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GRANT: A couple of years ago, our client purchased some land west of Auburn, Alabama and invited us to develop a habitat and hunting plan. We turkey hunted while we were there but really didn’t know the property very well. This year we went back to see how they made progress on the habitat plans, tweak those plans and spend some more time chasing longbeards.
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GRANT: This area of Alabama, and this farm in particular, is a mixture of pine hardwoods and planted pines. Most of the planted pines on this property were relatively mature and hadn’t been thinned yet. So, one of our first prescriptions was to thin the pines. And in the pines that had been thinned, we wanted to reduce that basal area or number trees a little bit more and reduce the amount of invasive species competing for the sunshine and nutrients.
GRANT: The most common invasive species in this part of the south is sweetgum trees. And they will literally take over by the millions if not controlled.
GRANT: Adam and I are down at Moss Hammock in Alabama. And you may recall, a couple of years ago we did an episode and filmed one segment right here. In that segment, we talked about how beautiful this patch of timber was because it had been treated a couple years before with a herbicide and took out the hardwood competition and allowed the native grasses and forbs to grow.
GRANT: When we were here, there were about twice as many trees per acre. And I prescribed about half the trees be removed and open up this beautiful open pine forest, allowing more sunlight to reach the floor. That would allow us to have trees – future market value – but a tremendous amount of deer, food and cover growing in the area.
GRANT: A little over a month ago, they did a prescribed fire in this stand. And you can see just a bunch of native grasses and forbs are growing in the area and no hardwood saplings.
GRANT: Without that original herbicide treatment four or five years ago – even with prescribed fire – this would be covered with sweetgums. But that one herbicide treatment followed with a regime of prescribed fire has turned this into an extremely productive wildlife area and very esthetically pleasing.
GRANT: The timing of the burn in this situation was perfect. It’s turkey season now and as turkey poults are hatched – maybe a month from now or so – this vegetation will be tall enough to cover those poults. Give ‘em great escape cover but still open enough to allow them to move through and bug successfully.
GRANT: Fawns will be covered by providing high quality forage for does to feed on as they're nursing those fawns.
GRANT: In addition to wildlife habitat, these pines are gonna grow extremely rapidly because we’ve removed the competition – adding much value to the property and the landowner in future years.
GRANT: The next stand was truly a gee whiz moment. When we toured the property and developed the original plan, this stand was chuck full of sweetgums about head high or taller on me. Literally, thousands and thousands of sweetgums. So I prescribed a herbicide treatment and follow up prescribed fire.
GRANT: We’ve moved down the property a few hundred yards and stopped at an area where we filmed two years ago. At that time, this general area was loaded with sweetgums. As a matter of fact, behind me was a solid wall of sweetgums.
GRANT: I prescribed for this area to remove about half the pine trees and then come in and spray all the sweetgums.
GRANT: A timber crew logged out some of the pine trees and a hand crew, using backpack sprayers, came in and treated all the sweetgums. The result is tremendous wildlife habitat.
GRANT: Again, lots of native grasses and forbs coming up. We didn’t plant these. Those seeds were in the soil bank. It’s very open so hunters can see and access but creating a great feeding and bedding area and the residual trees – well, they're growing faster than ever adding value to the property.
GRANT: I was really pleased when we pulled up to the stand. They had implemented the prescription and the results were beautiful. They had used herbicide and prescribed fire and most of the sweetgums were gone.
GRANT: There was a rich diversity of native vegetation and where there was a carpet of sweetgum and sweetgum leaves and nothing for deer to eat – and actually very little for ‘em to hide in because the sweetgums had developed a canopy about this tall, but very open at the forest floor – there’s now a great diversity of cover growing up.
GRANT: This food/cover combination in the middle of a productive pine stand is what the south originally looked like. And it’s tremendously valuable wildlife habitat.
GRANT: To maintain this stand, we’ll simply use prescribed fire on a rotation. And everyone wants to know, “What’s the exact rotation?” Basically burn about as frequently as conditions allow, alternating between growing season and dormant season fires.
GRANT: By alternating between dormant season and growing season fires, we get a richer diversity of native vegetation and continue to improve the habitat.
GRANT: You probably noticed I had full camouflage on while we’re touring the property. And I had planned to hear a turkey gobbling somewhere, interrupt the tour and go chase that tom. But very high humidity with rain showers moving through, kept those toms dead quiet.
GRANT: And a lot of blends will have rye ‘cause it’s very inexpensive. It’s kind of a filler product. And it just matures so quickly. You know, once any of these small grains – wheat, rye, oats – go to this stem, it’s got so much lignin content in it that’s non-digestible to a deer. Uh, it looks like you got a lot of biomass. And I would love to see a good perennial stand with clover here and maybe the first year we’ve got wheat. Wheat’s a great cover crop. And the turkeys love it and the deer love it and all – you know, that’s all good. And then the wheat – I just leave it alone and let it die. And it just adds organic matter. And then I’m soil testing, fertilizing and spraying very early – like probably for y'all this far south – maybe even two or three weeks ago.
