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GRANT: Deer and trapping season are over at The Proving Grounds, but that doesn’t mean we’re taking a break. It’s time now to focus on habitat and, specifically, using prescribed fire.
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GRANT: There’s few topics we talk about where we get more emails than prescribed fire. Both England and Spain sent guides through this area studying the resources seeing if they were worth going to war over. And they took really detailed notes. And in their notes they talked about riding across fires that were 60, 70, 80 miles wide. That large a fire certainly changed the landscape – but you gotta recall – even here in the Ozarks, there were elk and buffalo and lots of critters running around that were dependent on that fire habitat.
GRANT: I can't think of a more natural tool to use to improve the habitat than fire here at The Proving Grounds. That doesn’t mean I’m encouraging you all to run out and drop a match and set a fire. Most state agencies offer prescribed fire workshops and you need to be trained and have the appropriate equipment before you ever use fire as a tool.
GRANT: There’s textbook courses about prescribed fire, but in reality, if we think about it, fire happened when conditions were dry. It may be a winter fire; it may be a summer fire. Whenever conditions got really dry and there was a lightning strike or a campfire got out or whatever happened, the fire would take off and not likely was it put out. It burned as far as the habitat would support the fire.
GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds we define very distinct units using roads, creeks and man-made fire breaks to control where we burn.
GRANT: We burn at different times of the year for different missions. We may burn in the spring to reduce the amount of fuel and let the sun get down to the ground to encourage some new growth. Or we may burn in the fall, specifically, to do a better job of removing hardwood saplings.
GRANT: Early February and it’s about time to start using prescribed fire for habitat improvement here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: The biggest concern for any application of prescribed fire is safety. I’m standing in a fire break or an area where all fuel has been removed and there’s simply nothing to burn across this area. But it’s not one fire break size fits all. If there was a big head fire coming this way, no doubt it would be burning and throwing ambers and it would probably jump over here and the fire would jump the break. We plan to burn this unit first. Starting fire on the uphill side and let it backing down to this break.
GRANT: A backing fire doesn’t have much momentum – not throwing a lot of sparks off – and this break will be more than adequate to keep the fire from spreading to the downhill side.
GRANT: You might look at an open hardwood stand like this and wonder what benefits would be gained by using a prescribed fire.
GRANT: You’ve probably noticed there’s a thick layer of leaf duff all around me. That thick layer of leaf duff does a good job of holding moisture which could be positive. However, that moist layer is ideal tick habitat. And by using prescribed fire to remove this layer of duff for a couple months out of the year, can go a long ways to reducing the ticks in this stand.
GRANT: That layer of duff also keeps the sun from reaching the soil. There are all kind of native seeds down in here but they can't germinate because they're covered up by that layer of duff. By simply using a gentle prescribed fire and removing this duff layer, we’ll probably get some germination of forbs and native grass – give it a lot more diversity and even added food during the summer in the stand.
GRANT: This is primarily an oak hickory forest with some minor species in the understory, and those minor species, like sassafras and other species, do a really good job of growing in the shade. So without a prescribed fire, this would come choke full of saplings. We want to burn when the saplings are like a quarter inch or a half inch in diameter or less at ground level. And that way the fire will come through and girdle the sapling and kill it before it matures to something this size that fire won't kill.
GRANT: You probably noticed several dead stems like this one here and behind me. But those weren’t killed by fire. These are all sassafras. And we went through with hack and squirt – a hatchet and some herbicide – hit ‘em one time and one milliliter of herbicide and killed these ‘cause they're simply too big. If we had a fire hot enough to kill this two inch tree, it would do damage to the larger oaks that we want to protect.
GRANT: We are literally right across the road from where I showed you we treated the sassafras with the hack and squirt method. On that side we had about 100% kill and you see very few living sassafras.
GRANT: We tried a different treatment on this side. We took chainsaws, cut the sassafras off at ground level and treated the stump with a herbicide. It seems like that would be a great technique. But when you're out here in the woods and you're cutting all the sassafras and then the crews come in behind you painting the stumps with herbicide, the tops are everywhere and it’s easy to miss some of those stumps.
GRANT: These sassafras stump sprouts are now so large, I doubt we can kill them with the prescribed fire. If we had the fire that hot, we would damage or kill the residual oaks we wish to save. Rather, we’ll have to come back in here with herbicide and treat these sassafras to clean up the area.
GRANT: There’s so many sassafras stump sprouts in here, they're shading the ground and not allowing anything to grow even after a prescribed fire. So we have a dense canopy about five to ten feet tall with no cover where the critters want to live.
