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GRANT: This summer our Reconyx cameras have taken several neat videos and pictures of bobcats.

GRANT: One photo even showed a female bobcat carrying a kitten.

GRANT: A recent video sequence is of a bobcat playing with a squirrel. Now I’m sure the squirrel didn’t consider this playing and that squirrel doesn’t believe in the Bambi movie.

GRANT: The bobcat remained in front of the Reconyx camera for more than 18 minutes with its prey. While they are beautiful critters, bobcats are a top-level predator. Several research projects have shown that they can take a lot of fawns and even mature deer.

GRANT: You may recall that several years ago, we shared some cool footage of a young buck at a pond.

GRANT: You could tell by his behavior he was uneasy and kept looking into the timber.

GRANT: As the buck skirted the pond, and began feeding in the plot, ripples appeared in the water.

GRANT: The bobcat had been stalking the buck and likely tried to slip within range by swimming across the pond. The buck turned around, saw the bobcat, stared him down and sent the cat back in the timber.

GRANT: During the past few weeks, our cameras have taken several pictures and videos of coyotes carrying fawns.

GRANT: Though we don’t enjoy seeing coyotes carrying fawns, it’s a great reminder that coyotes and other predators are hunting for fawns throughout the fawning season.

GRANT: Predators hunt for many species of wildlife including turkey poults, quail and even non-game species.

GRANT: We don’t want to end the predator/prey relationship but we do wish to manage for balancing the number of predators and prey so both populations thrive.

GRANT: Even though our cameras are taking lots of pictures and videos of coyotes, they’re also taking a lot of pictures of fawns and poults.

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GRANT: I believe the high number of fawns and poults we’re seeing is a product of trapping each fall and the habitat improvement work we’ve been doing for years.

GRANT: Native habitat can provide great cover and be a source of high-quality nutrition for many critters.

GRANT: We’ve been working intentionally to improve the native habitat in several different areas. We’ve used chainsaws, prescribed fire, and even a bit of herbicide. And the results – well, they’re very impressive.

GRANT: I enjoy seeing all the wildflowers and the diversity of plant species. One thing I really enjoy is seeing deer browse on the native species.

GRANT: We have some great looking bucks this summer and I believe a big portion of their antler development is due to the high-quality native browse here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Throughout most of the whitetails range antler growth will end during mid to late July. And at that time, hardening or mineralization of the antlers will begin. Bucks will be moving minerals from their skeletal system to the antlers.

GRANT: You’ve heard us and others talk about the importance of native browse for years. But you may not have realized its importance for antler development.

GRANT: Daniel found some areas of native vegetation that had recently been browsed by deer. These plants were obviously attractive and palatable to deer and providing something they needed.

DANIEL: Out collecting native browse this morning. We’re going to collect from several species that we’ve noticed that deer are browsing here at The Proving Grounds. Right now, it’s June 15th. So, right now, there’s certain plants that are more palatable than others. Of course, we have, you know, native species that are coming on at different times throughout the summer and native browse is a huge part of our habitat improvement, part of our habitat plan here.

DANIEL: Back behind me, I noticed there’s this patch of giant ragweed that’s growing and it’s been browsed. So, what I’m going to do is I’m just going to collect several samples from the ragweed at about the height that I’m seeing deer browse. I will put those in a paper bag and we’ll send those off to Waters Ag to have them analyzed to tell us what the nutrient content of those leaves or those stems are right now at this stage of growth.

DANIEL: So, deer, actually – they’re selective, they’re browsers so they can actually select which leaves have the best nutrients and they will favor those leaves. Of course, when there’s not a lot of quality food, they’re going to be eating everything they can.

DANIEL: But when they have a lot of quality food around and they have the ability to pick and choose the best plants, we want them to eat those most nutritious leaves. That way they can express their full potential.

GRANT: Daniel put the clippings in a bag and sent them to Waters Ag. This is the same lab we use to analyze our soil samples. But this time Daniel requested a forage quality analysis.

GRANT: The results were incredible. The giant ragweed was 18.79% crude protein. Deer need crude fat and that composed 2.17%. And the giant ragweed was 4.3% calcium. Imagine that – getting calcium in every bite of ragweed and .44% of phosphorous.

GRANT: Total digestible nutrients were 68.66%. Imagine that – 68% of the nutrients in that plant were digestible to deer.

GRANT: When I’m touring properties, I almost always point out how heavily the Smilax is browsed. You may know Smilax as catbrier or greenbrier. And it’s an ice cream plant to deer. But unlike ice cream, it’s very nutritious.

DANIEL: Well, as I continue collecting native browse, I’m looking and I’ve actually found catbrier right here that’s been browsed and there’s large catbrier or greenbrier growing right through here. So, I’m going to go ahead and collect some of the shoots and ends off of this catbrier and we’ll send it back and see what the nutrient level is in it.

GRANT: The Smilax samples Daniel collected were 20.28% crude protein and more than 60% of the nutrients in that plant were digestible to deer.

GRANT: Common ragweed – yeah, the stuff that impacts a bunch of us – it was the most nutritious of the plants Daniel sampled. The samples Daniel collected were 21.12% crude protein and 3.45% calcium. I mean, just think about that – calcium in ragweed. Talk about high-quality forage; almost 70% of the nutrients in that ragweed was digestible.

GRANT: Remember, a deer’s foraging strategy is known as concentrate select. And that means they concentrate on very select or the best quality forage.

GRANT: Researchers believe deer pick which plant and even which portion of the plant to browse on based on infrared reflecting back and, of course, through their sense of smell.

GRANT: Put that together and there’s no doubt in my mind that the forage that deer consumed were of higher quality than the samples Daniel collected.

GRANT: These samples were collected during mid-June – and I’m sure if we’d have sampled the same plants earlier during the growing season, the nutrient quality would have been even better.

GRANT: The quality of native vegetation is perfectly timed for wildlife species needs. It starts out super-rich, right when it grows – just like young alfalfa or young soybeans – because deer coming through winter need to restock on nutrients.

GRANT: By this time of year, deer have consumed most of the minerals they need for the antler hardening process. It would probably be impossible for them to go eat that many minerals daily.

GRANT: So, they consume it throughout the growing season; store it in their skeletal system and then mobilize it during the antler hardening process.

GRANT: Daniel sampled three species out of dozens and dozens that grow in the areas we manage for native vegetation. Imagine the buffet deer have to walk through and pick exactly what they need at that time.

GRANT: I often reflect back to the Great Prairie and biographies of early explorers such as Daniel Boone, I’ve mentioned before, and other famous outdoorsmen. They talk about the vast quantity of elk, deer and bison all the way to the east coast and certainly to the west.

GRANT: No one was planting, there was a lot of fire and those critters consumed a lot of vegetation. That should be an impetus for all of us – even though the landscape has changed significantly – to manage a portion of our hunting area for native vegetation.

GRANT: Having a plan that allows hunters to manage for quality native vegetation, as well as food plots, allows them to see a lot of critters. And pairing that plan with a very strategic hunting plan allows them a lot of great days in the field and plenty of fresh, wild game in the freezer.

GRANT: If you would like to learn more about developing quality native vegetation where you hunt, check out our deer management and habitat management playlist on our channels.

GRANT: Working to improve the quality or restoring native vegetation to where you hunt is a great way to get outside and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, be sure and take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.