Better Deer Hunting: Stress Points (Episode 221 Transcript)

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GRANT: Great hunting properties usually don’t start that way or stay that way without a little effort. This week we roll east and look at three different properties and try to identify the limiting factors and suggest how to improve the hunting on those farms.

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GRANT: Some folks may not know that 24 years ago, we became incorporated as a wildlife management firm that helps individual landowners with site specific habitat and hunting strategies.

GRANT: This week we visited three different properties including Scott Gary’s farm near Bowling Green, Kentucky, Brian Boyers’ near Dry Ridge, Kentucky and Norman Lansdale near Mount Sterling.

GRANT: We’re gonna meet with Scott Gary and his son today. They’ve recently purchased property. I’m gonna help them lay out a wildlife and habitat management plan.

GRANT: Scott recently purchased his farm solely for his family and friends’ hunting opportunities.

GRANT: Now, there’s some weather coming in, so let’s go ahead and get out there and we can meet in here and talk about…

SCOTT: Okay.

GRANT: …stuff later. Let’s get out and start looking. That okay?

SCOTT: Okay.

GRANT: Alright. We’ll get some clothes on and get going.

GRANT: The property is a bit bowl shaped and right in the center in the valley, there’s 50 acres of tillable land where he cooperates with a cash rent farmer.

GRANT: There’s a bunch of coyote sign. Even coming up the road – up the blacktop road to your property this morning, there was – when I got down there, there was one set of truck tracks and coyote tracks. (Laughter) Where these two valleys come together, the wind is gonna swirl like crazy right here.

SCOTT: Okay.

GRANT: So, we like this to grow up and be cover because it’s not gonna be that huntable, so this serves the purpose as loafing areas, cover, stuff like that.

GRANT: Get me a big condo stand on that corner over there ‘cause you rarely have wind out of the east. Scents everything to what we’re doing. So, you’re not only higher in elevation, but you don’t have to drive all the way through here and spook all the deer to get here to hunt it.

SCOTT: Right.

GRANT: See those, so like, like areas like this, that hillside is so steep, there’s no doubt in my mind that the wind is gonna constantly swirl in there and we just want to leave that as a sanctuary. We’re gonna kill the deer coming or going out of there or pattern them coming and going out of there, but we don’t want to walk in there, cause all we’re gonna do is bust up and spook a lot of deer and we want the deer so comfortable in there and the food is right here, that they don’t leave your farm.

GRANT: Surrounding those ag fields are hardwood covered ridges and the previous landowner did a selective thinning a couple of years ago.

GRANT: But I’ve still yet to see a turkey track or a turkey feather or anything, so I’m a little worried about that.

SCOTT: I’ve seen one turkey feather and turkey tracks one time back on the road, so.

GRANT: You know, the one tool your gonna need – your gonna need – you gotta get this because it’s a tough one for a lot of guys to handle. You need fire. Because with all this thinning they’ve done and, and candidly, what they’ve done – they’ve taken the best and left the rest of the timber. I’m looking at hundreds of thousands of saplings out there. And that, in just a year or two is going to become so thick that you can’t see a deer in there and all those saplings, remember are taking water and nutrients that these residual trees want and need.

GRANT: This timber harvest was fairly aggressive and a lot of stems were removed, opening up the canopy which I really like. But unfortunately, no prescribed fire or herbicide treatment followed up that thinning so it allowed all those stumps to make a gazillion sprouts. And they’re pretty much choking out the habitat, keeping the sunshine from reaching the forest floor and not providing ideal wildlife or hunting conditions.

GRANT: You’re gonna have to light a fire on top and let it back down. If you set a fire here, it’s gonna burn so hot – fire burns about 16 times faster uphill than it does downhill, because …

GRANT: There are probably millions of stump sprouts in there now. Too many to really effectively use an individual herbicide treatment, so we’re going to prescribe and provide some training for Scott to use prescribed fire in a backing motion, low flame at the right time of year to, hopefully, girdle those small trees, but not impact the larger trees and reset that back to more of a forage and grass based habitat …

GRANT: …girdle that stem; girdle the cambium layer, the, you know, the, the…

GRANT: Scott and his family really enjoy turkey hunting. But unfortunately, those hardwood saplings are another factor. Turkeys don’t like real thick habitat. So, the ag fields are surrounded by this thicket, making it pretty tough for a turkey to get down in those ag fields and strut. I think that prescribed fire application will really improve the turkey habitat and in a couple of years I’ll be getting pictures of Scott carrying out ole long spurs over his shoulder.

GRANT: About the time we finished up with Scott, it started snowing and icing like crazy, but we had to roll up the road another three hours or so to meet with Brian Boyers.