GRANT: We will use prescribed fire in this area to reduce the tick population and then follow up with a hack and squirt treatment in an effort to restore these woods to a more productive area.
ADAM: During February and March, the conditions can be great for burning. Almost all of the leaves are off the trees now. There’s plenty of leaf litter, so we’re out today making our first fire line.
ADAM: With just these simple tools – a leaf blower, a chainsaw and of course, our safety gear – a little bit of work and adding a prescribed fire, we can turn a several hundred acre piece of timber that’s almost a biological desert into a beautiful, lush, green spot this spring that turkeys are gonna love.
ADAM: We moved on down the fire line a little ways and this is just a great example of why the animals love a burned area. Of course we’ve just removed the leaves, like the fire will do, and there’s acorns all over the ground. Once we start spring green up, there’s gonna be a carpet of fresh green growth throughout the burned area so all wildlife can benefit from it.
ADAM: The most important thing to remember when you're making a fire break is getting down to bare soil or rocks – if your place is like The Proving Grounds. We’re removing all the leaves, sticks, logs out of our fire break; making it about five to ten foot wide; making sure our fire is contained within the burn unit.
ADAM: One thing that’s very important on prescribed fires, and it’s often overlooked, is snags. When I refer to a snag, I’m talking about a dead tree, a log or even a tree top that’s near a fire break and it has the ability to catch fire and potentially throw embers across your fire line – or it burns through and falls across a fire line depending on how close to the fire break it is. This can be bad news for a prescribed fire. So it’s important that you locate all the snags near your fire breaks and make sure they're not gonna cause problems.
ADAM: Ways we prevent problems out of snags is to either cut ‘em down with a chainsaw or, if they're a big one like this, we’re gonna take our leaf blower and blow about a ten foot circle all the way around it making sure there’s no way for a fire to creep in and set it on fire.
GRANT: I like shooting my bow year around but this time of year I change my practice technique to fit the upcoming turkey season.
GRANT: I enjoy shooting my bow year around, but particularly this time of year, because several states have an archery only turkey season.
GRANT: We all know that turkeys have incredible vision and they're especially good at detecting movement. That’s why when I’m turkey hunting with a bow, I choose to be in a blind.
GRANT: Shooting a bow sitting down often results in changes in form compared to shooting a bow while standing.
GRANT: You may recall last fall, we shared with you a technique I use called blind bale practicing. Where I shoot the bow at a target just a yard or two away, shut my eyes and totally focus on form. That’s a great technique in the carryover in the practicing for turkey season. If you're like me, you probably cheat every now and then on your blind bale just to make sure you're pointed towards the target. And when you do, you notice wherever your 20 yard pin is, your arrow will be inches low at 5, 6, 7, 8 yards.
GRANT: It’s easy to understand why the arrow will be low at close yardage. Look at where my sight pins are in the plane of the arrow. The bow is sighted in where the plane and my sight pin going from the peep sight to the pin and the arrow to cross over at 20 yards. But before that, the arrow is significantly low.
GRANT: Shooting low could cost you the chance to fill a tag. Let’s say you put your decoys out at ten yards from the blind, but the tom struts between the decoy and the blind offering you a four or five yard shot. If your arrow is four inches low, you’ve missed the vitals on a turkey.
GRANT: For my bow, I’ve learned that at about ten yards and further, I can count on my pins being spot on. So, if the target is closer than ten yards, I need to compensate so I don’t shoot low.
GRANT: And if the tom is at ten yards, I’m following that leg up – if he’s broadside – to right where the secondary feathers come across putting the pin on there, calling Tracy and telling her I’m bringing home a gobbler.
GRANT: So, in addition to practicing with the blind bale technique and getting used to the form of sitting down versus standing up, shoot your bow from zero to 10 yards at different distances to find out where you need to compensate to make sure the arrow is going in the vitals.
GRANT: One of the most important things you can do when practicing your bow for turkey season is make sure you know where to hold the bow for those close range shots.
GRANT: Several folks have already registered for our Field Day which will be April 1st and 2nd. But since we announced that, we’ve got some additional news to share. James Harrison – who has won both the world and Grand National championships in owl hooting and other forms of calling – is going to be here during our Field Day giving some demonstrations how he calls turkeys.
GRANT: There are other surprise guests that are gonna join us during our field day and I can’t wait to share that learning experience with you.
GRANT: I hope you have time to get outside and enjoy Creation this week. But most importantly, slow down each day, find a place to be quite and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
ADAM: Listen to the difference. I’m gonna start calling the wood. No. If I was sasquatch calling, I’d be doing this.