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GRANT: It’s time to plant food plots throughout much of the whitetails’ range. And if you haven’t been happy with the results of your food plots the last couple years – not seeing many deer, not getting much plant growth – then stick around and check out the techniques we’re gonna share.
GRANT: It’s the time of year when most food plotters are watching the weather forecast almost daily. Adequate soil moisture is critical for food plot success. Our hearts certainly go out to those folks in Louisiana and suffered the horrendous flooding down there. Here at The Proving Grounds, we’re relatively dry and could use a rain soon.
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GRANT: Food plots here at The Proving Grounds serve two objectives. First is to attract deer into view and provide them quality nutrition. And the second – one that’s not really thought about much – is to protect and improve the quality of the soil.
GRANT: In the fall we typically plant Eagle Seeds Broadside Blend. We use that blend because it has soybeans, radishes, wheat and a couple different brassicas in there. All these attract deer during different times of the hunting season and all of ‘em work together to improve the soil quality.
GRANT: Early morning here at The Proving Grounds. You can tell dew is still on heavy. But more important, there is rain forecast this Saturday – a couple days away. So, we’re hustling to get our food plots planted.
GRANT: Traditionally, we’ve used a tongue mount drill and it worked great. But I was shocked at how much faster the three-point hitch is – just the ability to back up, turn around and drop the drill where you want it and go is so much faster than trying to get that tongue mount backed around in much bigger turning circles. In addition, you're just compacting the soil a lot more because it takes more space to get the tongue mount in position versus a three-point hitch. Super excited so far and looking forward to a great day of planting.
GRANT: Last spring we planted soybeans and we needed to reset the seed meter or calibration to ensure we’re getting the proper pounds per acre of the Broadside Blend.
GRANT: Setting this drill up is much easier given the calibration tray catches all the seed. We calibrated the drill in the shop before we left but it’s always good to field test it. And the way you field test it is monitor the amount of seed you put in and the amount of acres you planted. And you’ll quickly know if your calibration was correct.
GRANT: I’d like to share a technique that’s really helped us throughout the years. After we’ve calibrated the drill, and then we’ve put the amount of seed in appropriate for one, two, three acres, we take a marker and mark that level. So, when we’re getting off in the field, we’ve got five or six acres worth of seed in there and we know we’ve just planted a plot that was two acres, we can see if it went down about the appropriate amount and make sure our calibration is staying consistent.
GRANT: Even though we’re planting different species and many of ‘em have vastly different sizes – from small turnips all the way up to a large soybean – we can still use the Genesis drill because it has an agitator in it that keeps the seed blend mixed up and planting at the right proportions.
GRANT: Keep those marks relatively small because you’ll probably make new marks each year. Even if you're planting the same blend of seed, seed sizes change year to year because maybe it’s a little wetter one year or dryer the next year. That’s why it’s so important to calibrate the drill each year.
GRANT: We’ve planted about three quarters of the plots before the weekend and Matt, Adam and I went to Bass Pros to speak. But when we got back Monday morning, first thing, I wanted to go check out the plots.
GRANT: We were shocked when we pulled down to some of the first plots we planted – seven days ago this morning – and to see some of the varieties were already three to five inches tall.
GRANT: We’re in one of our food plots we call Across The Creek. Creek’s just over here about 30 yards. It probably looks like a driveway; a lot of rock in this area but it’s level. And The Proving Grounds is so steep, that any level area we want to convert to a food plot.
GRANT: This area has been a food plot a couple of years and you can see that we’ve got great germination.
GRANT: We just planted with the Genesis drill right through this gravel bed seven days ago. We rushed and planted because the weatherman had forecast rain. And once again, that forecast was inaccurate. And with no rain – and in this rock bed – gosh, we’ve got germination two, three inches tall. I am shocked at how much plant growth we have in these dry, rocky conditions.
GRANT: We’ve had success because we were able to place the seed down in whatever soil moisture is available. If we’d have just broadcast seed, it would have been laying out in the sun seven days now. Birds and squirrels would have consumed a lot of it and probably no germination because there’s no moisture on top of this rock bed.
GRANT: We planted the Broadside Blend because we know it’s so durable and does a great job of attracting deer. The secret to the Broadside Blend is it contains a few soybeans, which they're gonna come up early. And nothing’s more attractive this time of year then a young five or six inch tall soybean.
GRANT: And it has radishes. Deer are gonna eat it next. And then, wheat. It’s got a special wheat in there that grows really quick and stays in the blade stage much longer than going to a stem. Deer don’t like to eat that stem. And then two types of brassicas – one will make a bulb or a turnip, if you will, and the other produces a lot of forage. That combination kind of gives us a time release food plot – something in it early, mid and late season.
GRANT: And in addition, because this area is so rocky and we need some organic matter covering these rocks, we mix in a little bit of cereal rye. Not rye grass, but cereal rye. And in the spring, that rye will bolt and, gosh, get six feet all or so. We’ll terminate that crop by rolling it over and add some organic matter on top of this rock bed and, eventually, build some dirt.
