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TRACY: Go on. Go find.
TRACY: I see something down there and I'm not sure if that is an antler or a stick. I think, I think it's an antler. Yes, it is. Look at that. Look, look, look. Aww. Yes. Awesome. Woo-hoo!
TRACY: Want to show it to us? There you go, good job.
TRACY: Look at that. Look at that. Look at that. Isn't that awesome? There you go. A, a matched set and within eyesight of the house. Pretty cool, huh?
TRACY: Good job Crissy.
GRANT: The season to get venison is closed throughout most of the whitetails’ range, but it's prime time to collect antlers.
GRANT: Miss Tracy, Crystal, and the rest of the GrowingDeer Team have been busy in their spare time looking for antlers.
GRANT: As you can see, we've found a quite a few nice sheds already. I'm especially pleased, given the drought conditions we had during 2017. And this makes me very excited for 2018.
GRANT: There was a minimal acorn crop here at The Proving Grounds this year. So deer really focused on feeding in our food plots and bedding nearby in known bedding areas. So, we're searching those food plots and travel corridors between the bedding areas and the food plots.
GRANT: Based on that information, Miss Tracy and Crystal have found a lot of sheds in the North Field food plot and the adjacent bedding area.
GRANT: We look forward to continuing our shed hunt during the next few weeks and we'll keep you posted on Facebook and Instagram.
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GRANT: It'd be nice if all we had to do was shed hunt. But that's not the case. We're busy preparing for prescribed fire season.
GRANT: Last summer, the crew from Flatwood Natives helped us control some hardwood saplings in some of our bedding areas.
GRANT: I wanted to control those saplings because they were competing for sunshine and nutrients and water with the native grasses and forbs, which are much more preferred than undesirable hardwood saplings.
GRANT: The Flatwood Natives crew simply walked through some of our bedding areas during the late growing season and spot treated hardwood saplings.
GRANT: By terminating those hardwood saplings, it's amazing how many more forbs – which is high-quality food – and cover – native grasses – can grow in those areas.
GRANT: The treatment by Flatwood Natives was step one, and step two is prescribed fire.
GRANT: Tracy and I have owned The Proving Grounds for 15 years. And I've done a lot of prescribed fire during that time. And even with burning during the dormant season and the growing season in repeated times, we couldn't control the hardwood saplings. We would top kill those saplings but they would sprout back from the stump with even more vigor than they had before.
GRANT: We know from past experience that a combination of treatment by the Flatwood Natives crew followed up by prescribed fire produces great quality native habitat.
DANIEL: Alright, we'll fill up, get the backpack blowers.
GRANT: Before we start a fire, we have to make sure the area is safe.
GRANT: There's much more to doing a safe prescribed fire than having experience and burning under proper conditions. Fire is never satisfied. So, we have to have a break or an area with no fuel surrounding the fire.
GRANT: In the southern states or ag areas, people commonly make fire breaks by tilling the soil.
GRANT: Tilling the soil removes the fuel and makes a good fire break. And based on the wind direction and the amount of fuel, you can till more and more passes until you have an adequate break.
GRANT: A lot of places we burn here at The Proving Grounds – on steep mountainsides – there's no chance we can till the soil.
DANIEL: This afternoon we're going to be blowing the fire line around a small glade. We actually have an established fire line that actually runs right where we're standing and back up across the top of the glade. We're gonna come through with the backpack blowers – blow the leaves out, kick away the sticks, and get it ready to drop a match.
DANIEL: While we're blowing the fire line, we’re also gonna be looking for snags – limbs that could fall across the fire line.
DANIEL: Just five feet off the fire line there's a tree. It has a snag on it. The easiest thing to do is blow a large circle removing the fuel from the base, and we'll just keep on going down our fire line.
GRANT: We're busy building fire breaks now even though it's not good conditions for a prescribed fire.
DANIEL: I've hung back a little bit while Jacob is going on down. One thing that we want to make sure that we're doing is we want to blow the fuel outside of where we'll be burning. So in this case, we're blowing it uphill here; that way there's not a large fuel load right there on the fire line where we're lighting.
GRANT: We're almost always using a backing fire, or a slow fire, going into the wind or downhill from these fire breaks. And they move really slow. So, if you make that break 50 or 100 yards back in the woods, you’ll waste hours letting the fire creep through that duff or leaf litter before it gets to the area you wish to burn.
GRANT: The width of our fire breaks are based on the slope and the forecast wind direction and other factors, but they're commonly 8 to 10 feet wide. Because, again, we're gonna set a low intensity backing fire off that break. We're not creating it to stop a full, rolling head fire.
