This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Oh my goodness. Lean to your right. (Inaudible)
GRANT: Turkey season is open in many states and the breeding season is in full swing here at The Proving Grounds.
DANIEL: Okay, grab that.
GRANT: In Missouri, the youth season is usually a week or two before the regular season and it's prime-time turkey hunting.
GRANT: Daniel planned to take Chase Hersey, a young man from his church, out to The Proving Grounds.
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GRANT: A few days before youth season, Daniel checked cards from several of our Reconyx cameras and found a great pattern of some toms and hens using a plot we call Big Boom.
GRANT: Big Boom is located on the top of a hardwood ridge, which is perfect for turkeys to roost nearby; fly down or come into; and feed on the Buffalo Blend. We have a hardy annual clover in the Buffalo Blend and that young clover are super attractive to turkeys.
GRANT: The plot is about three acres. But based on the trail camera pictures, we knew exactly where Tyler and Jacob, our current interns, should move a blind.
GRANT: It seemed like a great setup, but the night before a big cold front pushes in; temperatures dropped; and it was gonna be cloudy the next morning.
GRANT: There were harsh winter conditions with snow throughout much of the Midwest. But it didn't keep Chase, Daniel, and John, the church's youth minister, from getting up and going to the blind.
JOHN: (Whispering) This is exciting. This is your first turkey hunt.
CHASE: (Whispering) It's more scary than it is exciting.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Why is it scary?
CHASE: (Whispering) ‘Cuz I don't want to miss.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Oh, you're not gonna miss.
CHASE: (Whispering) I'm more nervous than excited.
GRANT: This was Chase's first turkey hunt. Last fall he used a muzzleloader and made a great shot on a deer, but it's time to introduce him to the turkey woods.
CHASE: (Whispering) What's that?
JOHN: (Whispering) You had to hear that.
DANIEL: (Whispering) That one's good. That one's closer, too.
GRANT: Not knowing that there were any other toms roosted nearby, Daniel gave a couple soft calls.
JOHN: (Whispering) Now you believe us?
GRANT: Rather than setting up a jake and a hen – which can be an effective setup during the early portion of the breeding season when toms are still sorting out some dominance – he chose to go with two Montana hens.
GRANT: Because turkeys are already coming to this plot, Daniel thought a less aggressive decoy setup would be a better choice.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Well, Chase is out this morning with John and I. John is our youth minister at church. Chase is in the youth group. Chase has never shot a turkey before. Actually, this is his first turkey hunt, so we're hoping this morning we can get Chase on his first turkey. It is cold and snowy. But we're all bundled up and turkeys are gobbling. So, we're hopeful and we're just gonna try to stay warm. Hopefully, we can get one soon, and we can get back to the truck and warm up.
CHASE: (Whispering) Oh yeah, and leave.
GRANT: Suddenly, Daniel spotted a turkey head peaking over the ridge.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Chase.
CHASE: (Whispering) Yeah.
DANIEL: (Whispering) There's a turkey right out here in front of us. It's a tom. You see him? He's coming in. He's coming, Chase. Get ready.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He's looking. Just easy, easy. You're okay.
GRANT: It looked like this tom was alone and coming in.
JOHN: (Whispering) Take a couple deep breaths and calm down.
CHASE: (Whispering) It's hard to calm down.
JOHN: (Whispering) I know. Just – you're fine.
GRANT: The tom stopped; puffed out some feathers; kind of a half strut; and then it appeared he hung up.
GRANT: Daniel gave a few soft calls to try to coax him on in.
GRANT: The tom was well out of range and he turned around and walked away.
GRANT: It wasn't long until another tom fired up just south of the blind.
DANIEL: (Whispering) It's right here. Get ready. He's going to come out right over here. He's coming.
CHASE: (Whispering) He's close.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He's coming.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Try not to – he’s coming. He's coming over this point.
GRANT: The tom gobbled close by and stepped out into the plot.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Chase.
CHASE: (Whispering) Do you want me to (Inaudible)?
GRANT: Unfortunately, Chase is getting a real dose of turkey huntin’ because this tom drifted off also.
GRANT: Daniel felt the decoy setup may need to be adjusted just a little bit – maybe a change of head position or orientation – so he was gonna slip out the blind and make a change.
GRANT: But not long after that tom drifted off, they saw a movement at the end of the food plot.
DANIEL: (Whispering) You're more calm now.
CHASE: (Whispering) Yeah.
DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible) Those hens are gonna see these hens, and (Inaudible).
