Determining Browse: What’s eating your food?
March 7th, 2014
Obviously it has been a tough winter for a lot of people. There have been measurable amounts of snow across the nation throughout the winter and in a majority of the northern states there has been snow covering the ground for months now. This has brought up the topic of deer stress levels and what the deer are feeding on to survive.
I’ve seen several pictures of deer in suburbs and in yards eating shrubs and other decorative plants. Deer have been pushed to areas where they haven’t been all year because they have eaten all the forage available. As deer managers, it’s important to understand what your deer herd is consuming. During these late winter months Grant and I like to explore our food plots and areas with native browse and study the amount of food remaining and what their preference is. It’s also important to understand what exactly is feeding on these plants.
It is important to know what your deer herd is consuming.
While you’re walking your property and examining the browse pressure you need to understand the difference in deer browse and other types of animal browse. Recently we posted a couple pictures on our facebook page asking our fans the difference between rabbit browse and deer browse. A lot of people were unsure about the difference between the two so I thought I’d explain it more here. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is if the browse has been cut or torn. Deer don’t have incisors on their upper jaw. They bite on browse with their lower incisors and press against the roof of their mouth and tear off a bite. This results in frayed ends of browse when deer are the consumers. When the consumer is a rabbit, the food source will look like it was cut with a sharp edge, like a knife, as they have sharp incisors on both the lower and upper jaws.
Once you understand the difference between deer browse and rabbit browse you’ll better understand what’s eating your food on your hunting property.
Hopefully the winter weather gives you a break this week and you can get out and look for shed antlers!
Daydreaming of whitetails!
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Quality Soil For Quality Antlers
February 28th, 2014
Every deer manager wants to pull those trail cameras mid-summer and see giant velvet antlers. It is important to remember that quality antlers rarely come without hard work and intense habitat management. So where does a deer manager start?
Just like building a house, big antlers start with a solid foundation. In the deer world the “solid foundation” for antler growth is the soil. This is the time of year to take soil samples. Frequently we are asked how often soil samples need to be taken. Soil is of the utmost importance when managing for whitetails, so we take soil samples every year.
Brian and Adam enjoyed their day taking soil samples. They even found a few sheds!
Adam and I spent a day earlier this week collecting soil samples from all the food plots at The Proving Grounds. Using a soil probe, we take several samples from one food plot and mix them in a CLEAN bucket. We then put the mixed sample into a pint size zip-lock bag and clearly label which plot it came from. Be very careful not to get your samples mixed up! Once you have collected soil from all the food plots, send it off to a lab for testing. A local university lab can test the samples or they can be sent to a private lab. The Growing Deer Team uses Waters Ag in Kentucky.
With the test results we know exactly what needs to be added to the soil to produce bigger antlers. Taking soil samples is a great way to improve wildlife habitat and an even better way to enjoy a beautiful day that the Lord has made! You might even find a shed or two!
Chasing whitetails together,
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Frustrations And Celebrations Of Shed Hunting
February 21st, 2014
I mentioned last week that I was getting cabin fever. That statement holds true for this week as well. February and the beginning weeks of March send me into a serious boredom. Hunting and trapping have ended here in Missouri and turkey season, along with the best fishing days, are weeks and even months away. With all this being said, there is one thing that a guy can pursue to try and relieve his cabin fever: shed hunting!
By this time of year here in the Midwest, a lot of bucks have shed their antlers. It’s always an enjoyment to monitor the Reconyx cameras and see when most of the bucks have started shedding their antlers. As soon as we see that the majority of bucks have shed their antlers, we head to the woods to try and find them! Unfortunately, finding these antlers can be very difficult, excluding the areas of large crop fields like Iowa and Illinois. Growing up in the Ozark Mountains, I’ve found less than twenty sheds my entire life. While I attended college my brother and I would head to Kansas every spring and chase turkeys. Just in those few days every spring, we found more sheds than our entire lives in the Ozark Mountains. What was the difference you ask? FOOD! FOOD! And more FOOD!
Adam expressing his excitement of finding his first shed of the year!
Obviously the winter months are cold, and like this year, there can be lots of snow. These conditions push deer to food sources. A deer has only one option to survive the arctic temperatures of winter, and that’s to eat. By consuming food they will increase their body temperature so they can survive the cold days of winter. While deer are focused on feeding to survive, they’re making our job as shed hunters easier. With the deer confined to smaller areas of feeding and bedding, they’re shrinking the circle in which they’ll drop their antlers in. Locating that food source is what we struggle with here in the Ozark Mountains. That food source might be a half acre food plot or a five hundred acre forest with acorns. Lucky for me, Magellan, a 4.5 year old buck here at The Proving Grounds decided this week that the food source of choice was a food plot planted in Eagle Seed Broadside blend. While doing some work beside this food plot I was keeping my eyes peeled for sheds and found his left antler laying ten yards from the edge of the woods. Bingo! It’s always exciting finding sheds but it’s even more rewarding finding them in the Ozark Mountains! They come with such rarity that it’s such a reward!
This find illustrates my main point even further. Once we’ve reached the latter part of the winter months, deer will be concentrated more heavily on food sources. That’s exactly where you’ll find me while I’m searching for those mysterious antlers that haunt our dreams.
Get out this week and help your cabin fever by doing a little shed hunting! We love seeing those pictures with smiling faces holding shed antlers on our Facebook page! Be sure to share them with us!
Daydreaming of whitetails,
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Finding The Flock: Using Trail Cameras For Early Scouting
February 14th, 2014
It’s mid February and for a lot of guys like me, that means cabin fever. Deer season has been closed for awhile now for most of us and the boredom has started setting in! This time of year bores the socks off me and a lot of other people. The only hunting activities we can really get involved in are shed hunting and predator hunting. If you’re anything like me, you’ll usually bury your head in a turkey hunting magazine and dream about the warmer temperatures of spring and all the great activities associated with it.
One important thing I do to prepare for those days is keep my Reconyx cameras out and monitoring the turkeys. Locating the turkeys this time of year shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Find the food, find the turkeys. To make things even easier, this time of year turkeys are usually grouped up in large flocks and could even reach numbers in the hundreds! We’ve received several pictures recently of these type of flocks and have shared them with you on our Facebook page. Many of you have asked questions about why the turkeys are in such big numbers and if they will stay like this until turkey season gets here.
Three tom turkeys strutting in Southern Missouri trying to sort out dominance.
During the summer and fall the turkeys will usually be in smaller flocks, mostly hens with this year’s young and other flocks of mostly males. As the winter progresses these smaller flocks will start frequenting the same food sources and by this time of year they’ve combined to make larger flocks. At this stage of the year they are sorting out dominance. The toms will spend a great deal of their time in “strut” trying to display that they are “The MAN!” Observing these flocks can be very entertaining! The hens are going about their business trying to eat and survive the winter, while the toms are fighting, strutting, and doing everything in their power to become “The Man.” Once they’ve established their pecking order and the spring progresses, they will begin to breakup in smaller flocks and begin their breeding season.
It’s always a fun time of year to watch the spring approach and the turkeys begin their ritual! Preparation for turkey season begins now, so be sure to get those cameras out and find the flocks and watch it all unfold!
Daydreaming of long spurs and gobbling turkeys,
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