Over 15 Tips For The Best Food Plots and Nutritious Native Browse (Episode 395 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

DANIEL: Don’t hit a rock, Clay.

CLAY: Oh, it’s already hit rocks. It’s through rocks. I punched it through.

GRANT: One of our employees, Clay, had set up a trail camera to monitor some deer. But what his trail camera picked up, wasn’t what he hoped for.

GRANT: What you're seeing is a bobcat trying to take out a fawn. Check out this super protective doe saving her fawn and getting rid of that bobcat.

GRANT: Walt Disney had it wrong. There’s never just an easy day in a wild critter’s life. Every day is a fight for survival.

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GRANT: One of the lessons we learned this year is we’ve got to wait to try to terminate cereal rye with the crimper. If we crimped it before the seed head was in the dough stage, it would stand back up.

GRANT: Like most guys, I was eager this spring to get started and we did a little bit of crimping pretty early on. Fortunately, just did some test strips; checked it a couple of days later and realized we were a little early.

GRANT: I was out doing some field work and I noticed a little section of rye that the crimper didn’t hit – right next to some wheat that we drilled in clover. This accident – or skip – if you will, allows us to make some really great comparisons.

GRANT: The rye and the wheat were planted about the same time late last August. Most of the rye is five feet tall plus and the wheat is about waist tall on me. The rye has been mature for quite some time. Rye bolts really quickly; grows really rapidly and the seed heads mature much quicker than wheat.

GRANT: The wheat heads are still juicy and just starting to get ripe. You can tell the deer haven’t been browsing much on this plot because there’s wheat heads everywhere. The rye – well, it’s so dry, it’s crunchy. It matured a long time ago.

GRANT: The early maturing rye is a huge advantage for guys like me that use the buffalo trampling strategy or the Goliath crimper to prepare food plots. This matures early; makes a lot of biomass. We come in with the Goliath, crimp it down and drill the beans right in it. Makes a great mulch, holds moisture and deer don’t prefer the rye seed head. So we need to terminate it before they mature and come back as a competing crop.

GRANT: I don’t want the rye seed heads maturing, because if I left these alone, they would shatter, fall down and start growing in late June or July – the wrong time of year – and it would mess it up for the fall and would compete with the clover I have below it.

GRANT: The wheat, on the other hand, matures much later and is very palatable to deer and turkeys. In fact, you can see right on the edge of the field here, where some of the seed heads got a little bit more sunshine that stood out here in the middle; matured a little earlier and deer or turkey have already nipped ‘em off. They haven’t touched any rye heads. Not a single one is missing, but they’ve removed some of the wheat heads.

GRANT: We drilled this wheat into the standing Eagle Seed clover at about 60 pounds per acre. Now, you could broadcast it usually in August/September – clover would be dormant or brown. And you can come over right before rain – broadcast it out; or you can use the drill, go right through it – won't hurt the clover – and get a great stand of wheat. It, obviously, did not hurt the clover. In fact, it helps it. It makes almost, like, a little greenhouse – allows the clover to green up earlier in the spring ‘cause it will warm up in here and protects it. The clover will stay growing a little bit later during the fall. It’s the greenhouse effect of the cover crop, if you will.

GRANT: The wheat, obviously, made great heads – very large – full – and that’s because this clover is pumping a lot of nitrogen into the soil. Some of the clover dies, some of it keeps growing. This wheat takes up that nitrogen and if wheat doesn’t take it up, well, gosh, a weed might. And I’d much rather have wheat out here than a weed.

GRANT: Another huge advantage to this system is there’s more pounds per acre. If I just had clover, I wouldn’t have all these hundreds of pounds of wheat seeds out here. And wheat is full of phosphorous – something deer need and crave this time of year when they're developing antlers and fawns.

GRANT: Rye would not be a good companion crop for clover. This matured much earlier; the seeds will shatter and fall down and compete with the clover. And deer don’t eat the rye head. So, I’m using this for winter browse; they're gonna eat it during the cool season and mulch when I use the crimper. But for my clover plots, I want to use wheat. It’s a much better fit and gives me many more advantages.

