The First Steps for Healthy Deer and Spring Food Plots (Episode 380 Transcript)

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

GRANT: Herd and habitat conditions this time of year have a major impact on fawn survival and antler potential. This is a time of year that if we improve habitat, not only will we have a healthier deer herd but better hunting conditions this fall.

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GRANT: Last week, I shared why and how I use Trophy Rock throughout the year, but especially this time of year to make sure deer have access to all the critical trace minerals they need. This week, I want to share how I address the quality of a deer herd diet, especially, during late winter, and what I can do to reduce the amount of parasites on and in deer.

GRANT: Beautiful late winter morning here at The Proving Grounds and the food plots been browsed pretty low. We’re in a drought and it’s the time of year when forage isn’t growing really rapidly. So we’re supplemental feeding using Antler-X-Treme.

GRANT: Even though we’re in a wicked drought, like 16 inches behind normal, we’ve had a bit of rain recently. And our techniques of using no-till drill, cover crop, whatever, have allowed our forage to grow even in this drought cycle. The reason I use Antler-X-Treme is ‘cause it’s proven to me and other people to reduce the amount of parasites on deer. Ticks are wicked here at The Proving Grounds. You’ve seen our episodes in the past doing tick collection tests, and actually, parasites can reduce fawn survival and antler size by 15 percent or more.

GRANT: Antler-X-Treme has a specially encapsulated garlic and other natural ingredients in there that are shown to drastically reduce the amount of parasites. So for the health of the deer herd, and the health of me and my family and our employees, reducing the amount of ticks here at The Proving Grounds is my mission. So we’ve started Antler-X-Treme – after deer season, which is legal here in Missouri – and we’ll keep you posted on the deer and how they look, as far as tick populations this year.

GRANT: Deer here at The Proving Grounds typically have so many ticks during the spring and summer that you can see thousands behind their ears and around their eyes. It’s easy to tell with our Reconyx cameras and we’ll keep you posted.

GRANT: In Missouri, it’s legal to feed outside of deer season, so we’ve been establishing sites. So we want to make sure deer are on the Antler-X-Treme before ticks are really active.

GRANT: Deer can be slow to try new food sources. So oftentimes, it’s better to start feeding on the ground and then shift to using a feeder. That way, deer don’t have to get conditioned to a new food source and a new item in their environment all at the same time.

GRANT: Once deer have readily accepted the Antler-X-Treme, we’ll start putting it in the Redneck T-Post Feeder that protects it from rain and reduces the amount consumed by non-target critters like squirrels and birds. We’ve got a long track record of using Reconyx records and monitoring deer throughout the summer. So it’ll be interesting to compare past pictures with pictures this year to see if deer appear to have fewer ticks.

GRANT: We’ve used cover crops and no-till drill farming practices for more than a decade and we’ve seen a buildup of organic matter, or rich soil, in each of our plots.

GRANT: But rather than just looking at it, it’s important to measure the success of those programs and an accurate and simple way is doing a soil sample.

GRANT: It’s important to realize that plants are simply nutrient transfer agents. If the nutrients aren’t in the soil, or available through the air or something, they can’t be transferred to the consumer, or the deer, in this case. So for crops to be healthy and tasteful, palatable to deer, you need to have plenty of nutrients in the soil. And a way to make sure is collect a soil sample and have it tested at a soil lab.

GRANT: One of the most important things we do each year here at The Proving Grounds is collect soil samples. Soil samples are really the only way you know what nutrients are in the soil and what the plants are transferring to deer. Soil sampling and the results and proper soil nutrients aren’t just about growing more tons of forage. Healthier plants taste better and are more palatable to the deer. So, you know, we plant food plots to feed and attract deer and I want to attract as many deer as I can to the food plot ‘cause I love seeing deer, hunting around deer. So I want my plants tasting great. And the way to do that is to make sure there’s plenty of nutrients in the dirt.

GRANT: I got a couple of Summits right over here to the side. We filmed out of there last year and I want to make sure this food plot continues to attract deer. And the way to do that is not just selecting the forage that I’ll plant, but making sure there’s plenty of nutrients in the soil for that variety of forage, so it can express its full potential.

GRANT: So we’re simply gonna show you how we collect a soil sample, ‘cause some folks don’t get it right and they wonder why their food plots aren’t very successful.

