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DANIEL: (Whispering) This is what’s happening. We’re attracting and holding big deer now.

GRANT: During the spring of 2014, I met Daniel Stefanoff and is brother-in-law, Brandon Pittman. Daniel had purchased 100 acres in central Oklahoma and was interested in improving the habitat and hunting quality.

GRANT: As we toured the property and visited, I realized Daniel was relatively new to hunting and this was the first property he’d owned and wanted to improve.

GRANT: So, we took some time to really explain the steps necessary to meet his objectives.

GRANT: We’re going to do some TSI, timber stand improvement. And the most efficient way here is going to be hack-and-squirt like we demonstrated. We’re going to add a lot of acres of food plots on ridge tops. And that’s where you’re gonna be because you can get in there with a constant wind direction without alerting deer.

GRANT: Daniel is a quick student and hard worker. So, it didn’t take long for that property to become a gem and then someone wanted it more than Daniel did. So, he took those resources and poured them into a larger property.

GRANT: This property was a bit larger – about 400 acres – but I’ve got to tell you, I think it was even rougher.

GRANT: However, Daniel had learned a lot and it wasn’t long until he tagged his first buck with a bow.

DANIEL: I’m super excited. This is my first archery buck. And man, what a great deer.

GRANT: In this area of Oklahoma, commonly called the cross timbers because the timbers are so poor, they were only used for railroad ties or cross ties.

GRANT: The primary habitat is cattle pasture, fescue pasture and high graded hardwoods.

GRANT: Daniel had learned that by adding food resources and quality cover, more critters would use the property and their quality would increase.

GRANT: Daniel had used the Release Process to improve both his food plots and native vegetation. And it wasn’t but a couple years until it was looking good.

GRANT: In addition to transforming the looks of the property, Daniel and his family knew the project was working because they had tagged some nice bucks.

DANIEL: Very, very, very cool.

GRANT: Daniel’s Reconyx cameras had been taking pictures of other good bucks on his property.

ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also, by Reconyx, Green Cover Food Plots, Winchester, Lacrosse Footwear, Thlete Outdoor Apparel, Morrel Targets, RTP Outdoors, Fourth Arrow, HuntStand, Scorpion Venom Archery, Case IH Tractors, Burris Optics, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

GRANT: It’s easy to talk about bucks. But Daniel and his group had done the hard work of harvesting does.

GRANT: You know, when you improve a property, the does on that property will typically become more productive. More fawns will survive and deer that use maybe 10 or 20 percent of their home range on that property and 80 percent on the neighbors will often shift and spend more time on the property with improved habitat.

GRANT: There is a limit to how much a property can be improved, and as more and more deer use that property, at some level, there’s more mouths than quality groceries. And that’s why doe harvest is so important.

GRANT: But it’s not just a static level. You kind of figure out you want ‘x’ quality of deer. So, I need ‘x’ quality and quantity of groceries. Is there more mouths than groceries? And that’s how a doe harvest should be calculated.

DANIEL: Doe down.

GRANT: Daniel had been disciplined about harvesting does. But he thought there was more room to improve the property. So, the last couple of years he went into some closed canopy, low-quality hardwood areas and worked to open up that canopy.

GRANT: There’s more to improving the habitat in low-quality hardwoods than opening up the canopy. Often it needs to be paired with the use of prescribed fire.

GRANT: In most areas, there’s high-quality native grass and forb seeds in the soil. They’re there from years, even decades ago. But you need to use fire in addition to getting sunlight down to the soil to remove that duff layer, maybe kill some hardwood saplings and allow that seed bank to be expressed.

GRANT: As a result of his work, Daniel is seeing a lot of different species of native grasses and forbs and that’s not only beneficial for wildlife, but it’s very esthetically pleasing. Basically, you’re creating a prairie habitat.

GRANT: Think about a prairie with all the different colors of grasses and forbs out there. And different species of primarily forbs means there’s high-quality forage for critters throughout the year.

GRANT: It’s important to know that deer are what’s called balance dieters. They will adjust their diet, unlike me, and most humans. They’ll adjust their diet by what they need.

