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GRANT: I’ve been a practicing wildlife biologist for more than 27 years and I’m constantly learning. And this year, I learned a huge amount in preparing food plots in a less expensive and more efficient way.
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GRANT: It’s been tough planting conditions here at The Proving Grounds. We’re 10 inches above normal for the year in rainfall and the temperatures have been slightly cooler than normal.
GRANT: We’re just about finished planting for the spring and it’s time to review our projects.
GRANT: I’m kneeling in a small square, we’ve showed you before, where we did a herbicide test. In the area where we killed the fall crop with herbicide, you can clearly see the rows of beans.
GRANT: This is kind of a typical ag or typical food plot process here. Nothing that exciting about it; it’s a good crop, but I’m really excited that we’ve got tremendous germination where we terminated the fall food plot with the Goliath crimper.
GRANT: It’s tough to find a weed back here because this constant mulch layer is not only keeping the weeds down, but it’s also keeping the deer from nipping the beans off right at the ground. It’s providing cover for the beans. Seeds weren’t removed by crows and squirrels and other small mammals that come into our food plots every spring. There was just too much duff on the ground. It’s holding moisture and suppressing weeds. We’re off to a great start.
GRANT: We’ll get in here and zoom around and show you that even though it’s hard to see and hard for the deer to find – which is an advantage – there’s a tremendous amount of beans germinated and growing in here. They're covered; they're protected from the elements and they're gonna get a few more leaves on ‘em before the deer start munching.
GRANT: It’s a great comparison. Less weeds, holding soil moisture better, no need for fertilizer and protecting the beans until they get a little bit more mature and able to handle the browse. What’s not to like about that system?
GRANT: A few weeks ago, we showed you this clover plot with the standing rye. I want to take time to share with you another experiment or project here at The Proving Grounds that I’m super excited about.
GRANT: As an experiment, we used the Goliath crimper to try to terminate the rye and not harm the Eagle Seed clover.
GRANT: The rye was terminated and the clover looks great. So, we had a stand of clover; we mixed some Broadside with cereal rye and drilled it in last fall. Rye matures much quicker than the other crops. So, we brought in that herd of steel buffalo, the Goliath crimper, and terminated the rye before the seed matured – before they filled out all the way – and allowed the clover and a little bit of wheat that the deer didn’t browse to go ahead.
GRANT: You can tell the clover is doing great and there’s just a little bit of wheat that the turkeys will remove all the seeds. This will become duff and we’ve got a great clover crop on the way.
GRANT: The rye worked extremely well as a cover crop and allowed the clover to flourish. But, I did not want the cereal rye making mature seed because it’s a grass and grass would eventually become a bad competitor with the clover.
GRANT: So, I want something growing on every acre absolutely as many days out here as possible. Now, you know, when it’s zero or ten below, nothing is growing. But when it’s 30 degrees or warmer, I want something growing. And I’ve got a little secret going underneath this clover.
GRANT: Here in the Ozarks and throughout a lot of the whitetails’ range, July and August can be very dry and oftentimes clover will go dormant or at least not be very productive. Those are critical weeks in antler and fawn development. So, I want something growing that’s high in protein, converting the sun’s energy to something usable. And I’ve got that going on underneath the clover.
GRANT: There’s deer scat all over this clover field. It’s great to see that a crop you planted is being used by wildlife. But, what I’m even more impressed with is we took the Genesis drill – did no plowing, no herbicide or anything – and planted soybeans right through this clover.
GRANT: Now, it’s a dense stand of clover but when I part it back and find a drill row, there’s a row of soybeans growing right in here.
GRANT: They're a little slower than out in the open where they're getting full sunshine, but as the rain stops or this clover matures or gets browsed down and these beans get more sun, they're gonna blow up through here; canopy over; and never gonna have a chance for weeds to really get a foothold and we’re never gonna miss a day of feeding wildlife.
