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>> GRANT: This is a great time of year to think about improving the habitat and the likelihood of seeing deer where you hunt.
>> GRANT: There’s a lot of techniques you could use to do this, including designing and establishing new food plots, using prescribed fire, and even timber stand improvement. But usually it’s a combination of all these techniques that result in the best habitat.
>> GRANT: A bit of planning now and some elbow grease and you’re much more likely to have plenty of venison in your freezer and another set of big antlers to put on your wall next fall.
>> GRANT: I really enjoy analyzing the current condition of habitat and the huntability of a property and then working with landowners to improve that to meet their objectives. In fact, this spring we’ll be assisting landowners throughout the whitetails’ range.
>> GRANT: Jason, Grant Woods calling. How are you today?
>> JASON: I’m doing good. How about yourself?
>> GRANT: I’m doing really good. It’s a great day for working outside and not so good for deer hunting.
>> JASON: Well, I understand that.
>> GRANT: I recently visited with Jason, a landowner in Arkansas, that has 120 acres, listened to his goals and objectives, and worked to create a plan to maximize the habitat quality and huntability of his property.
>> GRANT: When I start looking at a property, I like to learn all that, and I’m always focused on the best sources of food, cover, and water in the neighborhood. And kind of fortunately for you, your neighborhood is pretty homogenous where there’s not a lot of different. Right? It’s kind of unmanaged timber and looks like fescue pastureland. So you don’t have to raise the bar a whole lot to get a lot of deer traveling into your area.
>> GRANT: When I first pulled up Jason’s property on onX, I noticed what was likely a large travel corridor coming off a neighboring property and going through Jason’s farm.
>> GRANT: For those that are considering purchasing a property for hunting, travel corridors cutting through that property are a big asset to build on. They often mean building pinch points and known areas where deer will be traveling.
>> GRANT: And do you currently have plans for the pastureland?
>> JASON: No.
>> GRANT: Okay. So we can develop that, work with that if we wanted to?
>> JASON: Whatever we need to do with it.
>> GRANT: Existing pastures of any state are often much easier to work with than stands of timber. Often stands of timber have been high-graded and to create food plots or specific bottlenecks we have to go in with expensive, large equipment; remove trees, sell them or burn them; fill in the stump posts; and create a base to work with. That base already exists when you’re looking at a cattle pasture.
>> GRANT: I think what I’d like to do just to start with is – if we could take some of this pasture area that’s not gonna be used for cattle anymore, and I’m sure it’s predominately fescue just ‘cause fescue takes over that part of the world.
>> JASON: Fescue and clover.
>> GRANT: Yep. Good. And let’s create a couple five and ten-acre bedding areas that you just don’t go into except to retrieve a wounded deer or hunt for shed antlers or kill some thistles – you know some noxious weeds – something like that. So, if we make that a buffer along the top there, you can get some native flowers growing with some fire and stuff. I think it’d be pretty for your family. But you’ll have a bunch of bedding there in a style that your neighbors don’t have and there’ll also be food in there. But now we’ve got a block. So, if we design some food plots in here, not everybody going down the road is staring at your deer standing in a green field.
>> GRANT: Just mow you a line as you see on the map really short to the ground – maybe mow it a couple times – and then you’ve got to blow the duff out of the way. Otherwise you’re just leaving fuel there and it won’t stop. And you burn that fescue before it greens up too much, just you know, say here in the next month or so –
>> JASON: Uh-huh.
>> GRANT: – and then you may have to burn it a time or two; you’ll turn that into native grasses and forbs without spending any money.
>> JASON: Okay.
>> GRANT: And it won’t be real pretty the first year to two.
>> GRANT: To establish native grasses, there’s all kind of variables – which seed and which contractor and all that. But probably looking at three to five hundred dollars an acre to get it established –
>> JASON: Yeah.
>> GRANT: – versus some sweat equity. You will get there in a couple years.
>> GRANT: Food and cover is where you can really attract and hold a lot of deer.
>> GRANT: During the dormant season this time of year, prescribed fire can easily be used to remove the duff out of a fescue pasture. For quite some time – unless it’s been heavily grazed – grasses have grown and fallen, grown and fallen.
>> GRANT: There’s gonna be a layer of duff there, which isn’t bad except that duff is covering up living fescue. And if you just go over it with a herbicide, much of that herbicide won’t come in contact with the living plant and, therefore, come spring, you have a flush of those pasture grasses.
>> GRANT: By removing that duff with prescribed fire – which by the way the nutrients go right back in the soil – a little bit of nitrogen will be volatilized, but that ash is pretty nutritious and will remove all that duff. Then we can go with a herbicide treatment and get really good contact with the living plants.
>> GRANT: If you’re starting this project during the growing season and those pasture grasses are green and lush, you may want to flip that order. They’re tall enough. They’re peeking through all that duff. You may want to spray first; brown up what you can; and then use that brown vegetation to carry the fire to set back your remaining living grasses.
>> GRANT: Unless there’s been intensive herbicide treatments or other physical chemical actions, there will almost always be a great base of native seed species. This may be something like ragweed – you’re thinking, which is a weed – but it’s really a high-quality deer forage plant, especially when it’s young. There’d be a wide diversity of plants.
>> GRANT: I’ve got to tell you we have tremendous native habitat here at The Proving Grounds, and we’ve never planted any of it. We’ve removed trees or removed those pasture grasses, kept using prescribed fire on a rotation, and it’s resulted in extremely high-quality native food and cover.
>> GRANT: After the first treatment, well, the process may not be complete. Depending on how the pasture’s been managed, it probably made a lot of seeds throughout the years. And those warm season pasture grasses are gonna compete with the native vegetation.
