This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: A couple weeks ago I shared that Raleigh and I were able to get in a little bow practice as we went frog hunting with our friend, Danny.
GRANT: Fired up the Kamado Joe on our back deck, started grilling.
GRANT: Heavenly Father we do thank you for this day and always providing more than we need. Thank you for your son, Jesus, most of all. (Inaudible)
UNKNOWN: It was a site to behold. (Inaudible)
GRANT: It was great to enjoy some tasty frog legs. Can't get much more natural meat than that. Enjoyed seeing a few deer out in the food plot and spending time visiting with friends.
GRANT: My family practically lives off of wild meat. Those frog legs were great and I'm sure we'll be out shooting around some ponds again.
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GRANT: As we continue preparing for deer season, we've started a new project that I absolutely believe will be a game changer here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Due to habitat quality improvements and working to reduce the number of predators, we now have significantly more deer and need to add some food.
GRANT: There's a portion of The Proving Grounds that's relatively flat compared to the rest of the property. Heck, it's almost as flat as portions of Iowa. And in this area, one section is covered with cedar trees, relatively large cedar trees, surrounded by mature oaks and sections of fence here and there on the border. I believe this was a pasture back in the day and it fed a lot of cattle. We need to remove those cedars and convert this into a productive food plot.
GRANT: We're, you know, we're midday. Look at the ground. Mostly, I'm going to say – what? 60, 70% covered by shade and almost nothing growing – no forbs, no annual flowering plants, some woodies that are eeking out a living; some poison ivy – stuff like that. A little sericea lespedeza – that stuff’ll grow anywhere. No Smilax leaves anywhere low, but I can see ‘em high where the vines have made it up the tree.
GRANT: Hey, out with the interns again today and I can't stress how important it is to get practical field experience. College textbooks is awesome. You kind of learn the theories there, but until you're out here in the ticks and chiggers and marking, and then following through and seeing the end of the project, you really don't know how to consult with landowners or take care of state agency or even non-profit like Nature Conservancy or something lands. It's all about boots on the ground.
GRANT: So, here we are today. We’re gonna do another timber project. Happen to be back at The Proving Grounds. We're in an area just now really got the budget to do. And this is a big ole flat – hugely flat for The Proving Grounds – area that used to be pasture and now is overgrown with cedars. Someone just let the pasture go 30, 40, 50 years. And one or two hardwoods but I'm gonna say 90+% cedar trees.
GRANT: A couple observations. We look at the ground. Right now midday, it's probably 70% shade. We don't see any annual flowering plants or forbs, so there's not much deer food. All the Smilax, or greenbrier, we see – there’s some right around here, there's no leaves below six, seven feet. Deer are clearly hungry here. Not expressing potential, at least on this patch of woods.
GRANT: So, what we want to do – unlike what we did up at Rolla, Missouri where we did individual tree selection. And unlike what we did treating the sassafras – individual species selection – here we’re gonna flag the outside edges. We're gonna walk; we're gonna think about approach, hunting. We want to maximize the food plot acres, ‘cause, obviously, we've got hungry deer. Right? We want to maximize it but we want to leave good tree stand trees on the edge, and we want to consider how we can approach, hunt, and exit without alerting deer.
GRANT: So, here we're going to do a removal of all the trees. Brenton and David are going to sell the marketable cedar. We'll get about 40% of that or so and use that to defray the cost of making this food plot. That helps me out. Okay? And then we're just marking the boundaries. So, we want to slowly walk the edge, figure out exactly where we want the boundaries, flag it off, cut the guys loose.
GRANT: Because if you (Inaudible) two or three times, then there may be a better one on down here. (Inaudible) Ditch goes on down through there, but it will cross the road and cause a lot of damage, that’s why I never want ditches.
GRANT: Roads are a huge asset to any property. They allow us to enjoy the whole property, get to our hunting locations, and get equipment throughout the property to improve the habitat.
GRANT: The road we were using to access this project site was built decades ago. And someone put a ditch on the uphill side, but during large rains, that ditch is gonna fill up with water and cross the road at some point. That rapid moving water has a lot of power and it's always gonna erode or tear up the road.
