Category: Whitetail Habitat Management

Manipulating Deer Travel Patterns

By GrowingDeer,

Deer often take the path of least resistance. They may seem to meander aimlessly when they are browsing, feeding on acorns, etc. However, when they travel from feeding to bedding areas they almost always take the path of least resistance that they don’t associate with danger.

In some areas such as farm country where cover is limited it’s easy to find existing deer trails. Hunters in these areas often place stands along these trails.

Deer travel on the safest and easiest path

A before and after look at a path made next to one of the treestands.

In areas where the landscape is primarily covered by timber deer tend to walk in general areas because cover is often similar over large areas. In timber stands that are about the same age there isn’t an obvious path of least resistance.

This scenario can work in a hunter’s favor because it is easy to create a path of least resistance where it’s an advantage to hunters! By using a handsaw, weed eater, backpack blower, and/or a garden rake it’s easy to create a path of least resistance! I’m amazed at how fast deer will adapt to trails created using this simple technique.

Keep in mind deer aren’t going to travel hundreds of yards simply to use such a trail. However, if deer pass within 100 yards or so of an area (but not on a specific trail) they will often adapt and bottleneck down to using a path created as described above.

If you are frustrated because deer seem to wander in general areas rather than use a trail try creating a path of least resistance. It’s a great technique that can help add venison to your freezer!

Nicolas Halchin

Preparing For Hunting Season – Episode #290

By GrowingDeer,

Watch episode #290 to see how we prepare for hunting season.

Happening now: young soybean food plots are a great place to film early June velvet. We got the cameras out and were not disappointed. A summer project for deer season: sweet! We just created a HotZone harvest area. This hot spot is designed to bring deer into bow range this fall. We’ll show you how we did it.

Fire last season  – today’s amazing results!
Watch this episode as we return to the scene of last season’s prescribed fire. It’s amazing. The fire released a stunning amount of plant diversity providing deer and turkey a very large variety of food and bedding throughout the growing season. A key addition to nearby food plots! Fire is a big effort, that can give you a big return!

Oh no! Groundhogs are all over our soybeans! Where’s the Winchester? It’s time for some summer hunting! A doe licks a Trophy Rock.

Tip of the Week:

Hungry fawns are on the ground. Help does get all the trace minerals they need. We use all natural Trophy Rock; helping does raise healthy fawns. PS: Add a trail camera too!

Burning With Troy Landry – Episode #279

By GrowingDeer,

Burning with Troy Landry in episode #279.

The gator man, Troy Landry, is out of the swamp and on dry ground ready to burn! Watch this episode to see the follow-up to Grant prescribing fire to improve Troy’s Kansas hunting property. Plus, there’s still time to frost seed clover. Adam demonstrates how to repair older clover plots this time of year.

We supply minerals to our deer herd.

Tip of the Week:

Spring: Both bucks and does crave minerals.

Strategically place some all natural Trophy Rocks.

Then add a trail camera and watch the show!




Warning: This video contains information about prescribed fire which is a management tool for trained professionals using the appropriate tools for the situation.

Prescribed Fire – Episode #274

By GrowingDeer,

From start to finish on a dormant season prescribed fire in episode #274.

It’s a great time of year for using prescribed fire on your proving grounds. The benefits of fire are huge! Properly used, fire promotes native forage, cover and kills ticks! North and east facing slopes can be difficult to burn, but the dormant season (right now) is your best bet to get good results. Caution: Fire is never satisfied. Watch this episode as we take you from start to finish on a dormant season prescribed fire!

Tip of the Week:GDTV274-TipPhoto-1

Want more Troy Landry?

Check out our new web page, Clips!

It’s where we have extra clips not used in the main episode.

There’s more Troy, just go to Clips!



Warning: This video contains information about prescribed fire which is a management tool for trained professionals using the appropriate tools for the situation.

Dormant Season Prescribed Fires

By GrowingDeer,

February can be a very slow time of year for hunters, but not for us! There are plenty of things every wildlife manager can do during this time of year to improve the habitat at their property! One project that we’ve been practicing lately is prescribed fires!

Using prescribed fire as a deer management tool

Always be careful when using prescribed fire because you can cause serious damage to trees.

