Better Deer Hunting: Bottlenecks, Thermals; Plus Next Steps For Food Plots (Episode 495 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: Soon it will be Memorial Day and I hope you join the Woods family in honoring those that sacrifice for our freedoms. Many, many men and women have gave their life to give us the life and freedoms we enjoy here in the United States. This year join the Woods family and honor those that sacrificed and gave the ultimate gift.

GRANT: I recently traveled to near Albany, New York to help fellow landowner, Matt Gross, with a habitat and hunting plan. I reviewed Matt’s property using the onX app before I joined him in New York.

GRANT: It was obvious that it was primarily a closed canopy forest and it can be extremely tough to pattern and hunt deer in that environment.

GRANT: When I arrived the first thing we did was review a map I had printed.

GRANT: So we talked about cutting trees earlier. A lot of people want to go to the Midwest to hunt. That’s because, you know, you don’t see a lot of shows going, “Man, I’m going to the Catskills to hunt today. I’m going to the Adirondacks to hunt today.” And that’s because the Midwest is this. A lot of sun reaching the soil.

GRANT: It was primarily a closed canopy forest and there’s just not enough sun reaching the forest floor throughout the year to provide enough groceries for many deer.

GRANT: But we need to look at the lay of the land and the value of the timber and your goals and objectives and create some openings in here.

GRANT: What’s really critical is every single one, every single one…

UNKNOWN: Has been eaten.

GRANT: …has been eaten. And I’ve been noticing that driving up here on the property. Everything – yeah, I don’t know what is that? Four and a half, five feet tall, something like that?

GRANT: You get down here where a deer really wants to make a living. There’s a little grass. Deer are not grass eaters. They don’t eat this species. I’m not seeing anything to eat. Because if they would eat it, it’s already gone.

GRANT: In addition to lots of browse on low-quality hardwood saplings, we had come up on about a three or four-acre mature pine stand with very little sun reaching the forest floor.

GRANT: The only thing growing is something deer don’t eat. So, my recommendation to Matt is going to be to — one of Matt’s biggest projects when I leave is finding a timber market.

GRANT: And if we can find a market for these pines – which there is somewhere, it just isn’t close enough to be economically viable. And turn this into a food plot. This big area. Kind of centrally locate it. It is a total game changer for your property.

GRANT: I know we can get more tons of quality forage out of a planted food plot than native vegetation so that was my prescription.

GRANT: While touring Matt’s property, he showed me a beautiful creek that had cut 10, 20, 30 feet deep in the rocks at places.

GRANT: There was a little bench that crossed the creek where they drove across it and it was the ideal place for me to explain thermals.

GRANT: Matt and I are right in this creek bottom, a beautiful creek bottom. And the scent, or the smoke off his cigar, is going straight down ‘cause cold water, cold air is heavy. All the scent is sinking.

GRANT: He’s gonna keep doing that. We’re just gonna walk about ten yards up here and I want you to notice when it starts to just kind of swirling or even going up. ‘Cause right now, it’s steady going down.

GRANT: The only way a deer would smell us is being in that canyon.

GRANT: Matt and I are going to walk real slowly without falling on these slick rocks. We’ll take a few steps, then puff. And now it’s hanging. See how it wasn’t hanging right there? It’s hanging here. It’s kind of going down, but it’s hanging.

GRANT: Let’s go a few more steps up here. We’re just talking, you know, a few yards, folks.

GRANT: Now look. Now, it’s going that way. Look at that. It’s going. It was going straight to the camera. We are less than ten yards away. We were right in that creek. We’re less than ten yards. And if you’re a bow hunter or a deer hunter, this would drive you nuts.

GRANT: You can sit in the creek with a straw sticking out and kill every deer that comes by, but you’ll freeze to death. But if you get up here, the wind’s gonna swirl. Let’s take a few more steps, Matt.

GRANT: Now, give me a puff or two. Ah, look at that. It’s going this way so hard, I can barely see it. Look at it, look at it, look at it.

GRANT: Let’s go on up just a touch, just a touch. All right. Now, give it to me. Kind of whiffing. Look at it. Whiffing. Great lesson in thermals. It’s not wind. It’s thermals.

GRANT: Let’s go up here just a little bit. I may have to buy you another cigar, you’re puffing so much.

GRANT: 180 degrees. 180 degrees the opposite direction. We’re 40 yards at the most, 40 yards. 180 degrees the opposite direction.

GRANT: That’s why I tell you all the time, hunt the ridgetops. The wind is more stable there. When you get in these little valleys and by creeks, the wind almost always swirls, unless you’re on a really windy, hurricane, stormy day.