GRANT: The water blew down through here so fast that it just took the path of least resistance in flood stage and went across the road, ate it out. We gonna have to repair that. I never build ditches on the side of forestry or interior property roads.
GRANT: We see a higher slope here and a lower slope there. If this road would have been built appropriately, we'd just cut a grade from the high to the low. We're not gonna be driving it fast enough to slide off anyway, and get it where the water wants to run across the road at a 30 or 45 degree angle versus right down the road and cause an erosion.
GRANT: Obviously, the faster the water runs, the more power it has, the more erosion it's gonna do. Get this water off the hard surfaced road into the non-compacted soil over in the forest. It'll seep right in. We won't have road damage. We'll have less water pollution, less erosion. Building roads is a critical part of property management.
GRANT: Unfortunately, a lot of guys or contractors build interior roads, logging roads, whatever, like a county road. And that rarely works out.
GRANT: Where's my last flagging over there? This looks, this just looks so cool right here. I mean, the natural boundary is we've got nothing but trash trees out here.
GRANT: Hey, hold on, hold on, hold on. Let me look behind me here. What have we here? We're not gonna see this too well, but right here we're gonna make the food plot dive around because there's a really cool tree. Teachable moment. It's a catalpa tree. You at home, who knows what a catalpa tree is famous for?
GRANT: Catalpa trees – this time of year like right now – have catalpa worms – awesome fish and bait. People I know like James Harrison, our Pro Staff world champion turkey caller, owl hooter, and great outdoorsman – he knows what a catalpa tree is, and he just went the other week and sent me a picture. Catalpa tree. Picked a bunch of worms, and you freeze them. You don't have to fish with ‘em right then. Freeze ‘em in meal, like cornmeal, then bust ‘em out the freezer anytime you want. Take those babies fishing and you’ll have a fish fry. Catalpa trees.
GRANT: This is catalpa tree bark, but it's very noticeable by the big leaves and super cool.
GRANT: Tyler, let's check to see how many yards we are from the road up there pretty soon. Give me a measurement.
GRANT: Alright, Grant. You know behind me, Grant, the intern, and he found this great shed. I mean I’ve done this a few times – laying out a food plot; find a shed – just makes you feel good. This one's obviously been shed many, many years. Points gnawed off, a lot of gnawing in here. But I believe we'll grow a lot better antler than that in a year or two from here, so great find Grant. Good observation. I obviously was looking up at the trees, you know what I'm supposed to be doing, while you were looking down. Great find. Alright.
GRANT: You know, removing cedar helps defray the cost, or reduce the cost, of creating a food plot, and that's a beautiful cedar, but a horrible tree stand tree. It splits up there, maybe… (Fades Out)
GRANT: Missouri is one of the leading producers of eastern red cedar products. Bedding for pet beds, cedar that lines bathroom and closets, and in this particular site, there were some trees large enough to be marketable.
GRANT: We’re in the process of converting this overgrown pasture into a food plot. Now, when someone let this pasture go many decades ago, cedars encroached and took it over. You might be surprised to know that Oklahoma publishes – the state of Oklahoma – that they lose about 700 acres of land to cedars a day. Now, that's not in one place, that's statewide, but if you bunch it all up, cedars are very invasive. And that's what happened here. Someone had a pasture, quit taking care of it, and the cedars have taken over. Cedar logging is quite a bit different than production logging down south. It's a lot of hard work isn't it, Brenton?
GRANT: Cedars, even in shaded areas, often have a lot of limbs all the way from the ground up the stem.
GRANT: These limbs all up and down the trunk of the tree, give the cedar tremendous grain and a great pattern that makes it very decorative for furniture and other applications.
GRANT: Cedar loggers often come in and use a chainsaw to trim all the limbs as high as they can reach. They will then come in; tip all the trees over – cedars tend to have shallow root system; save the logs that are marketable; and put the others in a pile.
GRANT: By selling the usable cedar logs from this area, I’ll not only reduce the cost to establish the food plot, but use a great resource.
