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>> GRANT: Improving habitat quality is not only an enjoyable process, but it usually translates to more venison in the freezer and bigger antlers on the wall.

>> GRANT: Each property in the neighborhood is a unique environment. And, therefore, habitat improvement plans need to be site specific.

>> GRANT: A well-thought-out, site-specific plan is the best way to avoid costly mistakes both in time and resources spent.

>> GRANT: I recently visited with Chad and toured his 80-acre property which is just about 20 miles north of The Proving Grounds. Even though Chad’s place is not far from here, the property, the topography, a lot of things are quite a bit different.

>> GRANT: Chad’s place used to be used as a cattle and hog farm and the neighboring properties are still primarily cattle pasture and small wood lots.

>> GRANT: Checking it out on onX, one of the first things I noticed is a large ridgetop system right in the center of his property.

>> CHAD: I knew by studying onX that feature would be a central part of his plan, but nothing beats putting boots on the ground and really understanding how all the habitat types work together.

>> GRANT: Okay.

>> CHAD: But it’s only 80 acres, so I know I can’t –

>> GRANT: Yeah, you’re in a good –

>> CHAD: – you know, hold a lot of deer, but I can hunt…

>> GRANT: – I don’t know if we’ll hold ‘em, but we can probably put ‘em on your land more than the neighbor’s land.

>> CHAD: Well, that’s the idea, I guess. During daylight, right?

>> GRANT: During daylight hours. Yes.

>> GRANT: We met up with Chad and it wasn’t long into our tour that I noticed several large honey locust trees.

>> GRANT: Of course, this is a locust here and –

>> CHAD: The problem is, there’s a bunch of that out here.

>> GRANT: Yeah. Locust, if you cut it or doze it, it’s really bad about root sprouting. I’m sure you’ve seen that.

>> GRANT: You – like if we just cut that tree up with a chainsaw, there’d probably be locust saplings all over out here next year.

>> GRANT: Honey locust trees make a long pod with viable seeds in ‘em and they spread easily, especially where cattle have been grazed. Because cattle will consume those pods when they’re hungry and put them out in the fertilizer pile which usually results in another honey locust tree.

>> GRANT: If you’re not familiar with this species, it makes very long thorns. Thousands and thousands of thorns and they’re stout enough, we’ve punctured tires on ‘em and some people have a very bad reaction if a thorn punctures their skin.

>> GRANT: You’ve got to kill that with a herbicide. You can use Tordon on locusts. On Tordon – these locusts are so tough to hack-and-squirt – I mean, that thing’s got, you know, four or five-inch spikes on there.

>> CHAD: Yeah.

>> GRANT: You can take Tordon and diesel fuel – we can get you a link for this later if you want, but – and just spray the base with the hand sprayer from here.

>> CHAD: Yeah.

>> GRANT: And you’ll kill that tree. The diesel will penetrate the bark –

>> CHAD: Ah huh.

>> GRANT: – and help carry the Tordon in there. And I strongly suggest killing every one of them standing before you doze or cut.

>> CHAD: Okay.

>> GRANT: Otherwise, you will, you’ll get a 10,000 for one type deal. It’s a heck of an investment if you’re a locust tree.

>> CHAD: Yeah. Yeah. Do they eat the pods that come off of ‘em?

>> GRANT: You know, a little but if, people say, “I don’t do that, you know.” If I had this killed here, just as an example, a couple locusts right in here. You know and I burned this, the native vegetation would be way more than the pods falling off, so.

>> GRANT: And you’re going to be fighting tractor tire flats and bumping into these at night, trailing a deer and what-not. You just, you don’t want that.

>> GRANT: Honey locust was just one of the species I suggested he remove from his wood lots. Removing species that aren’t beneficial to that management goal is the best way to get more sunshine to the forest floor and allow native plants, such as grasses and forbs to grow.

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>> GRANT: As I continued touring Chad’s property, I noticed several large, nice white oaks right on the edge of those old ridgetop pastures. And it was obvious why. Half of that tree was getting full sunshine, able to photosynthesis or grow a lot more.

>> GRANT: But once we got down the slope into thicker timber, it was typical of a high-graded, overstocked forest. The better trees had been taken out years, maybe decades ago, and a lot of saplings had grown up. They’re larger trees now. All kinds of competition. And none of them were great quality trees.

>> GRANT: Right now your woods are so open. You’ve got to kill all the trash trees. I’d kill every trash tree on here.

>> CHAD: Right.

>> GRANT: Leave your good oaks and get some fire in there. Basically, make a savanna. The deer can bed right there. You get the wind right – they’re coming right here to feed.

>> CHAD: Yeah.

>> GRANT: And that way you can preserve your tillable land – let’s call it tillable – plantable land.

>> GRANT: It would take a really rare day to hunt that steep area because the wind is just going to swirl in there. And that’s where deer want to bed anyway, but there’s no cover there right now. That way they’re getting protection all over.

>> GRANT: And you end up around these high spots where the wind is going one direction – you can predict it. And let the deer bed where they want to bed.