GRANT: We're practical. We'll use creeks or roads or even food plots as part of the fire break.
GRANT: Because we're building them a week or more in advance of when we’ll burn, we will re-walk that line before we burn to make sure limbs haven't fallen across it or wind hasn't blown fuel through our break. Because – remember – fire is never satisfied. And even a couple foot path, the leaves going across the break can end up and letting that fire escape the burning.
GRANT: Using caution and doing this extra work ahead of time can save you hours and hours and be much safer when it comes time to start the fire.
GRANT: If you'd like to learn more about the techniques we use to safely implement prescribed fire, stay tuned ‘cause we're gonna be lighting several of ‘em up this spring.
DANIEL: While we're out running the trap line here at The Proving Grounds, we've got another predator in a Duke cage trap.
DANIEL: This raccoon makes number 37 and we're putting a lot of pelts in the freezer that are gonna go to the tannery when trapping season is over. And we're excited because that means turkey poults are gonna have a better chance to hatch and survive later on this spring.
DANIEL: Last spring, based on what we were seeing in the field, we had a very low hatch of turkey poults. The low hatch was greatly influenced by the flooding we had last spring. And by reducing predators, our turkey recruitment can bounce back up, and we can have a few more turkeys running around here at The Proving Grounds.
DANIEL: I'm gonna dispatch this raccoon. We're gonna head on down the trap line and hopefully we can have one or two more predators.
DANIEL: It's a good one.
DANIEL: Is it a male?
GRANT: Missouri's trapping season opened during mid-November and at that time Daniel spent some time teaching Tyler our trapping techniques.
GRANT: We initially taught Tyler how to use a Duke cage trap, and after he got familiar with that, we gave him a little bit more advanced trap called the dog proof trap.
GRANT: Recently, we captured a raccoon in a dog proof trap and I want to take a little time and share our techniques with using this very valuable tool.
GRANT: This raccoon was the 43rd predator we've removed from The Proving Grounds this season.
GRANT: Fur prices are low, and trappers have to struggle to even break even to pay for their fuel, traps and other supplies.
GRANT: During this period of low fur prices, it's important that land managers pitch in and help balance the predator and prey and even non-game populations.
GRANT: Raccoons and opossums are relatively easy to trap, have valuable fur when the prices are normal, and are vicious nest predators.
GRANT: None of my neighbors, except one, are trapping. And even though we remove a lot of predators, we're not making a big dent in the neighborhood. But what we can do is reduce the predator population at The Proving Grounds and hold it down through nesting and fawning season. And then when they start dispersing, it’ll build back up – it does every year – but we'll hold it down during that critical few weeks of nesting and fawning season – and allow the prey species to successfully repopulate The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: My buddy, Pete, who's a taxidermist and in the Branson Deer Co-op, is preparing all the pelts for us. And he's just gonna save 'em, freeze dry 'em, until prices go back up.
GRANT: And I had Miss Tracy a beautiful…
GRANT: You may recall a couple years ago I kept all the raccoon pelts and coyote pelts and made Miss Tracy a king-size blanket, and on these cold days it's mighty warm.
GRANT: Even on these below-freezing days, the dog proof trap works perfectly. It doesn't freeze up. We cover it with a can, even though we had some moisture. It works great and it's a great tool for removing raccoons from your Proving Grounds.
GRANT: I think it's 11. Don't you think it's 11?
GRANT: Eleven pound, probably yearling male. We catch a lot of yearlings because we've trapped every year, so we're catching dispersing males moving into The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Really nothing to resetting one of these Duke dog proof traps. I like to be on the uphill side of the road because at night the thermals are gonna take the scent down. And remember the scent is what attracts the predators, not the actual trap.
GRANT: When it's cold out – my fingers aren't working too good – I use a screwdriver to do the set. It just gives me a little more leverage. I simply just put the screwdriver down, compress the spring. Do that. Keep your finger out of there, then, because it would smack on a cold day. Stick it in the ground straight up. Just using a little cat food and it's okay if we spill a little bit around it. Cat food has more scent to it than most dog foods. And then for some added sment – scent and smell, I'm just taking a little bit of peanut butter. It doesn't take much. Remember, we're not trying to feed 'em; we're trying to catch 'em. Just put that on top of the trap. I want 'em working in there. And I'm gonna cover that trigger up so they don't feel that cold trigger when they reach in.