GRANT: There were several small ravines coming down that side of the mountain. And while we were walking through, I noticed Matt’s cigar smoke doing the same thing.

GRANT: So at the end of touring that portion of the property, I recommend they rifle hunt that area so they can cover a greater distance rather than trying to get within a few yards of a deer.

GRANT: The exceptions would be real early morning. Get in before daylight when all the air is cold and the entire air on that side of the mountain is rushing downhill.

GRANT: Midday, even late in the morning, it’s gonna be a change between going up and going down and it’s very tough to get within bow range.

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GRANT: I was thinking this was going to be a difficult property to develop a really efficient habitat and hunting plan. But all at once, I changed my mind.

GRANT: While touring the other side of the mountain, I found a bunch of very old, hand-built rock walls.

GRANT: Matt and I are touring his property and the beautiful thing about this part of New York is somebody worked really hard to pick up rocks. Every one of these rocks was touched by hand.

GRANT: Look at this, folks. We’ve got pretty intimidating wall. We’ve got a break and obvious trail right beside the tree. Another wall that crosses into another wall.

GRANT: I mean this is like the ultimate pinch point right here. There’s the break in the wall up there. We’ve got scat here. They’re coming; there’s some scat right there. Scat right here. Scat right there.

GRANT: I can clearly see the trail going right up through here, coming down. We’ve got this wall. Now they could jump it if they wanted. But they don’t want to jump it when you’ve got a gap right here. A perfect gap.

GRANT: If we’re walking through here, we’re gonna cross right here. Right?

UNKNOWN: Absolutely.

GRANT: Instead of climbing over the wall. I could get over that wall if I wanted to. But, I don’t want to, so I’m gonna come here. Well, that’s exactly what deer are doing. Man.

GRANT: And there’s a multi stem tree right there that you’ve got great camouflage on. You put a stand in there. You’ve got all kinds of treestand or blind opportunities.

GRANT: There were many of these rock walls; all square or rectangular shaped; all connected together and all with small gaps where probably mules or, maybe later, small equipment went through the gaps to each field.

GRANT: The size of the walls varied a bit, but they were roughly four to five feet tall. A deer could jump it, but they don’t want to. Deer don’t like jumping something where they can’t see where they’re landing.

GRANT: Throughout the day looking at lots of walls, lots of gaps, walking lots of areas, it was obvious the deer were perfectly conditioned to going through these gaps working their way through the property.

GRANT: I’m, like, bouncing like a kid at the candy store, man. Because we just found another incredible gap.

GRANT: Imagine a couple of those pastures being converted to soybeans or high-quality food plots. You know where deer are going. You pick the gap, not necessarily next to that field, but a couple of hundred yards away, knowing deer are going to pass there on their way to the best forage of the property.

GRANT: This is some; this is going to go from a very tough to hunt property to putting a few food sources and knowing that deer are going through here and having an incredible property.

GRANT: Finding this system of walls and gaps totally changed my opinion of Matt’s property.

GRANT: Hunt one side with a rifle and when the thermals are really aggressive. so you know which way the scent is going; hunt the other side after a few food plots have been developed. And you have very well-defined bottlenecks, even better than in ag country.

GRANT: We spent a lot more time looking around to find a bedding area, looked at some other aspects of the property. But, clearly, the pastures, rock walls and gaps will be the center point of Matt’s plan.

GRANT: Matt is in the process of finding a quality forester that understands wildlife habitat plans and hopes to start logging soon.

GRANT: The bugs were bad in New York even though it was pretty chilly and rainy. But I hopped on a jet and went to Minnesota and it was colder there and bugs weren’t an issue.

GRANT: When I got up the next morning and started to drive to the property where I’d be working, I had another big surprise. There were several inches of snow.

GRANT: It wasn’t but about 50 or 60 miles and I drove out of most of the snow.

GRANT: It was still chilly when I met up with Joe and Jack. We exchanged a few greetings and then went right in the shop, whipped out a map and started working.

GRANT: You don’t have a lot of bottlenecks. Food plots make these bottlenecks, but everybody thinks, some people think about backwards. It’s not that the deer is coming to it, which may be the case.

GRANT: But if they’re not coming through it — they’re on acorns or whatever — they’re going around the corner. They’re going 50 yards around the corner somewhere.

GRANT: It becomes a de facto bottleneck. So, today I want to lay out several bottlenecks because this just — you know, you’ve got three guys standing here. And you’re gonna hunt a three-day weekend and the wind’s probably going to shift. You easily need nine to 12 stands just to do that.

UNKNOWN: Correct.

GRANT: No deer on the planet eating wood gets big.