There are areas on The Proving Grounds that we haven’t been able to successfully burn over the years due to slope, shade, moisture, etc. Typically these areas are on the eastern or northern slopes where during the summer the leaves on the trees shade out the forest floor and the leaves are usually still too damp to burn. During this time of year we can reach low humidity levels; when timed with dry conditions and no leaves on the trees, we can burn areas that haven’t seen fire in several years. Burning areas like these will remove most of the leaf litter and decrease the amount of ticks in this area. This happens when the tick habitat (leaf litter) is removed during the fire.

It’s a great time of year for prescribed fires on your property! Don’t let the dog days of winter get you down, get out and improve your habitat!

Daydreaming of long beards and long spurs,


Warning: This blog contains information about prescribed fire which is a management tool for trained professionals using the appropriate tools for the situation.

Controlling Invasive Plants to Improve Deer Habitat

By GrowingDeer,

The heat of summer is upon us and our food plots and native vegetation are starting to mature. For me, this sea of green is a reminder to look at all the plants that are growing on the land that I hunt. Specifically, I am looking for invasive plants. When I find them, I mark the locations of these invasive species on a map. This helps me to more efficiently implement a control plan as well as track the spread of individual species from year to year. These plants take valuable resources such as sun, space, nutrients, and water away from other native vegetation that are more beneficial to a variety of wildlife species. Controlling invasive weeds is an important management tool to promote plants that provide quality cover and nutrition for whitetails.

A joint project by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service has a website that can help you identify potential invasive plants in your area ( There are numerous invasive plant species throughout the United States. Each region of the US has different types of invasives that might include plants such as: princess tree, Russian-olive, mimosa trees, Japanese privet, nandina, Japanese barberry, shrubby nonnative lespedezas, bamboo, kudzu, Johnson grass, etc. After identifying an invasive species to target, it is important to consider multiple control methods. Many invasive plants can be controlled through prescribed fire, herbicide, or physical removal. Check out episodes 81, 185, 221, 222 for more information on a few of these methods.

One problem species in my neck of the woods is Berberis thunbergii or Japanese barberry. This spiny, deciduous shrub was introduced to the United States as an ornamental landscaping plant. Due to its resistance to deer browsing and ability to grow in full sun or shade, it is highly invasive. In the area I live, entire hardwood forests are laced with an understory of barberry.

Hardwood forest with invasive plants

This hardwood forest is laced with an understory of Japanese barberry, a highly invasive species.

Through chemical control (application of Glyphosate) and physical removal of Japanese barberry, it has been possible to transform undesirable habitat into a biologically diverse savannah that benefits deer and other wildlife. It is important to note that invasive control is often an ongoing process. Although this property has seen some success I must actively control new sprouts from the seedbed to prevent the return of barberry. Each year I walk all of the established savannahs with a back pack sprayer full of Glyphosate and treat any emerging barberry. If barberry is a problem on your property, click this link for more detailed information on alternatives for control.

Treating invasive plants with back pack sprayer and herbicide

Controlling invasive plants is a yearly task.

There is no doubt that controlling invasive plants is a long process punctuated with a lot of hard work. However, a little extra boot leather each year ensures that my initial investment will pay huge dividends for the wildlife here for years to come. Whether you have a large invasive problem or just a few plants starting to pop-up next to that new food plot you put in last spring, controlling invasive plants is a beneficial tool to improve the wildlife habitat on the property that you hunt.

Happy trails,


Prescribed Fire Can Reduce Predators And Improve Deer Hunting

By GrowingDeer,

Its fawning season and many fawns will be killed by predators. There’s often a substantial difference between the number of fawns born and the number that survive until six months of age. That’s why most biologists use the term “recruitment” to describe the number of fawns that survive to six months of age.

During the past few years there have been studies by many universities that show coyote and bobcats can kill a high percentage of fawns, even in areas with good hiding cover. More and more landowners are acting to balance the predator and prey populations on their property as a deer and turkey management tool.

Unfortunately, most landowners ignore the most numerous predator – ticks. The Center for Disease Control reports that cases of tick borne illness in humans have been increasing for a decade. Most studies indicate that tick populations are increasing.

Ticks on back of does ears

I use prescribed fire to reduce ticks on my property.