GRANT: Got a chance of rain in the forecast, so I'm gonna take my can, put it right over the top. And the last thing is Hansel and Gretel, just a little bit to slow the coon down, get him hunting the area and then they'll find this larger source of bait.
GRANT: You can use a variety of baits – kitchen scraps. But when you're running several traps like we do, I like cat food, peanut butter, stuff like that. It's inexpensive, easy to use, easy to transport.
GRANT: Coons are very curious. I'm not worried about my scent. Once I've got this done, I pack up my gear and move on down the line.
GRANT: There's no doubt that just removing the occasional predator isn't gonna do a lot to balance that predator and prey population. But an intensive trapping program year after year – especially right during or before the fawning and nesting season – can have a huge impact on poult and fawn survival.
GRANT: I enjoy sharing techniques to help others enjoy Creation. I recently had an opportunity to do that at the First Baptist Church in West Plains, Missouri.
GRANT: The folks there had a chance to prepare a great meal and then I had an opportunity to share some of my experiences.
UNKNOWN: Will you help me welcome Dr. Grant Woods?
GRANT: I actually went on my first deer hunt not far from here – Taney Mountain Wildlife Refuge. I'm 56 years old and back in the day there wasn't any lottery. There weren't many deer anywhere. I was six years old when my dad took me on that first hunt.
GRANT: Dad had no chance of seeing a deer because my job was carrying the ramrod. And the ramrod was my rifle.
GRANT: Now, Dad would say, “Now, son, you gotta sit still if we're gonna see a deer.” Ah, you know, I'd sit still 20 seconds and I'd be back with my gun, again. And then when I was six years old that year, that winter, I had a little rabbit trap line, little box traps. You know, a rabbit goes in, hits the stick, the door goes up, down, falls down and catch a rabbit. I got so good at catching rabbits, Dad said we couldn't eat anymore, so the only way I could keep 'em is if I open a door, the rabbit ran out and I hit it with my bow going off. I don't think we've ever had another rabbit. I don't ever recall hitting one. (Laughter)
GRANT: Let's talk about deer tonight. Anybody want to talk about deer tonight?
CROWD: Yeah. Whoo!
GRANT: Well, let's think about this. If the wind is perfect for you, it's absolutely wrong for a deer. And mature deer learn, hopefully, like mature humans, and they don't want to be where the wind is absolutely wrong. So, my perfect wind is 7 to 15, 16 miles an hour, 45-degree angle. Where I'm right on the edge of getting busted and the deer are right on the edge of being safe.
GRANT: Deer have memory, memory. It's shocking that we can put feeders out, in states where it's legal, and not hunt some and just put human scent by others – like a sweaty t-shirt or something. And have deer patterned in that area, and then hang a sweaty t-shirt up there, and see how fast they learn to avoid that area. It is shocking.
GRANT: You will never find a place that's predominately acorns that grows world-class deer. It can't happen. Because the calcium is going somewhere else.
GRANT: They're gonna use that mock scrape out in the middle where there's no limbs, way faster than an original scrape on the edge. And all you have to do to start it – this is really technical, hold on – drive a t-post in the ground. That's tough. I, myself, use interns to do that. Okay? (Laughter)
GRANT: Yeah, I am far, far, far from perfect. Never be the dad my dad was. A lot of people in the world weren't blessed like me. They didn't have a dad that let 'em wave the ramrod around and spook all the deer while his buddies were really deer hunting.
GRANT: And I've asked him many times – because I thought he was gonna pass three or four times in my arms before. He is so tough. I'll never be as tough as my dad. The doctors have given up on him. Nurses have given up on him. He keeps telling me, “Don't call hospice. I'm gonna make it. Do not call hospice. I'm going turkey hunting this spring.” And I'm not arguing with him. He might reach out and slap me.
GRANT: And if there's a person I know going to Heaven, it's my dad. So, although I'm tore up, and I'm very emotional for me – this is really emotional for me – I'm okay. That's why I'm here tonight.
GRANT: If you'd like to visit one-on-one about some of our tips and techniques, Daniel and I will be at the National Wild Turkey Convention in Nashville, Tennessee February 17th.
GRANT: We'll be at different displays throughout the day, and here's a list of the different displays we'll be at and the times so you can stop by and visit with either Daniel and I about your Proving Grounds.
GRANT: If you want detailed information about our hunting and habitat management techniques, come to our Field Days March 23rd and 24th.
GRANT: For weekly updates, simply subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: I hope no matter what you do for a living, you take time to enjoy Creation. But more importantly, no matter where you are, slow down every day, find a place to be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.