GRANT: Wood does not grow big deer. There is no other way around it. Deer are slaves to their guts. And a lot of people don’t understand this. The deer’s number one predator defense mechanism is not their nose, their eyes, their ears. It’s their gut. It’s how they’re designed.

GRANT: They’ve got this great big gut. They ingest. They don’t digest. They ingest. The bacteria in their gut do all the digestion.

GRANT: They chew it up a little bit. That starts the digestive process. They mix a little saliva with it. But then the bacteria really do the big work.

GRANT: So, how God created them is they run out in the open. That’s when they’re the most exposed. That’s when they’re most likely to get predated on.

GRANT: And they want to just gulp it as quick as they can and then go back in cover, regurgitate it and start the digestive process.

GRANT: When you’re eating on wood, it takes much longer, so you eat once or twice a day. When you’re eating on soybeans or clover, you know, some high-quality forage, you may eat four times a day. You’re moving four times a day. You’re exposed to danger four times a day. Hunters see you four times a day, or could see you four times a day.

GRANT: And all those minerals are going through your body and protein, you know, and stuff daily and you get bigger. You get bigger. So there’s just some really, really simple biology that really helped me in my career.

GRANT: And when I see wetlands and pretty much mature timber, whatever your potential is now, it can unequivocally be better.

GRANT: We took off, map in hand, and I was eager to see exactly what was on the ground. There were several stands of aspen that are typically harvested when the trees are eight / nine inches for pulp wood and just allowed to sprout back naturally.

GRANT: We’re standing right in front of a ten-year-old aspen cut. These aspens have been growing ten years. Thick as it can be. Incredible buck magnet. They’re bedding in there; they’re loafing in there, but there’s hardly, there’s no food down low.

GRANT: So we’ve got sanctuary. You can’t hunt it. I mean, there’s a stem every foot, basically. You can’t hunt it; you can’t hardly walk in there. You don’t want to drag a deer out of there but, deer live in there. We’re just developing food on the outside edges.

GRANT: So, we’ve got sanctuaries. We don’t have to cut trees. We don’t have to do a thing. Just that the logging practices have built sanctuaries on the property.

GRANT: Aspen is fairly high-quality winter browse. So, I’m fine with the forester’s current plan. Let it mature to marketable levels, come in and whack it. Give the landowner some income. And then it’s growing back.

GRANT: In the first few years, it’s quality browsing cover and then it grows into pole stand which isn’t much good for wildlife.

GRANT: We’ve got 20 acres of a pine stand here. And it’s been thinned in a little bit of a different fashion. They’re leaving two, cutting one; leaving two, cutting one; leaving two, cutting one – which means the two together are competing for sun. They’re not getting the maximum resources.

GRANT: But we’re just coming through here with a, a timber, actually, a little grinder type thing. And we’re gonna mulch this up, clean it up and take an 8’ drill and just drill a crop right in here.

GRANT: And we’ll get growth because we’re real short of grocery land on this property. It’s mainly a closed canopy forest.

GRANT: And these thin pines in the south, or in the north, either one, can be tremendous food and people think, “Well it’s tough to hunt.” But that’s not true. The wind, it doesn’t swirl. It channelizes because of the structure. It’s one way or the other. It’s not swirling.

GRANT: So you can just walk along the end by the road and say there’s a deer; go over two rows, stalk up to it; sneak in with the wind in your favor and shoot it. This is — deer are super comfortable cause they’re never more than one step away from cover. Never more than a step away from cover. They’re super comfortable in here.

GRANT: We need to utilize this. This is not a, well, gosh, that’s a biological desert, which it is now. This is a desert; no food or cover. We can turn this into an oasis.

GRANT: Another habitat type that was spread throughout the property was hardwood trees. Nice oaks kind of on a ridgetop. So, when I say ridgetops, they’re four or five feet above the water level.

UNKNOWN: So, basically, wherever the high ground is that we can work around the wetlands…


UNKNOWN: …that’s what we’re gonna clear.

GRANT: You’ll leave a little 10- or 20-yard buffer on the edge of that so you’ve got treestand trees around the low places. But don’t get excited and leave 50 or something.

GRANT: On these ridges I designed a few food plots providing many more tons of quality forage and better pinch points for bow hunters.

GRANT: Putting it all together at the end of the day is much better than, “Do this here. Do this here. Do this here.” And leaving them a paper map and a digital map allows them to really implement the plan with a lot of precision.

GRANT: Fortunately, no more snow here at The Proving Grounds, at least, I hope. And we’re full speed in planting our spring food plots.

DANIEL: I’m out standing in one of our food plots here at The Proving Grounds and this is the exact location where on March 30th Grant was standing when he did his food plot demonstration during our Spring Field Days.

