Prescribed fire can be a great management tool! Here, you can see three bedding areas with the date they were last burned.
Burning during the dormant season (late winter) tends to promote native forbs. Burning during the growing season (summer) favors native grasses.
By rotating the use of prescribed fire during different times of the year (growing season/dormant season) it creates a mosaic of habitat types.
The fires from August 2019 and February 2020 are currently growing rapidly! They are providing quality native browse. In a few months these areas will provide quality nesting and fawning habitat. The area burned during 2017 is providing great cover for critters now- should they seek this type of cover.
This diversity habitat of food plots, native food and cover located in close proximity is extremely productive for wildlife year round!
I received the question below from fellow hunter:
“I was recently helping with a prescribed fire in central Iowa when we ran into an area of saplings encroaching an old grass land. I see you have recommended both cutting at ground level and spraying, as well as hack and squirt, then burn. The area is 15 acres of old CRP but over half is overrun with 10-15’ tall growth. We hope to convert most back to native grass and a few acres for food plots. Is there a reason for one method more than the other? Is there ever a time to mechanically cut all the brush at ground level and maintain with annual burns?”
I gave him the following advice:
It sounds like you are doing some nice habitat improvement work. If the area where saplings have encroached is to remain in native grass/cover then there is no need to expend the resources to cut the trees assuming they aren’t cedars. The easiest way to control eastern red cedar is to cut them below the bottom limb.
Hardwood species almost always sprout after being cut. They can be cut and then an herbicide applied to the stump within five minutes of felling the tree. This requires lots of time and resources. I prefer to use the hack and squirt method. This is a much safer, faster, and less expensive method of controlling hardwoods and allows the sun’s energy to reach the soil.
There’s some excellent information at this link about which herbicide to use and time of year for different species. Please note that the best results when using the hack and squirt technique almost always occurs when it’s used during the late summer. I don’t recommend using this technique when sap is rising.
A regular rotation of prescribed fire, especially during the growing season, will keep hardwood seedlings from becoming established.
One thing I really enjoy is seeing how many worms are in our food plots. Why? Because there is a correlation between the number of earthworms in the soil and therefore deer herd quality. That’s because earthworms really improve the soil, making forage more nutritious…so more earthworms, bigger antlers per age class. Here’s a quick check of the earthworms in this food plot and a brief analysis of what it means.
Turkey hunters – check out this recent live question and answer session sharing tips and strategies for turkey hunting: calling strategies, roosting birds, hunting silent Toms, time of day to hunt, preferred habitat, strategies for turkey hunting on windy days, and more!
I received a question from a client about planting spring food plots into a recently burned field. If you’re considering the same question or making plans to do a prescribed fire, here are a few points to make this a successful food plot:
Planting soybeans (or any crop) into a burned field is fine. The black surface will result in the soil temperature warming faster there compared to fields covered with forage or that have light-colored soil. This can be an advantage during the spring. The added heat would be an issue if the planting date is when the soil and air temps are high. However, the beans should make a canopy before the temperatures are warm enough to damage forage. A 90 degree outside air temperature can mean surface temperatures are well over 100 degrees on a black surface. Burning will reduce much of the above ground organic matter and therefore some of the moisture retention and weed suppression advantages of having the terminated vegetation (mulch) in the field will be lost. However, the past crop’s roots are still providing lots of organic matter as well as holding the soil in place.
Before initiating a burn on your property, please get the proper training. Use a backing fire when burning through hardwood timber. Backing fires are less intense and won’t cause as much damage to mature trees. Rotating areas to burn will create a mosaic pattern of habitat which is very productive! In your fire training you will have learned that it is of paramount importance to consider where the smoke will go! The best practice is to burn during a day with a great ventilation rate (the National Weather Service has a website with fire data). A good ventilation rate means the smoke will rise and move on quickly. This is much safer than burning when the smoke hangs in one area which can, in the worst-case scenarios, cause traffic accidents for which you can then be held accountable.
This link is to the National Weather Service’s forecast including fire weather. You should be able to refine the location by typing in your zip code or city name for an update to get current fire weather for your area.
Another website I frequently use this time of year shows the daily soil temperature. You can review it at this link, updating for your location. This is useful as I like to plant soybeans when the soil temperature is 60 degrees at 9am – the coldest time of the day for soil.
Questions about how to plant spring food plots? Grant held a Facebook live event where he shared what we are doing here at the Proving Grounds and answered viewer questions to help them plan their spring planting and improve their food plots…plus a few other questions related to deer and turkey hunting! Click below to watch the event!
A viewer from Wisconsin recently wrote asking for advice on where to hunt in Missouri: “My three friends and I are planning a hunting trip to Missouri in November of 2020 as a change of pace from hunting in Wisconsin. We’re looking to come down November 9th-13th. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share any thoughts on what phase of the rut we can expect during the 9th-13th.”
Grant’s advice for this hunter:
I suspect you’ll be hunting in northern, Missouri! I live in the southwestern corner, near Branson in the Ozark Mountains. There are very few nonresident hunters in this area because the vast majority of habitat is composed of high graded forest. There’s no row crops anywhere near where I live and therefore few bottlenecks. This type of habitat makes patterning and/or observing deer more difficult.
I work frequently in northern, MO. If larger bucks are the goal, in general, the further north the better! It’s better hunting (more fragmented habitat) and better soils!
The best rut behavior is usually around November 1st through the 8th + -. This is because the majority of does become receptive somewhere close to the 8th annually. Bucks move more distance and time daily during the late pre-rut than during any other time of year. Once 30% or more does are receptive many bucks will be tending a doe and therefore not moving as much as when they were seeking.
With this said, any given day and location during November can be good or bad pending on if a receptive doe moves in front of where you are hunting. The odds are better when more bucks are moving during daylight hours seeking receptive does.
Missouri’s firearm’s season will November 14-24.
Last summer (August 26th), Clay filmed this buck named “Moose” at the Crabapple food plot of Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans. This was the last encounter we had of Moose during the summer. Moose then went MIA (Missing In Action).
Then recently while working a prescribed fire the crew found the remains of this big buck. It’s normal for our team to find deer that died over the winter when we’re in the woods post-season shed hunting, scouting for turkeys, doing prescribed fire and that kind of thing. Moose is one of several bucks we have found this year. I don’t know if more bucks died than normal or we simply found more than normal. Fortunately we have excellent numbers of older age class bucks!
In this video from the field, Daniel shares more thoughts on finding this buck.
Recently Daniel traveled 2 hours northeast of The Proving Grounds to assist a landowner with his habitat and hunting improvement plan. This 50 acre property was primarily a hardwood timber which made it difficult to pattern and hunt deer, especially during years with high acorn production.
Daniel designed several food plots that would create multiple pinch points and hunting locations. This plan allows hunters to be able to hunt the food plots when deer are seeking forage there.
When deer are seeking acorns or moving through the property to reach a different destination, hunters can effectively hunt the pinch points around the edges of the plots.
Daniel also laid out several walking paths, so the landowner can effectively enter, hunt and exit a hunting location without alerting deer.
Having multiple pinch points and access trails gives this landowner hunting locations for any wind direction.
We look forward to hearing about the progress of this project and suspect this landowner and his family will enjoy many successful hunts!
We recently worked on a property in Northern Missouri. The landowner had portions of the property logged a few years ago. Critters are spending lots of time in those areas, but there are several things we needed to change. We made several changes to the current management system, and will change the way timber is harvested from this property in the future! You can view this entire management plan on a future episode of GrowingDeer!