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RADIO: The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning. Folks, looks like we’re gonna get snow, snow and more snow piling up…
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GRANT: Hey. It’s Wednesday, February 2nd, and my family and some friends are out playing in snow with this huge storm that’s hit most of America. And it is fun to be out here, but as a wildlife biologist, I’m very concerned about the wildlife. I mean ground cover food is totally unavailable. Temperatures last night were seven or eight. It’s up to 14, now, here in southern Missouri, headed to five below tonight. Much colder in the upper Midwest, so anything on the ground level, wheat, rye, oats, is totally out of the picture. It’s frozen and not palatable, not digestible.
GRANT: It’s Friday, February 4th, and we’re just getting hit with one storm after another, here at The Proving Grounds, which is okay, because our land is well managed, and we want to eliminate as much stress as we can on wildlife. You know, you’ve seen in past episodes, we got great cover, and we’re okay on that. But deer generate heat from inside their body, and then, they stick their hair out, so they can trap that heat, or that hot air. It’s like you and I adding another layer on. But if they don’t have a good diet, they’re not generating heat. Doesn’t matter how many coats you have on, if you’re not generating any heat to hold that in.
GRANT: This is a clover food plot, and clearly, if I was counting on it to feed the wildlife – specifically, the deer and turkey – at my property right now, I’d be out of luck. I just walked the length of this field, and I didn’t see one place where deer are pawing, or trying to get down to the forage. And the reason is that forage is not worth the energy to get there. Now, there may be some places where you see deer pawing in an alfalfa feed or clover field, because that’s the best food available within their range. That’s not the case, here at The Proving Grounds, and the reason is, I have standing grain.
GRANT: Clover’s batting about a zero, right now. Let’s go right over the edge here and look at some standing soybeans.
GRANT: We’re literally 20/30 yards from where we were at that utilization cage in the soybean field. And at first glance, this doesn’t look much better. But 20 yards behind us, or 30 or 40, there’s plenty more bean pods in this part of the food plot. The lesson here is although there’s a few pods left, you can tell deer almost did not consume any of the stocks – just barely nipped off the top, but hardly not much. You know, two percent of the whole plant, and that’s because there’s no nutrient value there. And that’s because this plant put all of its resources from the roots on up into this pod. It’s like storing everything into this living tissue. This is still alive. If we planted it, it would grow. It’s just dormant, right now. It’s putting all of it into this, to start over next year. Just like clover and alfalfa, or oak trees, move everything down to the root to survive the dormant period, all winter long, and start again. Where deer don’t have access to the roots of clover and alfalfa, or oak trees. They have access to the pod – the good stuff, and that’s why I really like standing grain as a wildlife forage for deer, and other species, also. Especially, during these tougher times of year, these stress periods.
GRANT: Now, the secret, for me is, as a manager, have I balanced my herd density – the amount of deer – with the amount of forage to get through the winter? You never know if it’s gonna be a tough one, or not. And I gotta have enough forage out here to make sure my deer have enough, even in a bad winter. The energy they have access to now, or the food they have access to, is a huge factor in determining how many fawns they will produce next year, even though they’re pregnant now. Will they abort, or hold those fawns, and will they be healthy? Will the mother’s make plenty of milk? And likewise, will those bucks have plenty of resources to maximize their potential of antler growth next year? It’s all about reducing stress, and a major way to do that is making sure they got plenty of food sources during the stress periods. Let’s check out another part of the field.
GRANT: Colton and I have simply moved another 10 or 15 yards into the field, and it’s pretty obvious that about 50 percent of the pods are missing. You know, you see one left on top, or several down; one left here. And you may think that’s just random eating by wildlife – primarily deer here – but that’s not the case. Research clearly shows that cows, and deer, selectively forage the best quality forage available to them. Deer are some of the most selective feeders known to mankind, literally. And they use their sense of smell, and maybe, sense of taste, maybe, sense of sight – I’m not sure of that – to select the best quality.
GRANT: So, when researchers, like myself, go through a field, and just do what’s called a hand grab – we hand grab samples – send that off to the lab, and have it ground up, so we can see the amount of protein, and other qualities of that plant – we’re taking a representative sample of the whole field. We’re not necessarily getting a representative sample of what the deer consumed, unless they consume everything in the field. So come March, or a little later, I’ll do my hand grab samples to see what’s the bottom of the bucket. What’s the worst case scenario they’re consuming? Knowing that the best forage has already been consumed. And that’s important. When you see all the ads in the magazines, or you know, what’s going on? People making claims about no matter what the brand is, any quality of forage. You might want to think how that’s collected; in what conditions that’s under; and how do those conditions reflect your food plot? Did you add that much fertilizer or, or what’s going on? These all are just all important variables, and again, I can’t stress enough. You want to think about – what are your deer eating right now? Because the stress they’re going right now is a huge factor to fawn and antler development during the 2011 season you hope to participate in.
GRANT: Colton and I moved another 50/60 yards, or towards the very center of this food plot. And you’ll notice that most of the beans have solid pods all the way up. The deer simply have not consumed them all. They haven’t ventured this far into the field, cause they didn’t need to, to get good quality forage, and there’s no need for them to spend energy getting here, or expose their self to predation.
GRANT: Now, when we come on our shed hunt, which will be March 18th through 20th this year, I’ll certainly be walking through the center of all plots, because by that time of year, they’ll be roaming around here and may drop an antler out here in the middle. But while there’s still ample food closer to the edges, and predators are hunting hard, those deer are gonna spend the least amount of energy necessary to fill their tummies with high quality forage. You know, the ground is frozen; we’ve been down in single digits, or below zero, several nights now. And as long as the mice, or rabbits, are underneath that, coyotes can’t dig to ‘em very well. Coyotes are hungry. They’re burning a lot of calories, and no doubt in my mind, they’re either harassing, or killing deer daily here at The Proving Grounds. I don’t wanta lose deer to predators. I want to be the predator. So I want my deer to have ample food, and ample cover, so predation is at the lowest level acceptable to me.
GRANT: Hey. I hope we’re sharing some valuable information that you can use to interact with wildlife where you hunt. I hope you share our site with your friends, if you think it's good information. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: No, Tracy. We’re not stuck again.
GRANT: Yes. I’m taking care of Colton.
TRACY: See you in a minute.
GRANT: Yes. We’ll be home soon.
GRANT: Ms. Tracy told me, “Now, whatever you do, don’t get stuck out there today,” so don’t let her watch this episode.