DANIEL: During Field Days this plot, which is Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend, was only up to Grant’s shins. I’m 6’5” with my LaCrosses on and this cereal grain has really shot up.

DANIEL: All the vegetation that we’ve grown here in the past few weeks, we’re not taking it anywhere. We’re gonna actually keep all this biomass right here, on site in the food plot.

DANIEL: The seed heads are just starting to mature, reaching the dough stage, and it’s about prime time to terminate with the Goliath crimper.

DANIEL: Not only that, but it’s still gonna help reduce erosion. This food plot is planted on an extremely steep slope. And we’ve had some heavy rains here the past few days. But when I walk out through this food plot, there is absolutely no erosion on this slope.

DANIEL: Because we’re not removing all this vegetation, it’s gonna decompose, become slow releasing fertilizer, build soil, hold water, feed earthworms and we’re gonna have a healthy soil here in this food plot.

GRANT: The soybeans we planted early are up and looking good. And I checked to see maturity of the species in that blend.

GRANT: A couple of weeks ago we showed planting in this food plot. We call it North Plot. Now, it doesn’t look like it’s been planted, but we drilled right through the standing crop.

GRANT: It’s been rainy and much colder than normal. But on this beautiful, sunny day we decided to get out and see the results of our planting.

GRANT: I wanted to check today because some of the heads on the cereal grains and the brassicas are starting to get mature. I don’t want them forming mature seeds. So, if the beans are up and looking fairly good, we’ll probably check the maturity of these seeds and use the Goliath crimper to terminate the standing crop and let the beans come on through.

GRANT: One of the most accurate ways to see if you can terminate the crop with the crimper is to see the maturity of the seed heads. And when I get down to an individual seed head, I want to squeeze it and see if any moisture is coming out.

GRANT: And on the taller crop of the cereal grains, their seed heads are formed but they’re not full of moisture. And I think we need to wait just a couple days before we use the crimper to terminate.

GRANT: Likewise, if I pull a seed head off the brassicas, and if I take one of those and just open it up with my fingernails, I can see each seed, but it’s green, small, nowhere close to being hard and viable. So, I’ve got a bit of time before I have to worry about these forages, which were a great crop volunteering and competing with the beans.

GRANT: You may be thinking, “Well Grant, why do you want to terminate that? You planted that crop. Let it mature and get free seed.” But that’s not a good strategy.

GRANT: All the seeds on here are from this brassica, came from one seed. So, if just a tenth of these become viable and germinate, it will be way too thick. It’s also at the wrong time of year. I don’t want cereal grains or brassicas growing during the summer and competing with my soybeans.

GRANT: Instead of it being a forage crop, they would be a weed. A weed is simply anything competing with a crop that’s not desirable. You don’t want brassicas growing in the summer, especially at this latitude.

GRANT: I certainly don’t want cereal grains growing this time of year. It’s not the time of year when the day length is appropriate for them to grow and the beans are infinitely better forage than these winter crops during the summer.

GRANT: These are not going to waste. The Goliath crimper will terminate all these, make a thick mat of mulch, which becomes slow release fertilizer; and seed heads are high in nutrients.

GRANT: That just makes the fertilizer all the better.

GRANT: This plot is turning out really well. In a day or two, we’ll terminate this fall crop and let our summer soybeans come on strong.

GRANT: The crimper breaks the circulatory system of the plants as it rolls over, like a herd of buffalo trampling an area. But the plants will stand back up – they’re amazingly tough – unless they’re stressed by forming that seed head.

GRANT: Producing a seed head takes a lot of energy out of the plant, into the seed heads, and it causes a big stress. At that state, it’s easy to terminate the crop without herbicide by simply using the Goliath crimper.

GRANT: We’ll wait a couple more days and let the seed on the fall crop mature a bit more. But, be watching our social media and the next episode because we’ll give you updates as we progress through the planting season.

GRANT: If you like seeing the advice we give other landowners, please subscribe to GrowingDeer’s free newsletter.

GRANT: Watching any plants go from a seed to a forage or a grain, and then mature, well, that’s a wonder of Creation, whether it’s a garden, a house plant or a food plot.

GRANT: I hope you and your family get out this week and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, find a time to be quiet, be still and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.

GRANT: Remember, folks, America right now doesn’t look like it did. People cut trees, and cleared, and worked hard, and girdled trees, and farmed by hand. And we’ve let a lot of stuff grow back, and then it’s been high graded, and you end up with low quality stands of timber.

GRANT: We’re going to change that here at Matt’s place. But they’ve picked up all these rocks so Matt can make a field easier than what was originally here.