Causing new, lush vegetation to grow within the cover area for deer and removing ticks is a huge benefit to many forms of wildlife.

GRANT: There's no sources of water on this ridge and if we can make this pond hold water, it'd be a dynamite spot during the rut, especially if this drought continues. It's very gravelly soil, especially on the point of this ridge. But we're gonna line the pond with bentonite clay.

GRANT: Bentonite's a type of clay that occurs naturally at Redmond mines, the same place where Trophy Rock is mined and it swells about sixteen times its size when it gets wet, making a sealer in the bottom of the pond.

GRANT: An obvious question would be that when water gets in here and you know it kind of slurries around, some of the clay will come lose, and little particles, and be in the water. Deer are gonna consume that. Is there anything in there that's gonna harm deer? And the answer is no, this is simple clay particles, kind of similar to what's in Pepto Bismol, used to coat your stomach if you have an upset tummy. I certainly don’t think deer need bentonite to be healthy, but it's not going to hurt them either, and a water source on this ridge will be an added value to deer and other forms of wildlife on this part of The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: I hope you have time this week to work on some habitat improvement projects, but more importantly, slow down and enjoy Creation and listen to what the Creator is trying to tell you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.

LEVI: GoPro down. You guys go ahead keep working, I’ll, I'll video. (Laughter) I gotcha guys, right here.