Whitetail Habitat Changes Help Reach Deer Hunting Goals (Episode 452 Transcript)

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

BRAD: Allrighty.

GRANT: As most viewers know, I had a kidney transplant about 18 years ago. And every day – every single day – since that transplant, I have to take a lot of medicine, so my body won't reject my kidney.

GRANT: I’ll start this GrowingDeer episode on a very personal note. We've been blessed with a very large and loyal audience. And most of y'all know, I’m a kidney transplant patient. I received a kidney 26 years ago from my sister, Alice.

DANIEL: (Laughing) Oh. There he is. There he is.

GRANT: Man, I looked over and saw that beam shining and I was like, “Whoa.”

GRANT: I've been blessed with great transplant health. Gosh, I’m working all the time, chasing elk, huntin’. I've enjoyed a great life post-transplant.

GRANT: Recently, I learned that that transplanted organ is starting to fail. All transplant patients – kidney, heart, lung, liver, whatever – take immunosuppressants. Really harsh medicines to keep their body from rejecting that transplanted organ. We actually work to suppress our immune system, so it won't reject the foreign object – that organ. Our body will never accept that transplanted organ as its own.

GRANT: The harsh medicines keep us transplant patients alive, but they're tough on our bodies. And one of the side effects can be damage to the transplanted organs.

GRANT: After 26 years, my transplanted kidney was damaged by those medicines.

GRANT: When we were informed that the transplanted organ was failing, I was told that it’s currently a four-year waiting list for a cadaver kidney. To preserve my current level of health, my doctors strongly encouraged me not to wait on that kidney, but, in fact, to hopefully find a living donor.

GRANT: My wife, Tracy, was tested, but unfortunately, she wasn’t a match. My oldest daughter, Raleigh, felt led to also be tested and she is a match. Raleigh went through extremely intensive testing at the Mayo Clinic, not only to make sure she’s a match, but more importantly, to make sure she’s in great health, so donating a kidney won't impact the rest of her life.

RALEIGH: Quick day.

UNKNOWN: Yeah. Quick day.

GRANT: Raleigh’s blessed to be extremely healthy and passed that checkup.

GRANT: When we received news that Raleigh had passed the physical, we once again prayerfully considered this decision and then told the Mayo we wished to proceed.

GRANT: Our transplant surgery date is scheduled for July 27th. Raleigh will be in the hospital two to three nights; recover; come home and get ready to start college.

GRANT: I ask each of y'all to pray intentionally for Raleigh and her health care team.

GRANT: If all goes well, I’ll be in the hospital three or four nights and then I’ll stay locally there at the Mayo Clinic for a couple of weeks while they adjust my new medicines to my body.

GRANT: I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks, but GrowingDeer will continue as normal. Daniel and the team will be right here taking care of business every day at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: I share this information not asking for anything except for your prayers for Raleigh and my family.

GRANT: Daniel will share updates while I’m gone and, except for the surgery dates, I’ll try to keep you posted on our social media.

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GRANT: I really enjoy helping landowners meet their wildlife and habitat management objectives.

GRANT: Throughout the last 28 years, we’ve traveled throughout the whitetails’ range assisting property owners and helping them meet their wildlife and hunting goals.

GRANT: A few years ago, we started working with Mr. Henderson in central Missouri. He purchased some property specifically for his and his family’s hunting enjoyment.

GRANT: We’ve enjoyed working with Mr. Henderson and designing some food plots and native habitat improvement projects and locating blinds and stands.

GRANT: There is a very limited row crops in the area of Mr. Henderson’s farm. It’s primarily fescue pasture and high graded hardwoods.

GRANT: This landowner’s objective is to improve the overall quality of the deer and turkey. He has family and friends he likes to hunt with.

GRANT: Past plans have included adding food plots and thinning timber stands to create bedding areas. But, there’s still some pasture that can be converted to food plots and still more timber that we haven’t managed.

GRANT: We’re getting ready to dive into the property which will be a great lesson for interns Skyler and Luke to show them the past projects and let them help us design some of the new ones that we’ll implement this year.

GRANT: I’m really big on apprenticeships. You know, that’s the way we’ve built professionals in America in the colonial times. We took really skilled craftsmen; paired them with a young person that was ambitious and wanted to learn; and passed that trade on.

GRANT: That’s kind of what we do here. There is a lot of good information you can get from the textbook. But, until you put some boots on the ground and get some ticks under your pants, you really don’t understand how to apply wildlife management on the landscape.