>> GRANT: Timber stand improvement almost always means terminating some trees. Hopefully, there’s a market for those trees where you live, and you can sell them, recover some of the expenses. But if not, you’re probably going to use the hack-and-squirt technique during the appropriate time of year and that’s kind of July until the leaves start changing colors. Or this time of year, when it’s a bit more pleasant to be out doing some work, you want to use the double girdle system.

>> GRANT: We will explain more about double girdle system later. But basically, you’re girdling the tree four to five inches apart. That way you’re totally severing the cambium or the tree’s circulatory system. And the top of that tree will die fairly rapidly, some species will stump sprout more than others.

>> GRANT: Once the canopy has been opened up a bit, it’s always good to back a prescribed fire through that area.

>> GRANT: Now Chad’s ridges were fairly steep. We don’t want to send a head fire through there because it could damage some of the residual trees. But a backing fire won’t be much of an issue and that will help stimulate that native seed base.

>> GRANT: A huge advantage of steeper areas like at Chad’s is that probably hasn’t been tilled and the native seed base is going to be much more intact than a flat pasture land or maybe crop land that’s been treated with lots of herbicide through time and plowed a lot. And that has really damaged that native seed base.

>> GRANT: When we visited with Chad to learn more about his project before touring the property, he mentioned that he felt deer were just passing through, feeding in his food plots but not really hanging around.

>> GRANT: And that became obvious when we got there because there was no quality cover. But by adding a quality cover component, I believe Chad will have much better results at patterning deer using his property.

>> GRANT: We need to utilize all of this for food.

>> GRANT: We walked down to the food plots and it was obvious a lot of deer were using the food at his property. There was a bunch of sign. And that was encouraging even though the food wasn’t very plentiful at this time.

>> GRANT: With Chad improving his food plot quality through some better techniques and the native habitat, Chad will be able to feed a lot more deer which means he’ll see a lot more deer and have more hunting opportunities.

>> GRANT: Chad’s plots are what I call lip high. They were literally browsed to the ground just about as close as a deer could get their teeth.

>> GRANT: Obviously, he needed more food. Now part of his ridgetop system still hadn’t been converted from old pasture grasses and noxious weeds, so it was easy for Chad to expand his food plot system and make it about three times larger than it currently is.

>> GRANT: And that food plot system on top of the ridge with those fingers going out in every direction means Chad will be able to hunt no matter the wind direction at his farm.

>> GRANT: This is a huge asset to have this right here.

>> CHAD: Okay.

>> GRANT: But you need to – you’re not really capitalizing on it all right now.

>> GRANT: And this spring, I would, you know, spray, mow, whatever you’re into and plant all of this you can.

>> GRANT: When deer are browsing all the forage being grown, they’re limiting the root growth and certainly the above-ground biomass. Chad’s probably not making a lot of progress in improving the soil quality. Chad is going to switch to using a no-till drill; plant more acres; and plant really high-quality blends so those roots can work a lot more magic and they’ll produce more biomass on top of the soil for deer to feed on and to improve the soil’s quality.

>> GRANT: Using that system means Chad will also reduce the amount of labor to establish his food plots, get out of the erosion game and reduce the need for synthetic inputs.

>> GRANT: I’m really confident that once Chad makes some pretty good progress implementing this plan, his property will be another hunting gem in the Ozarks.

>> GRANT: Properties that have well-designed intense food/cover, food/cover patterns tend to hold a lot more deer and a lot more hunting opportunities than properties, let’s say of a big block of timber over here and a food source over here. That’s certainly a pattern, but it’s the same pattern for all the deer on the property.

>> GRANT: Creating a more diverse habitat pattern can be accomplished by using several different techniques, depending on the property itself.

>> GRANT: As an example, we do a lot of work with southern landowners that have big pine plantations and it’s pretty homogenous. The same habitat from fence row to fence row – pine tree, pine tree, pine tree. The pines are thinned pretty young.

>> GRANT: And one of my favorite techniques in that type habitat is converting those thinned rows into food plots. And you end up with food/cover/cover, food/cover/cover, depending on how many of those rows you convert to a food plot. And that is ideal deer habitat.

>> GRANT: They’re very comfortable there because they’re never more than a couple steps away from cover.

>> GRANT: An often-overlooked huge advantage of that system is, when you’ve got those thinned rows, it tends to channelize the wind. And swirling winds, well, that’s the enemy of all deer hunters.

>> GRANT: But you’ve got these narrow rows, almost like being between skyscrapers downtown in a big city, the wind is going to blow one direction or the other. It’s rarely swirling.

>> GRANT: A hunter can know which way the wind is generically going, figure out how it’s going to be channelized, come in from the other side of the stand and deer will almost never know they’re in the neighborhood.

>> GRANT: The habitat plan we designed for Chad has almost endless opportunities for stand and blind placement. And that’s because there’s a huge amount of edge – food/cover/edge, food/cover/edge, food/cover/edge. So, no matter the wind direction, there’s going to be an ideal place for Chad and his family to hunt.

>> GRANT: I look forward to hearing updates from Chad and stories of filled freezers and larger antlers on his wall.

>> GRANT: Getting outside and learning the property – really checking out all the details and coming up with a plan to improve the hunting and habitat – is a great way to enjoy Creation.

>> GRANT: But more importantly, I hope we all take time every day to be quiet and seek God’s will for our life.

>> GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.