GRANT: Brian, we’re here in north central Kentucky and it’s a cold, windy day. Had an ice storm last night. You’re without power at your place, but today we had scheduled to come do a little deer work. This is really working out great. It may not seem like that to you, but we love seeing properties at their worst, if you will, so we can find the stress points.

BRIAN BOYERS: Yeah, I’m sure you’re gonna, uh, find some key things here to fix for us and get to work on.

GRANT: There were some fields on the ridge tops. A couple in the bottoms, but they’re pretty narrow actually and really open, hardwood timber. As a matter of fact, if we spooked a deer, we could see it running a long ways through the open hardwoods.

GRANT: Clearly, in the summertime, those trees would be leafed out and you wouldn’t see that deer, but down where deer lives, at you know, zero to three feet, it was very open and instantly, I knew we needed to prescribe some cover.

GRANT: Cover is a huge factor in reducing stress, not only now when it’s brutal cold and they need to get somewhere where the wind is sheared off of ‘em, but the sun can heat ‘em up through solar radiation, but also during fawning season and other times of the year when they need to escape predators.

GRANT: …on a day that’s ten percent warmer than normal, they’re gonna be on the north slope…

GRANT: When I work on a new project, I’m always evaluating the quality of food, cover, water. Not only on that farm, but in the general area. I know if I’ve got better food, cover, water or all three of ‘em, I’ve got a great chance of getting some bucks to stay on that farm or at least spend most of their time on that farm and be able to survive to mature age classes.

GRANT: It was easy to diagnose the limited food supply on Brian’s property as we found multiple places where they were digging through the ice and snow, trying to scratch up the few remaining turnips and a little bit of wheat.

GRANT: We’ll come up with a plan for Brian to improve cover and expand his food plot program a little bit and I look forward to Brian and his buddies tagging some mature bucks soon.

GRANT: We rolled on down the road and met up with Norman, Jim and Graham. They called us because they believe during the last two or three years, they’ve noticed seeing fewer deer and a little bit lower quality deer while they’ve been hunting.

JIM: We’ve about five to six hundred acres of land here. Our goals and objectives are really just to, uh: Number 1 – have a good herd; and Number 2 – is to have, uh, some big bucks that we can, uh, have an opportunity to shoot.

NORMAN: I think we’re gonna try to look at some bedding areas today – see if we have adequate, enough bedding area. Uh, our timber stand – see if we need to do some timber stand management. Food plot locations – stand locations and, uh, just get an idea if we’re doing it right; doing it wrong; if we need to change something or to tweak it a little bit.

GRANT: During the past ten years, they’ve actually established about 80 acres of food plots.

GRANT: During that ten years, eastern red cedar trees have encroached in a lot of areas that were nice, grassy bedding areas and those cedars are now catching all the sunshine, keeping that from hitting the ground and that’s shaded out all the grass and it’s reduced those bedding areas to more or less biological dessert.

GRANT: One of my first observations is that succession, or plant growth, is kind of catchin’ the landowners. Areas that used to be great bedding areas are now growing up in cedars 10 – 12 feet tall, choking out the sun from reaching the soil so the good, native species are being lost and we’re gonna have to use prescribed fire and some manual labor to set back that vegetation to native grasses and forbes.

GRANT: You, you can tell walking through there – I mean that looks thick, but as we’re walking through there, there’s no problem for us to walk through there. That’s not cover for a deer.

GRANT: There’s also some beautiful mature hardwoods on the property, but unfortunately, multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle has taken over the understory of several hundred acres of the hardwood. We will prescribe a plan for them to remove the vast majority of the bush honeysuckle and the multiflora rose using herbicide applications because fire will not do the trick on those two species.

GRANT: They have a nice amount of acreage establishing food plots. I’m gonna take ‘em from a lot of corn to more soybeans and a little bit of clover. The clover serves a great purpose in the early spring before the corn or soybeans is even planted. By that rotation, we’ll have food year round that’s high quality and everything a deer needs to express its full potential.

GRANT: All three of these properties could use varying amounts of prescribed fire. We’re gonna suggest they spend a bit more time hunting the ridge tops where the wind is more predictable and we certainly want each property to do a camera survey this August so we can get a really good inventory of the sex ratio and age structure of those herds and even refine our harvest recommendations a bit more.

GRANT: I hope you have some time this week to get out and evaluate the resources on your property and more importantly take a moment and just enjoy Creation and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching

GRANT: If you set a fire down there, there’s no way your make it top hill before your dead.

BRIAN BOYERS: So you’re saying I’m not that fast.

GRANT: That’s what I’m saying. (Laughter)

BRIAN: We’ll come back and get ya. Hope you like Kentucky.