GRANT: The guys at Moss Hammock realized that a lot of deer and turkey using their property have home ranges that include the neighboring properties. So, one night they invited all their neighbors over for us to very openly share the management plans we’re implementing at Moss Hammock, our harvest goals and objectives, and invite the neighbors to know exactly what we’re doing and join in if it fits their program.
GRANT: An easy way to get the neighbors fired up about coming over and visiting about deer management is offer a good supper. During that time, we showed ‘em some mounts of the bucks that have been harvested during the past two years and pictures from our trail camera survey.
GRANT: Seeing the bucks that they’d harvested – some of which neighbors had pictures of – and sharing the trail camera pictures generated a lot of questions. So, we had about two hours of question and answer after supper.
UNKNOWN: Um, you also said one thing early – you had a different food plot mentality. Talk about that.
GRANT: I never disc a food plot. Ever. And it’s falling down and decomposing and this is doing a couple things. It’s covering soil; keeping it cooler. Here’s some stuff you're not thinking about. That’s feeding earthworms by the millions per acre.
GRANT: Earthworms. I talk about earthworms ‘cause you can see them, touch them, understand ‘em. They're, they're busting that hard pan for you. We talked about a hard pan earlier. If you’ve got an adequate earthworm population, you don’t have a hard pan. They're busting it for ya. They're doing the work that you paying to do otherwise. It won't happen in one year. It takes about two to three years, depending on soil and the amount of moisture.
GRANT: A great way to build trust and cooperation is proving trustworthy. So, we didn’t leave anything under the cover. When someone asked how we do our trail camera surveys, what we’re planting in our food plots, or how many does we’re harvesting, we shared all that exact information with the promise to continue sharing. And the result of that? Well, a lot of landowners were doing similar things but they all promised to really work together and improve the wildlife habitat and quality of wildlife throughout the whole neighborhood.
GRANT: Adam and I left Moss Hammock feeling very secure that that project’s well on its way to much larger success than one property.
GRANT: The next day was opening morning for Kentucky’s turkey season. And it found Adam and I on a high point on the property listening for toms.
GRANT: There wasn’t much gobbling close to our original setup, but Adam and I could hear some toms working about a half a mile away so it wasn’t long before we took a hike.
GRANT: We were working our way around the edge of a field when we spotted a fan through the timber.
GRANT: We cut the distance and set up hoping we were within striking distance of that tom. It wasn’t long before we saw a hen’s head just barely crest over the top of the ridge.
GRANT: Close behind the hen, we could see the tips of a fan taking the same path.
GRANT: (Whispering) That’s a gobbler head.
GRANT: We tried to get that tom’s attention, but he had a few hens with him and there was no turning him away from those hens which opted to go a different direction.
GRANT: We spent the rest of the morning trying to get ahead of that flock of turkeys but no matter what we tried, our plans didn’t work.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. I think that (Inaudible).
GRANT: Even though we didn’t tag a tom that morning, Adam and I were very excited to hunt that afternoon as we felt we had a pretty good idea of where the turkeys wanted to be.
GRANT: We noticed a lot of turkey action around a particular food plot, so Adam and I tucked in the bushes on the shady side of that plot for the afternoon.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s the first afternoon of Kentucky’s turkey season. Adam and I were on birds this morning but always behind ‘em. First setup of the year. We didn’t know where they’d be roosted. We just couldn’t get in front of them. But we know they're in this area. So, it’s about 2:30 in the afternoon.
GRANT: (Whispering) We’ve made a little blind right here in some honeysuckle. We’re gonna sit here and either hear one gobble and go to it or watch ‘em cross. Cause we saw a lot of turkeys in this area this morning. So, we’ve got to sit tight. We’re pretty close and the sun’s out. Bright. Any movement might give us away. So.
GRANT: When picking a spot to set up for turkeys during the afternoon, it’s always best to be in the shade if you can. Shade, of course, is great camouflage and a lot more comfortable on the hunters.
GRANT: After a couple of hours of calling occasionally, I caught a tom headed our way. (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) He’s in range if I could get my gun up.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s gonna be an all at once movement. Okay?
ADAM: (Whispering) Okay.
GRANT: (Quietly) Had the urban camo on. Thank goodness for the Long Beard. ‘Cause I needed a little time. That bird got in on me before I had my gun up; middle of the afternoon – a little nappy. One thing that made that hunt successful is Adam and I had scouted early on thinking about the afternoon sun and where we could be in the shade.