GRANT: I'm working on improving some of my hunting locations, but that's not right here. This is a steep side slope; the wind’s gonna swirl; the thermals are wicked. I probably can't hunt right here, but there's something I need to make a stand better at another location. And this is oak. I'm gonna build some mock scrapes this morning. I'm gonna share with you my technique.
GRANT: It's close to the road. I don't want to go through any more energy than I have to. And the top of this tree is about perfect for a mock scrape.
GRANT: I got my tree trimmed up, ready to be transplanted. I'm gonna load him up. You'll make a mock scrape.
GRANT: Got a bachelor group of bucks we've seen using this soybean food plot, but we'd like to get some close-up images. So we're gonna put a mock scrape here. And we're gonna put a tree out where there's nothing to tie it to, so we need a t-post and a t-post driver.
GRANT: It's so rocky at The Proving Grounds, posts rarely drive straight ‘cause they're hitting rocks and working their way down. But you just want it really solid because you can't believe how aggressive bucks will use these mock scrapes.
GRANT: You probably noticed I'm right by a road that goes through this food plot and you may be wondering, “Well, gosh, why is he putting it right by a road?” There's actually a reason.
GRANT: Now, I'm sure you've noticed hundreds of scrapes along logging roads or other things where you hunt. But by putting it right by this interior road, I can check the camera without getting all sweaty and walking a quarter mile through the woods and alerting deer. I want to build my mock scrapes, this time of year, where I may hunt them later on, but most importantly where I can check cameras without alerting mature bucks.
GRANT: In the past I've used zip ties ‘cause they're really quick and easy to attach my trees to the post. But, bucks have used some of my mock scrapes so aggressively they've just shredded those zip ties and I come out, check the camera, and the tree is five yards away or something. So, now I use #9 wire. It holds it much better to the t-post.
GRANT: Of course it's a scrape tree, so I need a limb that's parallel to the ground or coming off the tree at about a 90-degree angle and about 4-1/2 feet above the ground. It’s a gravel road, so they're not gonna scrape right here. Although it's just about as gravelly in this food plot. But I'm going to position my tree where the overhanging limb is out here in the beans and I'll stomp a few of them down. I'll get it positioned just right – about like that. I get my wire started and then take my pliers. I'm gonna cut off about right here. And then take pliers and really cinch that down. And then I don't want to leave sharp points out ‘cause I don't want to blind the buck. It would defeat the whole purpose of getting good pictures. So, once I get that, I bend these back. I don't cut it off right here ‘cause then I have sharp points sticking out. I take that and I bend it back into or put it behind the t-post where there's just no chance that that can get in an aggressive buck's face.
GRANT: That's a good one right there.
GRANT: Once I've matted down the vegetation where a deer would paw it out, it's time for me to go ahead and add an attractant to the limb. During past years I've had great success at tracking deer using synthetic-based urines and this year I'm using Code Blue synthetic buck scent.
GRANT: As we know, in the summertime bucks get in bachelor groups and they're very curious about new bucks coming in, especially this late July/August timeframe. So I'm using buck scent to attract that bachelor group using this food plot over here to check out who the new stranger in town is. To make sure the scent stays around, I'm using a wicking substance that I'll hang right here on the tree; put the scent on it; spray a little on the ground; put up my trail camera; and wait for the action.
GRANT: Simply gonna get an upright limb like this one. I'm gonna slide the wick over these leaves – I may tear a few – but hang it down. That way it's camouflaged and held in place.
GRANT: A little technique I've learned – instead of spraying and getting the scent all over – what I do is remove the lid; then take my wick and do that. It gets a lot more product on there. See how—oooh look how that baby swelled up. You can see it was this size, now it's that size. That holds a lot of scent that will get me many more days. Bring this over here. I'm constantly right above my scrape area. And just take this; twist my leaves up so I can get on there. It's on there secure; blend it in, and that huge – gosh it went from maybe a 1/16 inch to a 1/2 inch – sucked up a lot of scent. It's gonna slowly drip it right here in this scrape.
