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GRANT: The last couple of months here at The Proving Grounds have been wicked dry. It’s been a tough growing season. I have been very impressed with the amount of soil moisture the Buffalo System has maintained due to the mulch on top of the soil surface. Even with that advantage, there is only so much forage can grow during a drought.
GRANT: Early on, we used prescribed fire in several of our native vegetation areas. The native vegetation was allowed to get off to a good start before drought conditions hit the Ozarks.
GRANT: In addition, several native vegetation species are naturally very drought resistant. This summer, the way it all worked out, the native vegetation is really helping support our deer herd during the drought.
GRANT: Not only are these areas providing quality forage, but they're excellent cover for fawns and adult deer.
GRANT: We have several Reconyx videos of does and fawns entering and exiting areas of native vegetation.
GRANT: When Tracy and I first purchased The Proving Grounds, most of those areas were covered by eastern red cedar. I used a chainsaw to fell those cedar trees and then used prescribed fire to stimulate the growth of native vegetation.
GRANT: Non-native species that threaten and dominate the native species are considered invasive and should be controlled.
GRANT: Throughout the years, sericea lespedeza has started encroaching and competing with native vegetation in these areas. Sericea can be as invasive and just as much a problem as eastern red cedars.
GRANT: Sericea is native to eastern and central Asia. It was brought to North America in the late 1800s and by the 1930s, it was commonly used to plant in areas of erosion, mine reclamation and other areas because it quickly established. Some folks even planted it in pastures.
GRANT: Those early plantings resulted in a huge seed base that we’re still fighting. When sericea started to populate large areas of The Proving Grounds, I knew I needed to take action and get it under control.
GRANT: I quickly realized the problem was larger than my team could efficiently handle. So, I brought in the Flatwood Natives crew because they're built to come in and knock out such problems and move on.
GRANT: Their crew uses a dye in the herbicide – a blue indicator – that tells them exactly where they’ve treated and where they haven’t treated. They also use GPS units as a double check and to show me, the client, exactly where they’ve treated.
GRANT: It’s not enough to contain these areas. We want to treat these areas to stop the seed production, so it won't spread.
GRANT: Flatwoods did a great job of killing all the sericea on The Proving Grounds. But, that’s the growing sericea. There was a seed bank. Now, the problem got much smaller after their first application and now my team can spend about a week a summer, or a few days, and go around and treat the sericea that’s coming back from the seed bank.
GRANT: The objective is to control sericea each year before it makes seed. Sooner or later, other native species will colonize the area and keep that seed base from germinating.
DANIEL: Well, out this morning, standing in a bedding area that we’ve been managing for multiple years to improve the native habitat.
DANIEL: As the years went by, some hardwood saplings came up in these bedding areas, so we brought in the Flatwood Natives crew to treat ‘em with herbicide.
DANIEL: It’s been several years since Flatwood Natives treated this bedding area, but we’re still seeing the results of their hard work.
DANIEL: Right behind me there are multiple hardwood species that are dead. The leaves are no longer shading the ground around them and native grasses and forbs are growing.
DANIEL: While Flatwood Natives is here treating the hardwood species, they were also treating an invasive species, sericea lespedeza. There were large chunks of sericea, especially in this bedding area, that were out-competing the native grasses and forbs.
DANIEL: Flatwoods did the hard work and knocked out acres of sericea lespedeza, but the seed bank is still in the ground. So, it’s our turn as wildlife managers to come out and try to get ahead of that sericea lespedeza before it overtakes our native habitat.
DANIEL: So, what we’re gonna do is we’re going to take backpack sprayers with glyphosate and dye and we’re gonna walk through the property and spot spray any sericea lespedeza that we find.
GRANT: During less stressful periods – early morning, late afternoon – the plant’s pores are open and can take in the herbicide. But during the heat of the day, those pores close as a conservation measure to save moisture and some gasses. When those pores are closed, the herbicide is not near as effective.
DANIEL: We use an indicator dye to help us tell exactly where we sprayed. The dye allows us to see exactly which plants were treated and if we got a good application. It also helps us know that we hit this exact plant and we weren’t just going willy nilly, also hitting native grasses and forbs.
GRANT: The dye improves our efficiency so much, it’s easy to justify the small added cost.