GRANT: And this research was primarily done in Texas where they put a whole bunch of feeders in a small 200-acre enclosure, or high fence area, with a bunch of deer in there. But, basically, more pelletized food, more high-quality food than the deer could eat. And the theory was that the deer would eat that food, but also the best-quality browse.

GRANT: But because they were eating so much of the high-quality, basically, deer feed, they didn’t eat best browse. They ate the low-quality browse to balance their diet.

GRANT: Now, this research was really intense. They weren’t just looking that pounds of stuff consumed but looking at a lot of other issues as convincing research. And we see that here at Proving Grounds.

GRANT: You know, right next to a really high-quality food plot, we’ll see some high-quality native vegetation deer aren’t browsing very hard and they’ll be eating species you don’t commonly see them browse on because they’re balancing their nutritional needs.

GRANT: Maybe they’re getting that really high-quality protein out of the food plot, young clover, or something like that. And then they’re going over here in the bushes and eating some pretty rough stuff to get the fiber they need.

GRANT: There’s no pellet that’s going to replace the diversity and nutritional quality of high-quality native forage. Now, high-quality native forage typically means fire is going through there every couple of years or so and setting it back so, it doesn’t mature. More mature plants typically aren’t as palatable or nutritious as brand-new plants.

GRANT: Daniel’s work has not only provided high-quality habitat for deer, turkey, quail and a lot of non-game species. It’s just simply beautiful to look at.

GRANT: As an example of all this fits together and the results of doing high-quality habitat work, let’s check out one of Daniel’s recent hunts.

GRANT: It was a beautiful morning during Oklahoma’s firearm season, and Daniel was in a Redneck blind overlooking some high-quality native vegetation that joined the food plot.

GRANT: From the blind, Daniel could cover a lot of area. That’s the technique that I like to use during firearm season. And especially, he could cover a travel corridor, that edge between the native vegetation and the plot.

GRANT: It was early during the hunt when Daniel spotted a large antlered buck at the bottom of the hill.

GRANT: The buck worked the scrape at the edge of the food plot. And scrapes can be really good markers of travel corridors.

DANIEL: (Whispering) (Indiscernible)

GRANT: Daniel had a lot of history with this buck and believed he was six years old.

GRANT: I’ve shared many times one of my favorite hunting strategies during the rut and during firearm season is to overlook large areas of native vegetation because you can cover so much ground and it’s such an attractive type of habitat for that time of year.

GRANT: Buck that are seeking a receptive doe will often cruise the downwind side of these cover areas. They can cover a lot of acres with their nose just like we’re covering a lot of acres using our eyes.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Man, that’s awesome. Good job. I mean it’s just – it’s so fantastic to watch these deer. I mean this is our sixth year on this farm and just doing all of the food plots. And like this area right through here, we – two years ago, we had all of this area laid down and created all this bedding. Plus, you get free food out of it. Deer are in here during the summer eating.

DANIEL: (Whispering) Though, we put all of the money into the food plots, but then you put your money in taking care of the timber stand stuff. And it’s just free from here on out. Burnt it – it’s free food. It’s free cover.

DANIEL: (Whispering) This is what’s happening. We’re attracting and holding big deer to this farm now. Golly. That’s awesome.

GRANT: Congratulations, Daniel, on a great Oklahoma buck, and more importantly, the results of your hard work.

GRANT: Just a few days after Daniel’s hunt, Brandon and his wife, Brecka were using the same strategy, but at a different location on the farm. They saw a large antlered buck step out of the native vegetation.

BRECKA: (Whispering). Oh, I can see him right there. Oh.

GRANT: Two good bucks tagged and more on the Reconyx cameras. Man, that is a great testimony to Daniel’s habitat improvement work on 400 acres of low fence land in central Oklahoma.

GRANT: New Year’s is a time that many folks reflect and plan. And I hope your plans include a lot of outdoor activities and all the healthy benefits that are associated with spending time in Creation.

GRANT: My work allows me to spend a lot of time out in Creation and meet folks that are like minded. You know, no matter what you do every day, I hope you take some time to get outside and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, that every day you make time to be quiet and seek the Creator’s will for your life.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.