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GRANT: Flat areas an acre or more are very rare here at The Proving Grounds just cause of the steepness of the topography. But I’ve known of one area that was really steep, hard to walk to, hard to get to. We really didn’t use it much cause there was no draw for deer there. Just solid second growth oaks that wasn’t very productive. That’s all about to change.
GRANT: I’ve spent some time turkey hunting in the past and scouting for deer and Tracy and I looking for sheds. We never do any good there because there’s no attraction. It’s a homogenous, or all the same, patch of oak trees. They’re all about five or six inches because they were cut about 50 years ago and they all grew up from stump sprouts. Unproductive trees, not many acorns, no cover down below – kind of a biological desert for deer and turkey.
GRANT: Knowing I had an area that could be a productive food plot that was currently a biological desert was really hurting me. So, I got several bids, called some buddies, worked some trades, traded Peter for Paul, did all that stuff and we got some big yellow equipment in – starting to turn that desert into an oasis.
GRANT: Now creating a food plot is not as simple as removing the trees and planting something. If I’m gonna go to the trouble of making a new food plot, I’m doing it to either feed deer or to hunt deer and this is about an acre in size, so it’s gonna be a hunting food plot. And I want to put it with the biggest priority of where I can access it and where I can get there with a favorable wind because the deer are gonna find food no matter where it is.
GRANT: You know, you're gonna live with a food plot a long time, so when you select a contractor to help you, it’s very important that you’ve explained your goals and objectives because when they're gone, for the life of that land, you're gonna be stuck with that food plot.
GRANT: One of the problems of making a food plot in a forested habitat is what do you do with all the debris? If you leave this brush pile, ground hogs or varmints are gonna take it over and probably wipe out your food plot and/or consume the game you're trying to feed. But if you stack it really tight and burn it, you're returning some nutrients to the ground, removing that habitat for a lot of predators and cleaning up the area.
GRANT: Russell was using a trackhoe instead of just a dozer. The big advantage to a trackhoe is it can reach around from one area with tremendous leverage and just push over a tree with that “thumb”, pick it up and move it instead of pushing all around with the dozer, compacting more soil and making a huge mess.
GRANT: Look how dry that dirt is two feet deep.
GRANT: One thing I really like about a trackhoe or that big long arm is from one position it can take out trees with leverage, where if a dozer was working on this steep hill, he’d be spinning all around and making huge areas, trying to get that root ball out. If you're gonna contract some work in a forest where you want to leave it looking good, you want Ms. Tracy excited about coming here and seeing it when it’s done, get that trackhoe – get more work done for the dollar and leave less mess.
GRANT: Sometimes when we’re marking timber or laying out food plots, people ask us why we use blue. Blue really sticks out. There are some shades of red, but different leaves, pending on the time of year – what-not but blue’s just the easiest for dozer operators or timber cutters to see.
GRANT: We’re going up from a one-acre hunting plot here on up the mountain to a two acre plot that’s on top of the mountain where the wind is predictable where we know how the deer are gonna approach it and it will be a combo feeding plot and hunting plot, available this fall and I’m really hoping to show you some great footage from that location.
GRANT: Like most of life, the simple things are what determines success or failure: changing the oil in your vehicle regularly, rotating your tires and always collecting a soil sample. Very simple tool – makes all the difference in the world of the success or failure of this food plot.
GRANT: On forested soils, usually the nutrients are low and the ph is low because the decomposition of some of the forest plants make an acidic soil. There’s no need to guess, just collect a soil sample and know exactly what you need to add as far as lime and fertilizer to let this first year’s crop be a good one. The first step I want to take, before I plant or do anything else, is find out what nutrients are in the soil and then add additional nutrients as necessary so plants can transfer nutrients from the soil to the deer to make healthier fawns and larger antlers.
GRANT: One of the most important things you can do when collecting soil samples is make sure you label the bag appropriately so you know exactly what field it came from if submitting multiple samples and the lab will report the right results for the right field. If the nutrients aren’t in the ground, plants can't transfer ‘em to the critters that are going to consume them. So, I’ve literally already sent my soil samples from both of those food plots to Waters Ag and I’ll have those results back long before the food plots are finished and ready to plant.
GRANT: I’m sure some folks are gonna write me and ask, “Grant, why are you knocking down these oak trees to make a food plot?” But the answer is always overtly obvious, as it always is in Creation. There’s no food here. I prefer game species – deer, turkey, quail, rabbit and they have to consume high quality forage to grow bigger and reproduce more. Healthier fawns, bigger antlers. If my whole property was like this – what I call a biological desert, there wouldn’t be probably enough deer for my family and I to recreate with or to hunt and have a sustainable harvest.
GRANT: Rock about an inch deep. I’m having trouble getting enough dirt just for a soil sample, let alone to grow a crop. But adding the appropriate nutrients, I think we’ll all be amazed what kind of crop we can grow if we have good growing conditions and some rain. Just stay tuned, watch this food plot develop from an unproductive forest, to planting, to hopefully watching velvet antlers to sitting in a Muddy treestand.
GRANT: Obviously this will be an ongoing process from the finish of the clearing, getting the soil samples back, adding nutrients, planting, putting trail cameras up and, hopefully, hunting this fall. But we’ll keep you involved in all of it so when you get ready to do the project with the land you're associated with, you can learn from our mistakes, learn from the correct decisions we make and you can have a great Proving Grounds of your own.
GRANT: Whatever projects you have going on this summer, I hope you get to spend some time in Creation and really appreciate all the blessings we have. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: The day, literally, after season. I haven’t seen a strutter strutting in that field all season long. The day after season, there they are. Next year boys, next year, if you can survive the coyotes for a year.