GRANT: You know, it’s one thing to go out there and tell a landowner, “Hey you need to control this noxious weed.” You don’t really realize what you're saying. But, when you’ve treated an acre or 20 acres, or whatever, of sericea lespedeza, then you graduate and you go out there working for a state agency or private consultant, and you tell the landowner, “You need to improve this habitat,” you have a much better foundation of what you're telling that landowner to do and the value of if it’s really gonna improve the habitat. Nothing beats boots on the ground.

DON: Just burn that. I said, “No, we can't burn it like it is.” All this is just so sensitive.

GRANT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

DON: That fire will get away from you…

GRANT: No, no, yeah, yeah, no, no, no, no, no, no.

DON: You gotta push it out into the open and burn it.

GRANT: And still be careful. Yeah.

DON: Yeah and then it’s…

GRANT: Yeah. We don’t want a summer fire. It would be so much heat, we’d kill all the residual trees that are…

DON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

GRANT: We, we’ll do a, back, only a backing fire. Not a head fire – whoever’s burning it. Only a backing fire. It’s gotta be a backing fire. A head fire, you'll literally have 40-foot-tall flames in there. Has to be a backing fire.

UNKNOWN: What’s that? So, that means…

GRANT: Backing means if the wind is going this way, you set it on, on the downwind side and it will take, it will take all day. You cannot be impatient. And it will just creep backwards. The wind’s pushing the flame this way, but it’s hot enough that it’s igniting the field here and it just backs through it.

UNKNOWN: So, our wind comes from the southwest most of the time; go on that side and…

GRANT: Opposite side. And, and just – and don’t ring it. Don’t just get impatient and say, “Well, we’ve got a road around. We’re gonna ring.” Because a ring fire – you’ll see towards the center. And if you put a ring fire in there, I promise you, you’ll have 100-foot tall flames in the center. You will kill everything in there.

GRANT: You have to do only a backing fire. And it’s gonna take – literally, it will take 12 to 14 hours to back through there. It’s very slow.

GRANT: The first time. After that, you can do more aggressive. But, with that amount of fuel, you’ve got to do a backing fire.

DON: There’s a lot of fuel in there. I mean that slash is – there’s a lot of cedar in there.

GRANT: Yeah.

UNKNOWN: In what month?

GRANT: January, March, you know. Just before it gets too dry.

GRANT: You want, you want that first fire where it will just barely carry. And let’s consume a bunch of fuel. Then, the next fire, you can be more aggressive.

GRANT: The first fire, we don’t want to do on a 30% humidity day because that baby will rock. People in St. Louis will be calling you asking about the smoke plume. Literally.

GRANT: Big block of contiguous hardwoods. Pretty low-quality hardwoods and cedars in here. And once we get in here, see, it’s not providing really anything for habitat. There’s no understory in there whatsoever.

GRANT: So, we’re gonna create a savanna out of this high graded closed canopy. We’re gonna leave the best trees.

GRANT: Phase 2 of this project was to start working on improving the quality of some of the native habitat.

GRANT: So, I’m looking. I’m not in love with that tree, that tree, the next tree.

GRANT: We primarily focused on one stand of timber – about 90 acres – that had been high graded many years ago. And our objective was to convert this to a high-quality, savanna type habitat.

GRANT: And I’ve got a hickory and a hickory. So, I’m gonna make a choice.

GRANT: I’ve got a better formed hickory but it’s not doing this project any good. Right?

GRANT: And a hickory or I could save that oak. Which one do you think I want to save?

TYLER: Oak.

GRANT: I want to save that oak. So, someone go give that oak a mark.

GRANT: We use blue paint to mark the “leave” trees. Blue shows up really well in a forested setting. And we spray about chest height so it’s easy for workers to find the marked trees.

GRANT: After we marked, Flatwoods came in and simply used the hack and squirt technique to terminate the rest of the trees.

GRANT: When marking timber – well, it’s not as simple as going “chhh”. You’ve got to remember – you're painting a canvas and that painting will last for many, many years.

GRANT: Which trees you decide to leave and which ones are gonna be taken out will have a big impact on that property.

GRANT: When you're marking for a timber stand improvement project, each decision is a permanent mark on the canvas of this habitat. You want to think it through carefully.

GRANT: This choice makes me think a little bit further.

GRANT: These are two post oak trees. I can leave post oaks or take ‘em out, depending on the quality of the trees around me. In this case, I want to leave them. These trees are very close together, so it’s a safe assumption – two trees, very close together – that the roots have grafted beneath the ground. These trees are sharing nutrients and water because the roots have grafted together.