GRANT: The basic tools for collecting the soil sample is a plastic bucket – not metal, you don’t want to get any zinc or something in your sample and mess up your results, rust or something like that – and a soil probe or a clean shovel. I like a stainless steel soil probe, so I’m not worried about rust or something else getting in my sample ‘cause that could show way too much iron in the soil.

GRANT: I’m in a food plot called hidey hole one. It’s about two acres but I’m gonna take 10 or 20 samples throughout this whole field, put them in the bucket, and then, take a subsample to send to the lab. If I only take a sample from one location, like where I’m standing, there may be something going on here, the plants are a little different, different composition of weeds, whatever, that will mess up the soil results. But by sampling the whole field, and then, taking a subsample of that, I have a good representation of what the nutrient needs are in this location.

GRANT: It’s important to take a random sample. So don’t find a place where the vegetation's greener or not green. I simply try to walk to a random area and I want to sample zero to five inches deep. That’s the primary root zone. Now, here at The Proving Grounds, sometimes we can’t get five inches deep due to the rocks. Now, it’s important that where you put your soil probe down – if it happens to be on top of some vegetation or whatever – all that goes in the bucket because that vegetation will die and those nutrients will go right back into the soil – called recycling. So don’t just pick bare spots. Put your probe down in a random place. If there’s a dead leaf, or some wheat, or brassicas there, all of it goes in the bucket.

GRANT: For more advanced techniques of collecting your soil samples, we’ve got Tyler and Jessica, our interns, they’re gonna crisscross the field actually collecting samples while I look for shed antlers.

GRANT: Alright, so guys, here’s the mission – you need to be random. And often, what I do, literally, is take my hat off, throw it, ‘cause hats never fly straight. Wherever it lands, I collect a soil sample. I need 10 or 20. Just think about making a big zigzag pattern throughout the field. All the samples go right in the bucket and wherever the probe goes down – if it’s on top of vegetation or leaves – that goes in the bucket too because that’s organic matter that will add nutrients to the soil. Have fun.

GRANT: Submitting soil samples to a quality lab usually results in you saving money, not costing you money. For example, if you’re planting beans, you don’t need to add nitrogen and you may need to add some phosphorous and potassium. But if you’re planting corn, you probably need to add a lot of nitrogen. And a lab will look at what you’re gonna plant, what’s in the soil, and tell you exactly what you need to add.

GRANT: We collect samples from every food plot, large and small, once a year here at The Proving Grounds. We tell the lab what we’re gonna plant – maybe beans in the summer and Broadside, or whatever, in the fall. And those recommendations are good for an entire growing season.

GRANT: Alright. Good job. Once we’ve got the sample collected – of course, when they’re coming out of the soil probe, there’s a lot of core parts in there. We want to crunch all that up, so we can get a random sample. We don’t want to just give ‘em two or three big cores because that defeats the purpose of sampling the whole field.

GRANT: Once we have our cores all busted up, I stir it up really good. Should about be like flour, or you know, something really fine, so we know we’re getting a random sample. And I see a little bit of the Broadside, some of the monster wheat, and stuff in there. That’s okay, ‘cause that’s gonna die and decompose and return some nutrients to the soil. So that’s, that’s fine.

GRANT: Years ago, I was doing some research on different labs and I realized that some labs report what’s called maximum yield, or at least they can give you that result. And what that means is, oftentimes, for just a bit more fertilizer, or in our case, better soil prep – like no-till drill or whatever – we can have more nutrients per area and grow more tons per unit area. Like a one-acre field producing as much as an acre and a half or two-acre field. Well, that’s ideal for deer hunters, because food plot real estate’s usually limited. We’ve got to doze down more trees to make a bigger field. And we want to attract as many critters to an area as we can. So maximum yield is the result we want. Not just average economic yield, which means, well, you might get more yield, but you’re spending more money, so it’s not as profitable. That’s what most farmers do. They want maximum economic return. We want maximum tonnage.

GRANT: Taking a soil sample is one of the first steps needed to establish or maintain a successful plot. We’ll be sharing additional steps and techniques throughout the year all the way to our approach to hunting these plots this fall, so stay with us and we’ll walk you through an entire year of food plots here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Whether you’re establishing food plots, working on improving native vegetation, or simply getting outside, remember to slow down and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.