GRANT: (Quietly) So, we’re kind of setting in a bunch of honeysuckle that Adam had trimmed out. And we got shade, so I think we were so broken up, that even when I moved my gun up – you know, he knew something was going on when you saw that head come up. But I had time to settle down and take the shot.
GRANT: (Quietly) And what y'all don’t know – let me pull this off the camera right here – is that turkey may weigh 85 pounds ‘cause we’ve flipped untold number of these worms off of us while we’re setting here. If they're all over the timber, that turkey’s gonna be so full of worms, it will be amazing.
GRANT: Let’s see what we’ve got here. Looks like a two year-old. Two year-old tom. About 3/4” – a little longer hooks. Probably about a nine inch beard. Afternoon hunt. In Kentucky, you can hunt all day. But, in Missouri, we can only hunt ‘til one o’clock, so kind of a novelty for Adam and I to get to hunt after lunch.
GRANT: (Quietly) I’m not sure, but I think this is the first turkey I ever tagged with sunglasses on. I’m not trying to be cool. Of course, it’s sunny. Driving in, I had my sunglasses on and when I parked the truck, I forgot to switch to my prescription glasses. But it worked out just fine.
GRANT: It happened fast. It may be a little unorthodox, but we had a Kentucky longbeard on the ground.
GRANT: Oh, that makes it easy.
GRANT: It’s always nice to harvest a tom and even better when we receive word that a friend has tagged one also.
GRANT: Pro Staffers Heath and Lindsey Martin had headed to Kansas for their opening day of shotgun season.
GRANT: They arrived in time for Heath to go out and roost some birds the afternoon before.
HEATH: This property, or this end of the property just got burnt on – I don't know – seven or eight days ago and I’m standing here looking and all these cow piles, since that burn, have just about all been flipped over. So that tells you these turkeys have been in here scratching around for bugs under these old cow patties after that burn.
HEATH: Those dag gum coyotes are just right there. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen ‘em yet. Couldn’t be 150 yards across there.
GRANT: The next morning, Heath and Lindsey are out early and Lindsey’s got the Winchester in her hands.
GRANT: After listening for a few minutes, they hear a tom in the distance and head that way.
GRANT: They move in closer to pinpoint the tom’s location. Heath uses a crow call, the tom responds, they move in and set up some Montana decoys.
GRANT: Once set up, Heath starts calling and the tom seems very responsive.
GRANT: After a few minutes, the tom comes in behind the decoys, but Lindsey’s not comfortable with the shot.
GRANT: The turkey struts for the decoys and moves around. But both Heath and Lindsey have trouble getting on the same page to coordinate when to shoot.
HEATH: (Whispering) Is that close enough?
GRANT: The tom struts into an opening where they can both see him clearly.
HEATH: (Whispering) Ready? (Inaudible)
GRANT: Great shooting, Lindsey.
LINDSEY: You said. Well, boy, this bird – he gave us a little worry. We, we called him in, but, um, we thought he was gonna give us the slip. I always forget that where we are – these birds – even though we’re in Kansas, they prefer the woods.
LINDSEY: So, he came in and he saw the decoy. And at that point, you know, he’s a gobbler, so he was like, “Lady, you need to come to me.” Um, these birds up here, they won't strut right up to the decoy very often. And so, he came up. And I probably had a shot right when he came up, but in my mind, I was hoping he would come just a little bit closer and give me a closer shot. And at that point, he just kind of started skirting around the decoys.
LINDSEY: Well, where we’re set up, you saw it. It’s wooded. And so, you could probably hear it in camera. I’d have a shot; Heath wouldn’t be on the turkey. Heath would be on the turkey; I wouldn’t have a shot. And so – but finally, he came out in the opening and he gave me my shot and I got him on the ground. So, he’s a great bird. Up in this area, we don’t usually see, um, turkeys with really good spurs. And we’ll show ‘em to you, but he’s got a really long spur on him. Probably a ten inch beard. Um.
HEATH: Congratulations, baby.
LINDSEY: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you. He’s a pretty guy.
GRANT: Great job, team Martin. Y'all are rolling this spring. Thanks for taking time to share your hunts with the GrowingDeer family.
GRANT: Whether you're chasing turkeys, working on habitat projects, or just taking a walk – I hope you take time each day to enjoy Creation. But most importantly, slow down, be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
GRANT: Just like Rae – 48 yards.
ADAM: Snake! Snake! Snake!
GRANT: How far?
ADAM: Oh, it’s a black snake.
GRANT: Can we move?
ADAM: Yeah. It’s right over there. (Laughter)
GRANT: Whew. Glad to be out of that setup. (Laughter) Whew. Snake. Worms. Ticks.
GRANT: Wasps. And a turkey.