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GRANT: Overall, it’s been a warm winter here at The Proving Grounds. We haven’t had many days that didn’t feel like spring. Until recently, the conditions were not right to use a technique we call frost seeding.
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GRANT: Well, it’s a cold day here at The Proving Grounds. You can tell we’re all dressed pretty warm and that’s ideal conditions to frost seed clover. Here we are in the second week of March and it’s getting kind of late, but we’ve been holding off, holding off – waiting for a cold spell. We’ve had a warm winter. But it’s cold today and it’s supposed to get to about 26 tonight and 25 another night this week. So, it’s the perfect time to spread some clover seed and let the frost action work that seed into the soil.
GRANT: Frost seeding is a great technique to plant small, hard sided seed like clover. It’s not a good technique for larger, soft seed like soybeans. Those soft seeds will take in water and usually decay before it’s time for them to germinate.
GRANT: When it frosts, if there’s any moisture in the soil, it expands and thaws and contracts. And that thawing and contraction, or heaving of the soil, actually will bury a large percentage of the seed. And seeding this time of year, you don’t have to worry about it being so hot that it takes all of the soil moisture away through evaporation.
GRANT: Our technique is pretty simple. We simply want to go across north and south and east and west at about half the normal rate. There’s already some clover existing in this field and by one going one way and one going the other, we should get good coverage.
GRANT: We’re using Eagle Seed Clover Blend. I like it because it includes a lot of varieties. This hedges my bet if it’s really dry, a certain variety will do better than others. If it’s really wet, a couple of the varieties perform well. And under normal conditions, all the different cultivars in there will do well.
GRANT: I like to hold it higher. Your arm gets a little tired, but if you hold it higher, obviously, you're getting a bigger arc and you're covering more ground. If you hold it low, you're not covering as wide a swath. So you actually get better distribution of seed by holding it up.
GRANT: This plot looks a little greener than clover might this time of year because of all the Monster Winter Wheat we have in here. Eagle’s wheat is extremely cold hardy and it’s all browsed off. You’ll notice all the ends of the wheat is squared off. But it’s provided a lot of tonnage throughout the winter growing season and a cover crop for the clover. It’s also sucking up all the nitrogen the clover makes in excess and that’s helping keeping the weeds out. ‘Cause you’ve got wheat and clover shading out the ground and there’s no room for weeds to grow.
GRANT: Depending on how many total acres of food plots are on a property, I usually prescribe about ten percent of the acres be put in clover. Clover is great this time of year when it’s too cold for soybeans to germinate and most of the winter crops have been consumed.
GRANT: When fall planting over existing clover fields, I usually like to add Eagle’s Monster Wheat. The wheat not only provides extra tonnage for deer to eat on, but also provides a cover crop for the clover. It uses the nitrogen that clover is producing and the volume of clover and wheat suppresses any weeds from growing in the field.
GRANT: Deer will continue feeding on the wheat as long as it’s in the blade stage. But as soon as it forms a stem, deer typically back off of it unless they're really hungry. But that’s okay. That stem will bolt, produce seed heads and then when the seed heads mature, deer and turkey will feast on all that grain.
GRANT: Once the critters have removed all the seed heads, the stalks will just fall over and become mulch and fertilizer to the clover field.
GRANT: When I’m adding clover to an existing clover field, I’m just freshening it up and maybe covering a few bare spots. I plant at half the recommended rate. Depending on which type of clover – usually about four pounds per acre.
GRANT: Not only is this fresh clover a great forage source for deer, but turkeys love clover and they love to bug in clover. So these clover plots are ideal strut and feeding areas for turkeys come spring season.
GRANT: Alright. So, we’ve got it all covered good?
GRANT: Alright. It’ll be interesting to watch this go. It’s going to be cold the next couple of nights and then, hopefully, some warmer weather and we’ll see a flush of clover.
GRANT: Alright. Let’s load our stuff up.
GRANT: We’ve been preparing for turkey season the last couple of weeks. We’ve had a couple of guys come in here and give some calling techniques. And to add to that, I had my good friend, CJ Davis come in and talk about his strategies for using decoys.
GRANT: It’s already turkey season in Florida and almost turkey season throughout the rest of the states. So I want to take a little time today and talk about great decoy setups. So, I brought in my expert buddy, CJ Davis. CJ, thanks for coming out to The Proving Grounds.