GRANT: So, if I mark one and don’t mark the other and the crew treats that tree, it will probably kill both trees. In this case, if I want to save this tree, I need to save that tree also.

GRANT: You guys enjoy a long life.

GRANT: As the canopy opens up, hopefully, more native grasses and forbs will colonize the area.

GRANT: You’ve got native grasses coming up; you’ve got little bluestem; big bluestem; this is gonna be awesome.

GRANT: We’re at the edge of a 100-acre block of timber that was totally closed canopy last year.

GRANT: We came in and marked the “leave” trees and then Flatwood Natives came in and terminated the rest.

GRANT: We can go back to footage when we were marking trees and there was no understory. It was a layer of leaves and shade.

GRANT: Literally, within less than a year’s time, it is a wildlife mecca.

GRANT: There is young ragweed and all kinds of good plants through here now.

GRANT: Ragweed gives you allergies, but young ragweed is outstanding deer browse and quail will even use ragweed as cover. We’ve heard several quail today as we’re moving through and rapidly touring the property.

GRANT: But, we will come back in here – either this winter or next winter – not a summer time – growing fire – would be way too hot. But a winter fire, when the sap is down and the residual trees – and use prescribed fire to do even a better job of converting this to native vegetation.

GRANT: The reason we want to do a very cool season; cold; relatively high humidity fire – there’s a lot of fuel in here.

GRANT: If we did a prime time fire, it would be so hot, we’d probably terminate many of the residual trees.

GRANT: Even burning under ideal conditions for this mission – a relatively cool fire – there is no doubt, there’s gonna be some “hot spots” and we’ll lose a few trees.

GRANT: That’s okay. Because I always leave slightly more trees than I want to end up with five years from now.

GRANT: This is converting a mismanaged, hardwood stand that’s been high graded into a very quality savanna habitat. And this will be the crown jewel of this property.

GRANT: I look forward to following up with this project. But, while we were there, we toured the rest of the property.

GRANT: Mr. Henderson’s done a great job of converting portions of old fescue pasture – or fescue and saplings – to high-quality food plots.

GRANT: I love this area.

GRANT: When I first arrived at Mr. Henderson’s property years ago, this was an abandoned pasture that was being taken over by saplings. We prescribed converting it into a food plot and planting Eagle Seed forage soybeans during the summer.

GRANT: Even though it’s dry here in Missouri, this year, the beans are producing tons and tons of quality forage.

GRANT: Unfortunately, the contractor that was to spray this area had a breakdown and the beans weren’t able to be sprayed with glyphosate at the appropriate time.

GRANT: That allowed some bad, nasty weeds to get a foothold in here and I’m encouraging the landowner to spray and terminate these weeds before the seeds mature.

GRANT: If we can control the weeds, this will be easy, dependent on how much browse occurs by August or September – to either drill through or broadcast in – a fall blend.

GRANT: That will result with these beans making pods and greens coming up underneath. And my favorite food plots are standing soybean pods and green underneath.

GRANT: On the warm days, the deer will seek the greens; on the colder days, they want the high energy pods.

GRANT: I have no doubt, if we get on this and do the appropriate management quickly, this will be a very productive area of this farm.

GRANT: We are on the north end of the property now and on this end of the property, there is more pasture and not as many acres of food plot per acres of land. This particular plot is long and skinny and right next to an area where we did TSI – or timber stand improvement – and I’m sure there’s a lot of deer using that thin timber.

GRANT: The combination of a lot of deer coming right out of the timber 100 yards away and a broken sprayer, which didn’t allow appropriate weed control, has turned this soybean field into a mecca of weeds.

GRANT: When I look around, I see pokeweed, which isn't that bad; a lot of crabgrass; a lot of ragweed; and a lot of nettle. And some weeds that are very difficult to control.

GRANT: At the top of the list is pigweed. And pigweed can literally make about a million seeds or more per plant.

GRANT: My suggestion here – even though the beans are over browsed and pretty thin – is to spray this ASAP – probably will need to use something besides glyphosate to control the pigweed; get this under control so we can salvage it and have a good fall food plot.

GRANT: Unless we salvage it now, there’s no doubt it will take multiple herbicide applications to control the weeds next year.

GRANT: Mr. Henderson is gonna switch to the Buffalo System where we can build up some ground cover; plant in the standing crops and try to get on top of this weed problem.