GRANT: Perhaps these hens would come in and bring a tom in tow.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Two of 'em – two bearded hens – shh, shh, shh, shh.
UKNOWN: (Whispering) It’s (Inaudible) percent chance.
GRANT: Once again these hens went into the timber.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Oh, my goodness.
GRANT: For a cold, snowy, cloudy day, Chase has seen a lot of action.
GRANT: It quieted down just a little bit, and Daniel was thinking about making his move to adjust the decoys when they heard one thunder off just north of the plot.
GRANT: It appeared this tom was working the same path as the others and probably wouldn't offer a shot.
GRANT: When this tom was drifting away, Daniel knew he needed to change his strategy.
GRANT: Daniel begin calling very aggressively.
GRANT: Usually once we see a tom, we don't call much or even not at all. And the reason is we want the tom to come to the hens. That's different than the normal behavior. Normally, the tom gobbles, and the hens go to him.
GRANT: Hearing the aggressive calling, the tom turned around and started working towards the decoys.
GRANT: It seemed Daniel's strategy was perfect for this tom.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Chase, you got to watch your gun barrel. You gotta watch your line, okay?
GRANT: Suddenly, the two toms they seen earlier got fired up.
GRANT: Even the hens started chiming in.
GRANT: Unexpectedly, the close tom turned and ran off.
GRANT: The guys’ hearts sank. After a cold morning, that was really, really upsetting.
GRANT: It may be that the close tom had taken a beating recently. But he didn't want anything to do with the other two toms.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Here comes one coming from the right. There comes two coming from the right. (Inaudible) Just hold on. Hold on a second.
GRANT: He circled around the hill but then locked on to Miss Purr-fect Decoy.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Okay, Chase. Can you see the one coming? He's coming. Chase, he's coming. Can you see him on the left?
CHASE: (Whispering) I don't think so. No, I can't. (Inaudible)
GRANT: In all the excitement and various turkeys, Chase lost visual contact with the one that was closest.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Can you see him, Chase?
CHASE: (Whispering) No.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Okay, just hold on.
CHASE: (Whispering) To my right.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Just hold on. Just hold on.
CHASE: (Whispering) Those two are leaving.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Lean to your right, just a bit.
CHASE: (Whispering) I can't see that left decoy.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Just wait. Just wait. He's going to step right behind the decoy.
JOHN: (Whispering) Is your gun on?
CHASE: (Whispering) It's on safety. It's on.
JOHN: (Whispering) Okay.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Get ready.
JOHN: (Whispering) Can you see him, Chase?
CHASE: (Whispering) No.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He's right behind the decoy. Can you see him?
CHASE: (Whispering) I can't see that left decoy at all.
DANIEL: (Whispering) You see him?
CHASE: (Whispering) Nope.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Chase, you shoot him as soon as you can.
CHASE: (Whispering) I will.
DANIEL: (Whispering) You see him? You see him?
CHASE: (Whispering) No.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Chase, he's right in front of you. I think he's going to leave.
CHASE: (Whispering) Oh, hey buddy.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Okay, hold on. Hold on. Put it right on his head and shoot.
CHASE: (Whispering) Is that (Inaudible) moving?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Right on his head now. Shoot.
DANIEL: (Whispering) You were smoking, Chase!
CHASE: (Whispering) Ooh!
CHASE: When you said, “Look to your right”, I was like, “I don't know what you're talking about.” Then suddenly you said, “Lean to the left,” and John like slowly pushed me to my right. I was like, “Oh, there he is.”
CHASE: I was so confused because he's like, “How do you not see him?” I was like (Inaudible).
CHASE: Well, then ‘cause you kept saying, “Lean left.” So I kept like tilt – I kept like, aiming to my left, and John like pushes me to my right, and as I'm pushing, I was like, “Oh, okay.”
JOHN: What do you think? Dude, what are you feeling?
CHASE: Dude, I'm happy. I'm nervous and scared. I don't know. Because like everything went, like, by real fast. Like once I saw it, I was like, “Okay.”
CHASE: And then like when I shot it, like everything stopped. And then, like, Dan, you're both were looking at me, and I was like, “I don't know if I even hit it.”
CHASE: Like it wasn't until it fully went down. I thought I missed, and it got scared and (Inaudible).
JOHN: You were so excited you knocked the gun off the stand.
CHASE: I thought it did that naturally.
DANIEL: Dude, he just dropped like a ton of bricks…
JOHN: Good shooting
DANIEL: …he just went down.
JOHN: Good shooting.
DANIEL: Your first turkey hunt and your first turkey. And it's snowing, and you got to see strutting and gobbling and bearded hens.