CJ: Thrilled to be here as always, Grant. It’s beautiful weather; it’s a great time of year to be outside.
GRANT: Yeah, and I just want everybody to know, and I got CJ here before turkey season, not during turkey season for a reason. Because he’s a master hunter.
CJ: I don't know about that. But, it would have been a lot nicer to be here during turkey season.
GRANT: I hear ya. But you're not, so don’t worry about it. (Laughter) Okay. Tell me what you’ve got going on here.
CJ: So, you’ve been using the Montana Decoys for what? Two or three years now?
GRANT: Love ‘em. Yeah.
CJ: Yeah. And, and we’re different. We’re a really unique decoy company. Because ours are so easily portable and they're so versatile. You’ve got different leg pole sleeves, so you can put each decoy in a different pose. And, again, it just folds up that easy to carry it. You can adjust the head; get a lot of great, unique poses. And I think there’s a lot to the way the head is addressed on a decoy. I think that’s very important to gobblers coming in or hens coming in.
GRANT: Absolutely. Kind of read the mood of the turkeys that morning. Are they really hammering? Are they a little bit more submissive? And I’ve got to tell you. Being so lightweight and easy to put in your turkey vest. When you're here at the Ozark Mountains, you don’t want to have four or five bulky decoys in your vest. You're not going up the mountain…
CJ: Um, um.
GRANT: It’s, it’s loud. They're lagging. But this is perfectly quiet and easy for me to take a whole flock with me.
CJ: Yeah. You're exactly right. You can get a whole flock in a vest – not just one or two.
GRANT: CJ, I’ve got to tell you. I’ve been turkey hunting for decades and I’ve never seen anything like this. Whatchya got going on here?
CJ: So, we’ve call this the Motion Stake. And it’s, uh, if you look at it closely, you can see it’s built just like a fishing pole. It compresses down; has a steel tip stake with a support on the bottom. And all it does, is, uh, captures the wind’s motion for your decoy. It gives your decoy some excellent motion. It can handle a surprisingly hard wind and you can see just a little breeze we have going here and what little bit of touching I did. It makes that hen look like she’s scratching and feeding. It’s perfect.
GRANT: Yeah. That looks awesome.
CJ: And what’s even better about it is you can just remove the clip and put it a little farther up. Of course, our decoys have a spring steel inside of ‘em where they compress real easy.
GRANT: Sure. Right.
CJ: Maybe adjust the head position a little bit more and you go from, like, a feeding position to more of, like, a looking or a walking position.
CJ: So, it’s got a lot of adjustment in it and, again, when you get ready to go, you just fold it up like that, pull it out of the ground. You're good to go.
GRANT: Man, I’m gonna be toting one of those this season.
CJ: It’s light, easy and quick.
GRANT: CJ, we’ve got a different look here. A little 2D look. What’s going on?
CJ: So, this is the Fanatic XL and the Fanatic. The Fanatic was introduced last year for us and the Fanatic XL is new this year. It’s kind of like a big brother/little brother thing. And you can see – yeah, there you go – quick size difference between the two.
CJ: So, maybe, if you're bow hunting or you just want a lot more cover, the Fanatic XL might be your choice. Uh, if it’s really windy, you probably want to go with the smaller one – especially, if you're gonna try to stick it up in the ground.
CJ: They're both built – if you turn that around – they have a handle. The leg pole becomes the handle for you to actually hold it. And what’s really cool about the Fanatic XL is it comes with this turkey foot reaping base. So you don’t have to worry about sticking it in the ground when you're slipping along behind it. It just sits there naturally.
CJ: You’ve got a little bit bigger view through a window on this one, too. That lets you see more, but, hopefully, it also lets some air through, so it’s not quite as sensitive to the wind. And the, uh, turkey foot base, like all the Montana Decoy products, it folds up; it’s easy to carry. Both Fanatics fold down real easy.
GRANT: Oh, man.
CJ: So, it makes it light and small to carry. And you can pull the leg pole out, shrinks it down even more.
CJ: Fits in a vest or a pack real easy.
GRANT: That is awesome.
GRANT: CJ, I've got to tell you, I like the flock effect we’ve got going on here.
CJ: Yeah, with our decoys, as you know, it’s so easy to carry all of these in your vest without taking up a lot of room. One of my favorites is having a jake sit right behind a hen when she’s in the breeding pose.