Some folks are fast to blame increasing deer populations for the increasing tick populations. This is odd given many deer populations are decreasing throughout the whitetail’s range. Tick populations are strongly influenced by the quality of their habitat in addition to available hosts.

Simply stated 50 deer can feed as many ticks as 100 deer! However, very few ticks survive without good habitat. What is good tick habitat? You might be surprised to learn that moisture is one of the primary ingredients of good tick habitat. A deep layer of leaves, fields of grass that are rarely mowed/burned, or any layer of vegetation that holds moisture can be good tick habitat.

This is because ticks require moisture to survive. If ticks become dry (desiccated) they die rapidly. Researchers have shown that proper use of prescribed fire is an effective tool to reduce tick populations. Fire can remove duff layers (organic matter of fallen leaves, etc.) and moisture for long enough to cause ticks to desiccate. However, ticks will repopulate the area once a duff layer develops. Ticks will be brought into the area on mammals seeking the lush vegetation resulting from the fire.

To significantly reduce tick populations often requires the uses of prescribed fire on an annual or bi annual basis.

Growing and managing deer together,


Trail Cameras Reveal Large Antlers Starting To Form!

By GrowingDeer,

It can be a depressing time of year for some people now that turkey season is wrapping up and the heat of summer is rapidly approaching! That’s not the case for the Growing Deer team as we started checking our Reconyx cameras! We are finding that bucks are already showing antler growth! Bucks have started showing up more regularly at our Reconyx stations, so tracking their growth will be exciting throughout the summer and into the fall.

Buck with new about three inches of antler growth at a Trophy Rock station.

This buck is one of many frequent visitors to this Trophy Rock station.

One of the biggest factors in being able to following their progress is the use of Trophy Rocks. Trophy Rocks are one of the most attractive things you can use to lure deer in front of your cameras allowing you to monitor herd health, fawn survival, and antler growth. We use Trophy Rocks on The Proving Grounds year round, but a lot of people overlook the importance of having Trophy Rocks out during the spring because it isn’t hunting season. As a deer manager don’t forget that having the appropriate minerals and nutrition out year round will not only increase antler size and fawn survival but ultimately result in healthier deer.

Not only are Trophy Rocks great for improving deer health but they also make for some great Reconyx pictures! Stay with us this summer as we share the continual growth of our buck’s antlers!

To learn more about Trophy Rocks go to

Daydreaming of whitetails,


Quality Soil For Quality Antlers

By GrowingDeer,

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.

Brain sitting on truck tailgate with a bagged soil sample and shed antlers

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,


Late Winter Habitat Management: Burning Brush Piles

By GrowingDeer,

Brian wrote about burning up our debris piles in his blog last week. We took that one step further this week. Not only did we burn up debris piles from past storms but we also burned dozer decks. These dozer decks have laid next to our food plots for a few years with the goal of drying out. Once they reached a point of being dry we could burn them and remove over 90% of the pile. That’s exactly what we did this week!

Burning Brush Piles to clean up a food plot

One of the dozer decks after being burned. Once the stumps are pushed away it will be ready to plant.

During these last few years the piles have only provided housing to the local groundhogs and snakes, irritation for the tractor operator when trying to plant, and the overall worst thing, obstructed views when trying to hunt.

A burning brush pile in the center of a food plot

Adam standing next to one of the big brush piles that was in the center of a food plot.

All of these have been a nagging element when waiting for them to dry out. Finally, this winter, we decided they had dried enough to burn. We didn’t receive the average amount of rain throughout the growing season when our beans were trying to survive. After we add the groundhog variable on top of that, our beans took a hurting! After debating whether to burn or not everyone at came to the same answer, Burn Baby Burn!

Once they’re burned, we’re only left with root wads that will be pushed off out of the way permanently! We now have open areas that will be great for planting, which is exactly what our goal is. Now that all our work is finished removing the piles, the bare ground is a perfect site to plant clover or even expand our food plot more for Eagle Seed soybeans. We’re turning the calendar from January to February soon so we have some time to decide what we’ll plant. Be sure to follow to see what we decide to plant and when we do it! As always thanks for the support and good luck on all your off season management projects!

Daydreaming of long beards and long spurs together,