GRANT: The big difference between most varieties of cereal rye and Eagle Seeds Monster Wheat is rye has these long hairs that are called awns. And that’s the defense mechanism. But it really makes the rye seed less attractive to deer. Even though they don’t like the taste, they really don’t like these awns or hairs on here. Where the Monster Wheat – well, it’s just clean setting there almost like on a serving dish. When it gets ripe, they just nip and go.

GRANT: Phosphorous is a very important element for almost all living organisms. But that’s especially true for bucks producing antlers. You know, antlers this time of year are primarily two parts calcium and one part phosphorous. And does producing a lot of milk – phosphorous is critical for those does that are raising fawns.

GRANT: This is a great technique that I use no matter whether I’m starting a clover plot during the fall or have an existing clover plot. If I’m starting a clover plot, clover is not gonna do much that first winter. So, I usually mix in about 60 pounds of Monster Wheat per acre – either drilling or broadcasting. That wheat will grow up and be a great cover crop for the new clover.

GRANT: If I have an existing clover stand, I wait ‘til August or later, here where I live in Missouri; let it get a little dry, usually in August, the clover will shrink down a little bit. And either broadcast wheat into it or, preferably, drill wheat right into the clover. You're adding more food in the form of the wheat forage during the fall and the grain this time of year.

GRANT: If you’ve planted food plots for many years, you know there’s almost never ideal growing conditions. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. So, we need to use techniques to compensate for marginal conditions.

GRANT: By terminating last fall’s crop with the Goliath crimper – kind of like a herd of buffalo coming in and trampling everything down – we made a mulch layer. Then we planted or drilled right through there and the soybeans look wonderful. Almost no weeds and the soybeans are doing great.

GRANT: We’ve talked about the slow release fertilizer and we control the mulch, but what we haven’t really stressed is the moisture saving potential of having mulch. Even though it’s windy and you can see some of the small grains blowing around and soybeans leaves blowing – and it’s been that way for almost two weeks now. And no rain – if I pull the mulch back and stick my fingers down in there – well, gosh, it’s muddy down there. It’s moist. And we’re in the Ozark Mountains – gravel mountains – where rain typically goes right through and comes out in China or somewhere.

GRANT: We’re filming in the morning. The sun’s behind me. I’m looking west. This gets the harsh west afternoon sun. Wide open. This would be baked dry if it wasn’t for the terminated fall crop covering the soil.

GRANT: I’ve learned throughout the years, it’s not how much moisture you get at a site, it’s how much you can save – keeping the soil doing good work. You don’t want it running off; you don’t want it evaporating. And this system is the best I’ve ever seen at saving soil moisture.

GRANT: I’m pleasantly surprised how moist that top layer of soil is. I didn’t even have to dig through a dry shell to get to that moisture. The mulch is shearing off the wind and reflecting the sun – preserving the moisture.

GRANT: This is an extremely important habitat type here at The Proving Grounds and it should be included in every habitat management plan. This is an area we had the Flatwood Natives crew come in and treat all the hardwood saplings because they were encroaching and literally shading out most of the area.

GRANT: And after they treated last fall, this spring we came in with prescribed fire.

GRANT: This is about a 6 acre bedding area that we cut all the cedars out of many years ago. But hardwood saplings have been encroaching and getting bigger and bigger, and basically, shaded out the area.

GRANT: Even though we've used prescribed fire in here many years, we could never get on top of the hardwood saplings. They just kept stump sprouting back. So, out of frustration, I had the Flatwood Natives crew come in and do a light herbicide treatment just on the hardwood saplings throughout this bedding area.

GRANT: They treated it last fall and then we came in this spring with the prescribed fire. We didn’t plant anything or do anything. All we did was use prescribed fire. And I could not be more thrilled with the results.