GRANT: Hmm. Hmm.
CJ: The right time of year, that can be deadly.
CJ: And, of course, you can also put that same hen in a, uh, more of a feeding pose or a looker pose there. All of those poses can be done with one hen because of the leg pole positions.
GRANT: Hey, I’ll tell ya. One of my favorite setups is the three hens. ‘Cause sometimes, you’ve got bully jakes in the area and gobblers won't come in. You kind of know the property where you're hunting. But what gobbler is not coming in to three hens? You’ve got the breeding pose, kind of feeding pose and alert pose. A little bit of movement. You can tell we’ve got about nine/ten hour wind going on today. Just enough movement to look really realistic.
GRANT: And I’ve got to tell ya, folks. We’re showing a segment. I just came back from Florida. Turkey season is open there. Tagged a nice Osceola. And you can't believe the footage we got of four jakes just really working over this hen. Actually tore it a little bit, which makes it look like a loose feather.
GRANT: Makes it look more realistic. And that footage was incredible. 30 minutes on top of it, flogging it. Just another one getting on top of it. It was awesome.
CJ: The more worn those feather cuts get, the better they look.
GRANT: Yeah. There’s two layers here, folks. So, when you get a tear like this, there’s another turkey looking cloth right below there. So, it just looks very realistic. Like a misplaced feather. And most turkeys have at least one or two misplaced feathers. And I will keep this. Even though this one really got abused, that’s gonna be the number one hen out of my turkey pack this spring.
GRANT: CJ, I appreciate you taking time to show me some new setups. I’m really excited about the hen moving over there. Man, I love that pole. That’s awesome. We can't wait to show you some hunts using these decoys this spring.
GRANT: The recent warm days have made me forget it was winter. But the colder days make me realize how stressful this time of year can be on deer.
GRANT: There was a very small acorn crop here at The Proving Grounds last year paired with the drought during the growing season. So, our forage crops weren’t as large as normal. Deer, quite frankly, were a little hungry this time of year and it’s not surprising to me that we’re having some mortality.
GRANT: In fact, recently, our interns Jessica and Tyler were working on the property and noticed some vultures circling too low. So, they hopped out of the truck and went to investigate.
GRANT: It didn’t take long until they found a dead doe.
DANIEL: Looks like a doe.
DANIEL: Went to town on her. I don’t see any broken ribs or anything.
DANIEL: The first thing I noticed when I walked up on this doe was the exposed ribs. I looked to see if any of the ribs were broken, suggesting maybe she was hit by a car or any signs of a bullet. I’m not seeing that. Legs are still intact. Of course, the vultures and predators have picked her over, so it’s really hard to determine the cause of death on this doe.
DANIEL: As a deer hunter, a lot of times we get on a one track mind. We think the only deer that are dying on our property are the ones that we’re killing. Well, that’s just not true. Especially late season during this stressful period where there’s not a lot of native browse, predators are out roaming – really looking for food. There can be a lot of additional deaths in our deer herd.
GRANT: When a deer is this far consumed, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, you probably can't determine the cause of death.
GRANT: Many folks worry when they find a dead deer. But, there are many causes of death in wildlife – injury, disease, predation. A more important observation this time of year is the amount of quality food versus the amount of deer where you hunt.
GRANT: A really easy way to monitor the amount of forage versus the amount of deer is utilization cages.
GRANT: A utilization cage is simply a wire basket, hopefully, about four feet in diameter that will allow you to see how tall quality forage is growing inside, where there’s no deer browse, versus outside.
GRANT: If the forage inside is several times taller than outside, you probably have a few too many deer for the amount of forage in your area and you may need to harvest a few more does.
GRANT: In this small field, the deer have really been wearing out the Monster Wheat. Inside the utilization cage, it’s probably a foot tall or so. And outside, it’s two or three inches and almost every stem is squared off. Without this cage, I might have drove by and thought there was just a problem with the growing conditions here. But, clearly, it’s doing fine. There’s just more deer in this area than this small food plot can feed.
GRANT: You always need to consider the circumstances, such as a dry growing season or other factors that may limit forage growth. But even with those factors, if the forage inside the cage is significantly taller than the outside of the cage, you know there’s simply more mouths than there is forage on your property.
GRANT: Whether you’re frost seeding clover or just enjoying a late winter walk, slow down and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, find time each day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.