JOHN: And bearded hens.
CHASE: Yeah, I know. I was like some bearded hens.
JOHN: It doesn't get any better in the turkey woods than this, man. That's awesome.
DANIEL: When we first got in and you started hearing birds gobbling, what were you thinking?
JOHN: You didn't even believe we heard birds.
CHASE: Yeah, for the first like half I wasn't believing this. I was like, “They're, they’re doing something weird.”
JOHN: It's another snipe hunt.
CHASE: Yeah, it's another fake snipe hunt. Turkeys aren't real anymore.
DANIEL: We just…you hear us throwing out snipe out a lot. We took Chase on his first snipe hunt just last weekend.
JOHN: Incredible snipe hunt.
CHASE: It was not incredible.
DANIEL: It was the best. It was the best snipe hunt ever.
CHASE: The worst for me. I, I ran so far. I ran across like a golf course; up like three hills; down a hill; almost hit a barbed wire. It was ridiculous.
JOHN: I think that was the coolest part. You were getting aggressive on it. This turkey was going berserk. (Both talking at once) And then we heard, like, more just going over here and then hens behind us.
JOHN: It was just like the hills were alive.
DANIEL: It was awesome.
JOHN: Way cool.
CHASE: The first turkey we saw there, I was like terrified. I was, like, shaking. I was, like, breathing real heavy. And then after that, it was okay.
DANIEL: Dude, you did awesome. Good job. Congratulations.
CHASE: (Inaudible) Awesome.
DANIEL: Dude, look at those spurs. That is a big bird. Whoa.
JOHN: Look at those. Those are good spurs, Chase.
JOHN: That's probably the longest spur that I've ever seen.
DANIEL: Lift it high, higher, higher.
DANIEL: Get your football workout in.
GRANT: That's a hunt that I doubt Chase, John, or Daniel will ever forget.
DANIEL: Man, we made it back in time for breakfast.
GRANT: Like all hunts, the success is not just tagging a critter, but sharing it with friends and, hopefully, even passing it on to the next generation.
GRANT: I hope you have an opportunity to take someone hunting this year – especially a youth. It's a great way to enjoy Creation and share some life lessons.
GRANT: One way I enjoy sharing Creation is helping others develop habitat management plans.
GRANT: Yeah, I would.
GRANT: I recently returned to South Carolina, where Tracy and I lived for a number of years, and visited an old friend, Rob Freeman.
ROB: I see 'em!
GRANT: All right.
GRANT: A little trivia – Rob was on the very first episode of GrowingDeer.
ROB: What an unbelievable animal. He's been rubbing this morning. He's got, um…
GRANT: Rob had recently purchased a property that's about 300 acres that had some pines that really needed to be thinned and some low-quality hardwoods.
GRANT: The pines on Rob's property are typical of pines that haven't been managed correctly. They should have been thinned a few years ago. But since they weren't, there's no sunshine coming through and no vegetation going on the forest floor.
GRANT: So, we come up through here, and we're here now. But I think we're in agreement. I would like to thin – actually clear cut – the edge of the road until we get too steep to get the tractor on. That'd be up to you. You be the tractor guy.
GRANT: So, you can kind of help with that. And then let's take the rest of these pines in here that haven't been thinned like this. I – you know, you said 70. I'd just err, thin more than less 'cause we need some sunshine coming down. We're short of food in here for sure.
GRANT: I, everywhere we look – I don't know if you noticed – the honeysuckle is browsed up as tall as a deer is and even multiflora rose. Gosh, when they're gnawing on quarter-inch multiflora rose, they're pretty hungry.
GRANT: Hey, working in South Carolina today with my good friend, Rob Freeman. Rob was actually on the very first episode of GrowingDeer nine years ago. Rob and I have been buddies a long time. But Rob has recently purchased a tract of land here in South Carolina, and it was owned by a company that didn't have deer in their, their sights when they were managing this property – a little bit of a timber investment. Rob wants to capitalize on that timber as an investment, but also improve the land for wildlife. So, Mark's a forester and I'm a wildlifer. We're gonna kind of come together on a plan today.
GRANT: So, here we're on a ridgetop. It's fairly flat, and there's some decent wood around here, but what I've suggested – and we've agreed upon – is we're going to clear cut this area; de-stump it. ‘Cause everyone knows I like food plots on the ridgetop. The wind is much more stable. It's predictable. It's not going to be swirling. And then out in here Mr. Kiser is going to work his magic and we're going to do some thinning. You said we're taking it down to what, 60, 70 of basal feet per acre?