GRANT: Clay and I watched a big ole gobbler fly out and strut right up there during turkey season and now it’s ideal habitat for hens to nest and fawns to be born and deer to browse. We put a Reconyx camera on the edge here; got all kinds of deer and turkey using this area.

GRANT: Just within a few yards of where I’m standing, gosh, there’s at least 20 different species. A lot of ‘em great deer browse, including young ragweed. Young ragweed is usually about 20% plus or minus some protein – very digestible and great browse. This is a drought proof food plot that’s providing tremendous cover at the same time.

GRANT: You can see all the different colors of flowers out here just giving you an idea of the species – diversity of richness. Different species are known to remove different minerals out of the soil. And deer know what they need. They’ve learned that, of course, over time. So, there’s something palatable and beneficial to deer out here throughout the growing season.

GRANT: If you look straight down on it, you see a little bit of bare ground in here. And that’s natural or perfect. That bare ground is perfect for turkey poults to get in and bug through. It’s not thick like a fescue field where they literally can't move through it. This is ideal quail, turkey and fawn habitat. As wonderful as this habitat type is – and it’s critically important for providing food during all seasons and fawning and nesting habitat – it has a shortcoming compared to food plots.

GRANT: When you watch deer in this area, they tend to take a bite, move, take a bite, move, take a bite, move, because there’s never a constant food source throughout the whole area. It simply doesn’t produce as many tons of quality forage per acre as a good soybean field or a well-managed food plot. The combination of both – well-managed food plots, lots of acres of well-managed native vegetation – creates much better habitat then either component by itself.

GRANT: Another question I frequently receive is, “Why do I use prescribed fire?” And here’s the answer. To keep this in early plant growth or early succession I need prescribed fire. A lot of these plants adapted over the years to growing in a fire environment. Native Americans, lightning strikes, other sources caused big, big fires. Now, we use smaller controlled fires and they're necessary to keep this habitat type established.

GRANT: I’m gonna keep a Reconyx camera monitoring this area right here. A: because I think we’re right on the edge of some hardwoods and this edge will be a great travel zone to put a Summit Stand up and tag some deer. And second: I can easily tell what plants and what areas deer are preferring to browse in as the summer progresses.

GRANT: I get asked about the necessary burning rotation in this habitat type. And I started with the university answers of once every five years, once every three years. But as I've lived on the land longer and watched it, I’ve realized I burn as often as the conditions permit. If we have a really dry summer and I can safely burn, that’s when we’d have had natural wildfires and that’s a great time to burn.

GRANT: I burn in the spring; that tends to encourage more native grasses. I burn in the fall; that tends to encourage more forbs or these annual flowering plants. I burn whenever the conditions are appropriate and I believe that’s the best way we can mimic a natural system.

GRANT: This plan worked great and we’ve already scheduled the Flatwood crew to come back this year and treat some additional acres here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Many GrowingDeer viewers probably know that I’ve had a kidney transplant. In fact, just a few days ago, I celebrated my 25th anniversary of having a transplant. Even after all these years of success stories like mine, there’s still an extreme shortage of organs that could give other people, just like myself, much better quality of life.

GRANT: My sister, Alice, who’s ten years older than me, donated a kidney to me 25 years ago. She’s clearly a huge hero of mine. But you might be surprised to know, Alice has never missed a lick. She left the hospital four days after the kidney donation, has never had to take any medications or do anything because of the donation.

GRANT: In fact, a fairly substantial percentage of the U.S. population is born with just one kidney. They never know it until they have a scan, an x-ray or something in the mid-part of their body because they function just fine. Technology in that area of the medical field has increased so much that living related and non-related people are allowed, in fact, encouraged to donate organs.

GRANT: As I celebrate the gift of 25 years of post-transplant health, I want to share that message with you. Somebody out there needs a kidney today and I hope you consider being an organ donor.

GRANT: If you're like me, schedules tend to get extremely busy this time of year with all the great outdoor activities. But remember to slow down and simply take some time to enjoy Creation and most importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.