GRANT: If you think it looks good in this rock bed, we’re gonna step across the creek to a different food plot and show you how it’s doing – planted within an hour or two of this plot, but where there’s a little bit of dirt.
GRANT: We’ve simply stepped across the creek, which is dry right now, into a food plot we call Lower Two. This food plot has been developed a few years longer than where we were and you can tell we’ve actually built some fairly good looking organic matter or dirt on the surface.
GRANT: Just a few inches down, well, it’s a rock bed. I can't dig my finger in very deep. But that bit of organic matter we built on top is holding moisture and you can tell this food plot looks wonderful. You can see each row and all the species of the Broadside Blend have germinated and are doing great.
GRANT: When we established this crop, we simply used the Genesis drill and drilled through the existing Eagle Seed soybeans. Now, it’s a small plot and they were browsed very hard but they provided quality forage throughout the entire summer.
GRANT: You still see a lot of duff on top of the ground. And that’s the residual from last winter’s Broadside or cover crop, if you will. The cover crop – like we’ve planted right now – fed deer all winter long. We terminated that crop in the spring. It fell over on the ground, covered the ground making a mulch that kept weeds at bay. And as the heat increased during the summer, slowly broke down or decomposed and added those nutrients that it had pulled from the soil and the air back to the ground. Like the perfect slow release fertilizer.
GRANT: And that’s the system we’ve been teaching. It’s the same process that built the wonderful soils of the great prairie. Crops growing, extracting nutrients out of the soil and the air, dying, decomposing and going back in. And that keeps the nutrients from leeching too deep in the soil profile for the new plants to reach ‘em.
GRANT: These new plants have a really small, shallow root system and we need those nutrients right on top of the soil so they can get off to a great start. And that’s what’s happening as this decomposes. And this system can be used anywhere in the whitetails’ range.
GRANT: So, our Broadside crop will attract deer and feed deer throughout the winter. In the spring and early summer it will finally get so mature it’s not attractive anymore and other crops and native vegetation is more attractive.
GRANT: We’ll terminate this crop – probably by using the roller crimper we’re experimenting with – and then drill soybeans in.
GRANT: And this rotation of legumes in the summer – because deer like protein in the summer. Legumes make a lot of protein and take a lot of nitrogen out of the air – fix it, it’s called – put it in the soil. And then use brassicas and cereal grains with the Broadside Blend in the winter to create a lot of biomass – feed the deer. And they do a really good job of scavenging that nitrogen that the soybeans left in the soil.
GRANT: And that rotation of legumes in the summer, a lot of protein for fawns and developing antlers; cereal grains in the winter, high energy, good for the soil building. Is a wonderful rotation for building soil and growing quality deer.
GRANT: An important part of our system is using a utilization cage. It’s got a four foot piece of web wire here – used a Hot Zone fence stake to keep it in place – and right now the food inside and outside is all the same height. I actually put this cage up the day we planted so there was no bias to pick a spot that was greener or not as green. But through the fall and the late winter, this will let me see how tall the Broadside gets inside the cage versus outside. And that’s a really good measure of our deer herd density.
GRANT: I get the question all the time, “How many deer should I have on my farm?” Or, “How many does should I remove?” And I can never answer accurately because it’s always a ratio of how much food you have – quality food – versus deer. And if this gets this tall inside the cage but it’s lip high outside the cage, I know I have more deer than quality food here at The Proving Grounds and I need to increase my doe harvest.
GRANT: But if they stay about the same height, I know I have plenty of quality food for the number of deer and I can back off my doe harvest a little bit.
GRANT: Using utilization cages is an excellent way to monitor the deer density and the need for doe harvest or not at your property.
GRANT: I’d like to share that in this food plot – and it obviously looks good, the soil is turning a great color, we’re building soil, we’re growing plenty of food for the deer – It might surprise you to know we haven’t added any fertilizer in three years.
GRANT: We started using Antler Dirt, super high quality natural fertilizer. Got the right bacteria – some bacteria can be very beneficial, remember – and nutrients in soil.
GRANT: And then our crop rotation of having something growing throughout the whole year and having it move those nutrients up in the forage, terminate the crop, and it slowly decomposes while another crop is bringing those nutrients back up is recycling those nutrients. And saved us a huge amount of money by using our food plot system.
GRANT: By getting on that rotation of soybeans in the summer, providing a lot of protein, cereal grains and brassicas in the winter, you too can greatly reduce or even eliminate the need to spend money on fertilizer.
GRANT: We’re extremely pleased with these techniques and food plot blends. A little rain and these plots can be in outstanding shape going into hunting season.
GRANT: Throughout each week, we’re checking the progress of food plots, mock scrapes and everything else we have going on here at The Proving Grounds. We often share those clips right on the clips page or in our blog. Go to GrowingDeer.com, check ‘em out throughout the week and get an update on what’s happening.
GRANT: Deer season is already open in the coastal plain of South Carolina and South Florida and maybe a few other places. It’s the time of year we’re all busy. But never get too busy to slow down and enjoy Creation. And especially, be quiet each day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.