MARK: That's correct.
GRANT: And probably come in after a year or two when the hardwood saplings starts coming up and do what we call a mid-rotation treatment.
MARK: Mid-rotation spraying, correct.
GRANT: Keep those down, and that will let the native grasses and forbs. So now we have bedding and food all in one area with the food plot right in the center. So our slopey areas, we're gonna thin; wait a year or two; treat with the appropriate herbicide – probably with an Imazapyr mix. That be okay with you?
MARK: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: And that favors a lot of friendly wildlife products – a lot of friendly wildlife forbs and native grasses. So, now we’ll have bedding cover all throughout the property – not just one clear cut. It gives Rob, the landowner, more income coming in to do projects and allows us to have a central feeding area on this ridgetop.
GRANT: Pretty common. You've seen it in our past episodes – especially in these southern properties that the forest may have been mismanaged. We have a total closed canopy forest that anything edible, deer browsed on. 100% of these stems on these briars – which hurt through my gloves – have been browsed on. So, we're gonna turn Rob's property around. His goal is to see a lot of deer – not necessarily big deer. And get a lot of food out here and cover so him and his family can have a lot of venison.
GRANT: It was easy to diagnose that there were more deer than quality forage on Rob's property. They were gnawing on pretty mature honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Neither are high-quality forage.
GRANT: Late March, kind of a late spring in South Carolina. And I don't know, probably 7” tall, 6 ½, 7” tall. They're browsed up on this honeysuckle. And honeysuckle is – everyone thinks, “Well that's great for deer because deer eat it.” But it's the only green thing they're gonna eat. Right? This is low-quality protein; not that digestible. It's common in the south, and people kind of like it. But we want our deer eating something better than honeysuckle. So, we need to get some daylight down; get some sure enough good-quality food in here and go from there.
GRANT: Now we step over here. I mean every one of these briars – I noticed from the buggy – if you look at the tips, all of ‘em have been gnawed off. Every single one; 100% of ‘em. Every one. Here's fresh browse right here. You can see where that fresh browse is right there. Of course, deer don't have any top incisors, just the bottom. So when they bite off, they tear. They don't clip it off real straight. So, you can always tell it's deer browse.
MARK: Would you even say the deer browse (Inaudible) cedar.
GRANT: Oh yeah. You can see the cedar. You know, eastern red cedar is starvation food.
GRANT: When you got deer eating on cedar, that's a bad thing. So, Rob's goals are a little different. He's not trying to grow a muy grande here. Rob just wants to see a bunch of deer and his family see a bunch of deer. And if we can get some more food – when you have more deer and everybody have a little more fun; a little bit more venison. Heck, he might even let me come hunt with him.
GRANT: It was wise of Rob to have the forester present during my visit. That way I could outline from a wildlifer's point of view where to thin the pines and where to remove the pines. We're gonna remove the pines on the ridgetops because that's the best location for food plots.
GRANT: Here's my goal. As far as – like if we had a big box blind back there at the corner – that road where the buggy is – as far as you could see a deer this way…
MARK: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: …clear cut and de-stump. Once you get past where the deer would be out of view of that…
MARK: What about a longer, longer linear lane?
GRANT: I, I – shoot. Let's swing out and get some acres. I mean go all the way over there where the (Inaudible).
MARK: Well, you could go to the edge of the hardwoods and swing back around from there.
GRANT: Yup, yup, yup, yup, yup, yup.
MARK: You know.
GRANT If he's got the box blind back there, if we can see down through here – which I think we'd be able to if he's got a 15-foot tall blind or so – make us a 50-yard chute right down through here…
GRANT: …that you clear cut, take stumps out.
GRANT: In general, we set up a pine rotation or a pine thinning program that will allow the pines to mature to a certain point, then generate some revenue for Rob and allow more sunshine to reach the forest floor. After that herbicide treatment, Rob will follow up with prescribed fire every three to five years.
GRANT: Improving the road system; strategically locating food plots; and doing a better job of managing the forest – will mean Rob's property will yield him some income and provide better quality habitat for all critters and certainly better hunting for Rob and his family.
GRANT: If you'd like more information about habitat management throughout the whitetails’ range, simply subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: Here it is in April, and I'm still wearing a down coat. It's been a cold winter in the Midwest. But that hasn't kept me from getting outside and enjoying Creation. And nothing should keep any of us from slowing down every day; finding a quiet place; and listening to what the Creator is saying to us.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
UNKNOWN: (Fades Out)