>> GRANT: Typically, prescribed fire on a rotation will take them out over time, but if you have a really bad stand, you may need an additional follow-up treatment of herbicide.
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>> GRANT: I really like that plan. And I want to make sure we keep this huntable. The big pond, kind of there just southeast of your house, is gonna serve not only as a crappie meal but as a bottleneck for deer to move one side or the other. And I think what I’d like to do is I want you to have absolutely the best food in the neighborhood. Is that something you’re interested in doing?
>> JASON: That’s what I want. That’s what I want. Yeah.
>> GRANT: That ends up being about a – and I haven’t refined this yet– but about a 7-1/2-acre food plot right there.
>> JASON: Um-hmm.
>> GRANT: And we’re gonna call that your big, central, feeding area food plot.
>> JASON: Okay.
>> GRANT: Now, there’s a potential for deer to come out of that bedding area to the east and just dive right in there…
>> JASON: Right.
>> GRANT: …and not give you a really good cut-off opportunity. So, I think what I’d like to do, I’ll just shave off about 50 yards or so on the east side. And I want us to not plant that little section there, and we’re gonna let a finger grow up in between the cover area and that food plot to make a little travel corridor right in there.
>> JASON: Yeah.
>> GRANT: And then we’re gonna leave more towards the northern side just a little brushy area that ties in the big, feeding destination plot in that bedding area, and that way you’ll have a way to hunt that – the deer coming out of bedding area to the east on a north or south wind.
>> GRANT: I’ve got this bedding area to the north, and I’m gonna go down the – oh, I like this – the west side of that fence row –
>> JASON: Right.
>> GRANT: – and we’re gonna leave a little brushy area in there; you know, just let it grow up and just keep the saplings out of there. We’re just making a travel corridor. So, that’s a third way you’re gonna hunt this big, destination plot right in the center of your property.
>> GRANT: But we’re gonna make a food plot on the west side of that pond – and you don’t have to take it all the way to the pond but pretty doggone close. So, it’s gonna be south of your house, and we have about seven acres on the other side, and we’re gonna have about five acres of food on this side. That’s 12 acres. So now we’re, you know, we’re up there nudging a little bit over 10 percent of food, and they’re centrally located. So, deer are traveling and in your land before dark to get to this food.
>> JASON: Right.
>> GRANT: If we have the food right on the edge, there’s a danger that the deer will stage on your neighbor’s property and don’t get to your food till right at shooting light, right after shooting light.
>> GRANT: But you mentioned a lot of deer coming out of the north, northwest corner, so we’re gonna develop another travel corridor that’s got a sharp elbow. The reason I like sharp elbows – deer are turning there – and you can approach either from, you know, either side depending on the wind that day –
>> JASON: Um hmm.
>> GRANT: – and feel really confident you’re not gonna be busted.
>> GRANT: Let’s move down to the timber there in the south, specifically the southwest corner. Okay. So, what I’ve done, I’ve created a really cool food plot. I think a lot of deer – and my design here is they’re gonna come out of that timber – once we work on it – and stage in that smaller food plot and then work north either side of that pond to the two bigger food plots we’ve already laid out.
>> GRANT: So again, creating more travel zones.
>> GRANT: As kind of our final open land stuff, we’ve got that one little opening over there to the very southwest corner of your property. Yeah. Let’s take the northern acre, give or take. We’re gonna put a little food plot – a little, small, hunting food plot from there north in that opening —
>> JASON: Right.
>> GRANT: – and let the southern part of that opening revert to bedding area. Again burn, mow, just let it go. You don’t have to plant it.
>> JASON: That’s what I’d like to see.
>> GRANT: Yeah. You’ve got the potential – not all properties do. This property has some potential because you’ve got so many travel corridors feeding into it. And your property wasn’t really huntable when we started, but now we have all these bottlenecks and travel corridors, destination areas. It’s much easier to figure out where to put a stand or blind.
>> GRANT: Your plan is relatively simple because of the state of your land right now.
>> JASON: Um hmm.
>> GRANT: It’s so much easier to make these bedding areas out of this old pasture than it is to get a track hoe in there and, you know, de-stump 10 acres of land.
>> JASON: Exactly.
>> GRANT: Starting with an open canvas like this allows you to get, make progress really quickly.
>> GRANT: It’s important when developing a plan not just to make a blind or stand location but consider how you can approach, hunt, and exit those areas without alerting deer.
>> GRANT: By creating multiple locations like that on Jason’s property, he can hunt any day no matter the wind direction. The only bad wind for Jason will be one that’s swirling and that’s bad no matter where we hunt.
>> GRANT: Most people know that deer or turkey – most game species – are critters that like edge, especially like a hard edge. Think about it. You know, a food plot in a timber stand or a pond and a food plot, something like that. What’s most amazing, when we finished with Jason’s project, which was a fairly bland property, there are now more than four miles of edge on his 120 acres. Think about that – four miles where deer are likely to travel. That’s almost an unlimited number of stand and blind locations.
>> GRANT: I’m very confident that as Jason implements this plan, the hunting quality will get better and better. And his family will not only enjoy plenty of fresh venison but also the pride and happiness of watching the habitat go from basically a burned-out cattle farm to a very productive wildlife habitat.
>> GRANT: Our schedule is pretty full of assisting landowners literally from South Carolina to New York to Wisconsin to Texas and most states in between. Stay tuned as we assist these landowners, and we’ll be sharing the techniques we use, of course, on GrowingDeer and our social media channels.
>> GRANT: Whether hunting season is still open where you live, you’re tagged out, or you’re already focused on fishing and improving the habitat, I hope you take time to enjoy Creation and, more importantly, spend time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
>> GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.