GRANT: It will take some days to mop up all the sericea at The Proving Grounds this year, and a few less the next year, and a few less the next year. I doubt we ever get it 100% under control, but we can get it down to a very manageable amount and certainly improve the habitat along the way.
DANIEL: Sericea lespedeza is an invasive species. It doesn’t take long for it to build up a seed bank and it can take over acres of your property. By spending a few hours with a backpack sprayer on, we can try to get the sericea lespedeza under control and encourage more native grasses and forbs to come up and offer quality food and cover for our wildlife.
GRANT: We simply use glyphosate at a 5% mixture to treat sericea. We get about a barrel full a year and use it for treating such problems.
GRANT: If you would like the Flatwood Natives crew to assist with some habitat work on your property, well you’ve got an opportunity. Keyland is gonna be here at my place and some other landowners in Missouri July 17th through the 20th. And if you get a hold of him now, he might have time to swing by your property and bid on some work.
GRANT: Keyland is easy to reach at the email shown on the screen or simply go to flatwoodnatives.com.
GRANT: Usually by early to mid-July, bucks have developed enough unique antler characteristics to be identified from last year.
DANIEL: So, I think he’s comin’, he’s coming out right here. And I think he’s using this little slack. He’s kind of working on the downhill; see kinda, flat and then it turns down.
DANIEL: He’s either working right on that flat or right below it.
DANIEL: So, I mean, if we hung in this tree…
DANIEL: Well, it’s that time of year. Bucks are growing antlers and it’s time to start putting our hit list together and create a game plan of how we’re gonna hunt ‘em this fall.
DANIEL: Recently, we set up this Reconyx camera overlooking a newly extended food plot. But, we were thrilled when we checked the camera and Swoops was showing up here in Back Door.
GRANT: We’ve had several encounters with Swoops, but obviously, never been able to put a tag on him.
GRANT: Last winter, Swoops was frequenting a plot behind my house and I was able to get some cool footage of him using an iSpotter.
GRANT: A few weeks after I filmed Swoops, I found one of his sheds in that same plot.
GRANT: Just a couple weeks ago, we had one of those needle in the haystacks. Clay and the interns were cutting a few cedars out of one of our native vegetation bedding areas and found Swoops other shed.
GRANT: During the past years, we’ve detected a pattern that Swoops usually spends the summer and early season in the south part of The Proving Grounds and late season in the north part of The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: We haven’t been able to effectively hunt the south part of his range ‘cause it was solid timber. No bottlenecks, no destination plots really to get a pattern. He was moving through the area willy nilly.
DANIEL: It’s either this tree or this tree down here. And I mean, gosh he may – it just depends if, if he’s wrapping this like, like we think. We’ll have to get a camera over here and figure out how he’s wrapping around here.
DANIEL: But, if he’s wrapping this, this tree would be great, too.
DANIEL: This is a new camera location for us. And instead of putting the camera right on the trail which is only 25 or 30 yards down the hill, that camera would only get deer walking right by it. We’d see the deer, but we wouldn’t know exactly how they were working this food plot.
DANIEL: By backing the camera up, getting a wider view of the food plot, we can see how deer are entering and exiting and how they're using the terrain here in the food plot.
DANIEL: It seems our strategy is working because the Reconyx is picking Swoops up working the lower half of the food plot.
DANIEL: Historically, during the early portion of Missouri’s archery season, Swoops is still in his summer range or on this part of the property. This food plot creates a great destination feeding area and also a bottleneck.
DANIEL: Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll probably be moving this Reconyx camera farther down the hill and try to pinpoint which tree Swoops is walking by within bow range.
GRANT: Based on what we’ve learned to date, we've already identified a couple of trees where we’ll be putting Summit treestands unless something changes.
GRANT: We hope to continue adding pieces to the large Swoops puzzle and by opening day of bow season, have a strategy that will get us close to putting our hands on Swoops.
GRANT: Stay tuned as we share updates and what we’ve learned and our strategies as we chase Swoops and other bucks this fall.
GRANT: Each week we share a lot of information in between GrowingDeer episodes on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
GRANT: I hope there’s plenty of soil moisture where you are and the deer are growing good. But no matter the conditions, I hope you take time to get outside and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, take time every day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
GRANT: If you’d like updates about Swoops and our food plot and hunting techniques, simply subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.