GRANT: Got my lid back on. I just want to mist the ground just a little bit. Not too much, just a little bit. That's great. That's where that really works out well. I'm gonna go put the camera up, in a week come back, and I'll bet we got a little action.
GRANT: Final step is setting up my trail camera; point it north again. And I put mine on video mode ‘cause there's not much more exciting than going through a card and seeing several videos of bucks checking out a mock scrape you just created.
GRANT: We've established a couple of mock scrapes in different areas of The Proving Grounds and hope to be sharing some footage from these locations with you soon.
GRANT: I'm not the only person getting excited for the start of deer season. Most of the members of my local deer co-op are just as excited as I am. So, recently we decided to get together and share our ideas and techniques.
GRANT: And we like seeing different properties and sharing different techniques. So this year I got the opportunity to host our group.
GRANT: After we all got together and told a few war stories, we headed over to an area where I just established a brand new food plot.
GRANT: We didn't do it – we didn’t disc it. You don't gotta do anything. That’s just – when you disc in the Ozarks, you're just turning up rocks. You're making it worse. You're losing whatever soil you have. Because what's really amazing to me – look. These are pretty dark green, looking pretty good. There's been zero soil amendment of any kind added here. Nothing. There's about 1,700 beneficial insects to every negative. So, the last thing I want to do is use a pesticide unless I have to. And I'm not anti-chemistry, herbicide, or pesticide.
GRANT: Less than three months ago this area was head-high brush. And I went through the techniques, how we quickly converted that into a brushy edge to a viable, productive food plot.
GRANT: So, what we're doing – we’re building organic matter on top the weeds – seeds. And then we're just no till drilling – we’re not disc and turn it up. We're barely covering up the weed seeds. So, we work hard to keep new weed seeds from happening and we're just reducing our weed base. If I disc that soil, it would blow up big time with weeds again. I'm not getting rid of weed seeds, and they will remain viable for years, and years, and years. I'm just covering ‘em up.
GRANT: Next, we went to a plot that's been established about four years. And I went through the history of that plot and how the buffalo technique I've been sharing with you all has really helped turned it into an extremely productive feeding area.
GRANT: This field is only about four years old and it's never had Antler Dirt or any fertilizer on it, period. It's just like that. This was a weedy, sericea, nasty area, and we just needed more food. Now, well, this is what we call level. It's pretty level. So, we made a little food plot that wraps around there pretty far. And there's a tree plot – a Flatwood Natives tree plot – right back there we've talked about a lot.
GRANT: So, we've got trees and beans, but – and they're doing great with no fertilizer. And they're dark. Brad, I think you’d even say these look good. (Inaudible) There's no fertilizer, but we've always had the Broadside blend in every winter. And we don't mow these beans down or do anything. We just take the front coulters off the drills sometimes – sometimes we don't – and drill right through beans. And a lot of times, 50% – give or take – the beans here will survive the drilling.
GRANT: So, now you've got the world's best food plot. You've got beans still maturing and making pods, and you've got your winter greens coming on. And on the warm days, the deer, deer don't want those heavy pods ‘cause they're real high in energy – that’s why we like them, right? That’s why the Drurys always shoot deer off pods in the winter ‘cause that's the best food in Iowa at that time of year if you've got standing pods.
GRANT: So, we've got pods really rich in oil and energy for the cold days and greens for the warm day. And we're producing a huge amount of organic matter, and then next spring – in the past – we’ve just been coming in here and spraying and drilling beans. We never disced this.
GRANT: Throughout the morning, we toured several different areas and exchanged ideas how we could all improve our techniques – both for habitat management and hunting.
GRANT: I believe that local neighborhood deer co-ops are one of the most valuable tools in all of deer management. If you're not in a co-op, I suggest you talk with your neighbors. They don't have to be adjoining neighbors, but people that live in the same habitat type and the same area and form a little informal group. Ours is total volunteer. No money changing hands, just exchanging information. And I think you'll be amazed at what you learn and the friendships you’ll build.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get out and tour some habitat work because remember there's always something new we can learn. But more importantly take time every day to get outside and enjoy Creation and do the most important learning you'll ever do of your life and that's spending quiet time every day and listening to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.