GRANT: I would mow it right away, let it green up and then spray it.

DON: Yeah.

GRANT: I would mow it ASAP, green up, get six inches tall, spray it and then drill in our fall food plot.

GRANT: Let’s go – if we’re gonna go with the Buffalo System, let’s start with the fall Buffalo System here this fall.

DON: We’ll use the Buffalo System. I mean it’s just got too many advantages.

GRANT: Way too many. Yeah. But, we’re not gonna get ‘em all at first ‘cause we’re starting with the massive weed bank here.

DON: I understand.

GRANT: Yeah, I don’t want you; I don’t want to mislead you there at all, but…

DON: Yeah, I know.

GRANT: …we will get there in just a couple of years or so.

GRANT: Simply adapting the Buffalo System won't control a weed base this large. We’re probably at least two more years of herbicide application in this plot.

GRANT: Our goal will be to get a canopy of desired forage crop; limit the growth of the weeds; control the few that come up until we build a mulch layer that covers the weed seed base.

GRANT: By using no-till farming, we’re not gonna disturb that weed seed base and very few of those seeds will germinate. Especially if we drill into a green standing cover crop, terminate that crop and let the new crop come up.

GRANT: At the end of that summer growing season, we’ll broadcast, or drill in, our fall crop into the standing beans.

GRANT: By maintaining that rotation, we’ll have very limited weed competition and drastically improve the soil quality.

GRANT: A few years into it, there will be no need to spend money on fertilizer or herbicide. And we can use that saving to make more food plots.

GRANT: We’ve laid out several specific plans throughout the property and we’ll end up with a report and a map. But, overall, we need to achieve a couple of objectives.

GRANT: We need to reduce the amount of does and increase the amount of quality forage. We need to provide better cover on property by doing TSI in the mature timber.

GRANT: We need to use prescribed fire in the areas that’s had TSI to stimulate the growth of native vegetation.

GRANT: By implementing this plan, we’ll take this from a good hunting property to a great hunting property.

GRANT: As a brief overview, I’m extremely encouraged by the native habitat improvement project – the TSI – timber stand improvement. Certainly, we’ll be doing more of those.

GRANT: Mr. Henderson needs to increase the amount of quality food while decreasing the amount of does. We’ll keep you posted as this project continues to progress.

GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds, we’ve been in a wicked drought. And some of our food plots don’t look any better than the over browsed ones at Mr. Henderson’s.

GRANT: I set a goal for the interns to remove around 40 groundhogs this summer and I think they’ve got 36. They're doing a great job.

GRANT: We will continue working to remove groundhogs all the way through groundhog season.

GRANT: We will also start day one of bow season with a goal of removing does. Of course, we've got some hit list bucks we’re trying to pattern and chase, but I promise you that if a doe is in range, one of us is gonna be taking the shot.

GRANT: Because of the drought conditions and carrying a few too many deer, antler development is not what I’d hoped for this year. This is most obvious in the yearling class of bucks.

GRANT: In past years, spikes were the vast minority here at The Proving Grounds and branched antler – four, six, eight-point – even 10-point yearling bucks – were the norm. It was dry all last fall and our food plots weren’t as productive as normal and there were too many deer competing for the amount of food.

GRANT: So, the does simply didn’t have as much nutrition as normal and their fawns weren’t as healthy as normal.

GRANT: Those conditions resulted in a lot of last year’s fawns becoming spikes this year. It had nothing to do with genetics.

GRANT: So, putting this on a timeline – the fawns that were male last year had a tough winter nutrition-wise and a tough growing season nutrition-wise this year, so most of ‘em are spikes.

GRANT: The solution, well, it’s the same one I gave Mr. Henderson. Our harvest objective this year is focused on removing does. More than last year.

GRANT: And throughout the summer, we’ve added as many food plots as practical. It’s gonna be an exciting fall with lots of arrows and bullets flying. Stay tuned and watch us as we make progress toward our goal.

GRANT: Oh, my gosh! That and a couple of scrambled eggs – you could climb Mt. Everest. Oooh, it’s good!.

GRANT: And now, the rest of this is another big ole roast.

GRANT: You can now watch GrowingDeer on connected TV apps. We’re on most of the apps out there. You can watch it on your tablet, phone, PC or TV. Watch it any way, anywhere, anytime you want.

GRANT: We’re gonna wrap this up because praise God, there’s thunder and a dark cloud just over here to the north. But no matter the conditions, always take time to enjoy Creation, and most importantly, every day, slow down, be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.