GRANT: Our goal is, of course, to have something growing as many days out of the year as possible. We want to make sure there’s good food for deer and that we’re working that soil. Transferring nutrients and moisture and keeping it healthy for the next crop.
GRANT: For those of you that may not know, The Proving Grounds is in the Ozark Mountains. And there’s no soil here unless you build it. It’s basically extremely rocky, as you can see here.
GRANT: In fact, we posted a picture of the Genesis drill planting this area on our Facebook page and I took a lot of grief. But the proof, well, it’s in the soil. Even though the conditions are extremely poor, we’ve got a good crop of Eagle Seed beans coming on.
GRANT: Russell removing the trees, obviously, disturbed the soil. It’s kind of like tilling. And when you do that, there’s gonna be a lot of weeds following.
GRANT: Almost everywhere has a big weed seed base. These seeds will remain viable in the soil for years and years. This area has been covered with trees and tree leaves for longer than I’ve owned the property, 15 years now. And there was nothing growing underneath them or very rare.
GRANT: But as soon as we removed those trees and let the sun get to the soil, there’s ragweed and even more noxious weeds all throughout this plot. The beans are coming on strong but they’ll be out competed by weeds if we don’t use a herbicide soon.
GRANT: I’ll use a herbicide during the next few weeks to control these weeds. By controlling them, I’ll remove the competition with the soybeans – giving the beans more moisture and nutrients – and I’ll keep these weeds from making seeds.
GRANT: Each year, this plot will be easier to plant. We’ll literally cover up these rocks with organic matter from the decaying crop that we’re terminating.
GRANT: This system of no tillage and continual crops means I’m gonna get out of the herbicide business. And I’m not tilling anything. Less expenses and less manpower needed to establish and maintain food plots. And that’s a big savings.
GRANT: We’ll share more about how to build soil at your Proving Grounds next week.
GRANT: You may be in a hunting club lease down south on timber company land or other places where you're also limited in the areas you can establish food plots. And maximizing the vertical space, as well as the flat land, is a great way to provide more quality forage for the deer herd where you hunt.
GRANT: This is just a small portion of a power line right-of-way cutting through the timber and in here we’ve established an area of clover. And last fall, we drilled in Eagle Seeds Monster Wheat.
GRANT: In most places, clover does best when it’s protected by a cover crop through the winter. Clover has done extremely well in this small, rocky field here on top of this ridge. And the wheat has added a lot of food in addition to protecting the clover. It’s easy to tell the deer are just starting to browse the wheat heads at this location.
GRANT: We’ve had a Reconyx camera that actually emails me pictures as they're taken and lately my phone’s been going crazy with pictures of deer using this plot.
GRANT: The deer are clearly head down, browsing on the clover, and we see ample sign where they're eating the wheat heads. This is a great combination, especially this time of year, because I love watching those antlers develop. We’ve got some nice bucks using this plot.
GRANT: All of that is pretty common, but what a lot of people may not think about is using the vertical area above your food plot. So, the sun is going through the wheat. We've got a great carpet of clover. But what about that foot or two above the clover?
GRANT: We’ve had enough moisture this year to support more, so the wheat is catching some of the sun up higher and that allows us to get more tons per acre.
GRANT: One of my goals as a food plotter is to maximize the tonnage of quality forage per unit area. One way to do that is planting multiple species that take up different heights or mature at different times.
GRANT: This is not only way less expensive than clearing more land but it helps keep deer feeding in the same area, which makes patterning and hunting deer much easier.
GRANT: I am really excited about this food plot season and the ability to share these advanced techniques with you. We’ll keep you posted throughout the summer and we’re already thinking about our fall planting techniques.
GRANT: Planting food plots and watching them grow is a great way to enjoy Creation. But just as importantly, it’s a great way to learn more about the Creator.
GRANT: You know, plants make seeds, the plant has to die for that new seed to come out, and then you plant the seed and here comes new life. That’s a great example of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
GRANT: This week when you're outside, slow down and take some time to listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.