This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: We’re observing more daytime activity of bucks here at The Proving Grounds and we continue chipping away at our management objectives.
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GRANT: This week we reaped the rewards of some of the hard work we did this summer as we return to Crabapple food plot for a hunt.
GRANT: Crabapple’s the largest food plot here at The Proving Grounds. It’s about eight acres. But the northern half has been basically un-huntable due to visibility issues.
GRANT: This summer we used chainsaws and a lot of sweat to remove some islands of trees – allowing us to see the entire plot from one position. It was a long, hot process of cutting, stacking, and burning. But once we completed that, we brought in a 15 foot tall Redneck Blind and put it at the right location to give us the best opportunity to see the entire plot. Once we had the Redneck up and checked out the view – everyone knew this was gonna be a great place to hunt.
GRANT: Based on our recent observations of deer really using the Broadside blend in our food plots, and knowing that Crabapple’s the biggest plot containing Broadside, it wasn’t a tough decision for Adam and Daniel to grab their gear and climb into the new Redneck.
GRANT: The evening started out a little warm, but it wasn’t long ‘til they started seeing deer.
GRANT: They didn’t know it would be a steady stream of deer entering the plot throughout the rest of the afternoon.
GRANT: Watching the deer feed and knowing the distance they needed to cover to get in range from the Redneck Blind, it was a race between deer moving and darkness.
ADAM: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: As shade covered the entire plot, they noticed movement coming down the slope and that the deer seemed to change their mood.
ADAM: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: Even though this buck had a nice set of antlers, they quickly recognized his back appeared fairly straight, his belly wasn’t sagging, and even more importantly, they recognized him from some Reconyx images and we’d already estimated his age to be three and a half.
GRANT: A bachelor group of bucks was headed towards the does and it was turning in to quite the show.
GRANT: This is exactly why we like fall. These bucks are showing signs of being a bit more aggressive.
ADAM: (Whispering) Man, this is amazing.
GRANT: It’s also common to see yearling bucks acting, well, like teenagers when there’s that many deer in a field.
GRANT: It’s common to see sparring this time of year, especially when there’s this many deer in the field.
GRANT: Now there’s deer all throughout the plot. What an afternoon this turned out to be from the Redneck Blind. I’m a little worried about the quantity of forage here at The Proving Grounds come February.
GRANT: Finally, a doe is in the clear and Adam’s lined up for the shot.
ADAM: (Whispering) You good?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
ADAM: (Whispering) Oh, low. (Inaudible)
GRANT: The shot looked a little back. So Adam and Daniel wisely decided to wait in the blind, let deer clear out of the field and then take up the trail in the morning.
ADAM: Well, here we are the next morning. After reviewing the footage last night and finding the arrow, we confirmed the shot was a little bit back. So, we decided since the temperatures were cooler last night, we’d come back this morning and see if we could recover.
ADAM: So, this is where the shot occurred. Of course you see the 15 foot Redneck behind me. The doe ran to the southwest so we’re gonna head up this way, see what we can find.
ADAM: Huh. Hey! She didn’t even make it to the woods.
MATT: Are you serious?
ADAM: Get in here Clay.
ADAM: Thank ya.
ADAM: A little bit of blood. This is a little stiff. I mean, just what we figured – the shot’s a little back. This is entry side right here. And then we’ve got exit right there. So, it’s middle of the, middle of the body. Almost a little bit low, probably bottom third. But, she only ran about maybe 150 yards – probably not even that. Didn’t even make it to the woods. Havoc certainly did its job even though the shot was a little bit back. With the colder temperatures last night, the meat’s still great. So, it’s time to drag her out and get her processed.
ADAM: Great night in the stand last night – probably one of the best nights I’ve ever had in September. Bucks came out sparring; there was chasing, running around – it was just a great show and I’m glad we got to put an arrow in a deer. Another doe down here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Watching all these deer feed is a great reminder of the importance of balancing the number of deer and the amount of quality forage in an area. But that balance isn’t judged here in September/October. That balance is really critical in the stress periods of late winter and late summer. And seeing all these deer, I’m a little worried about the quantity of forage here at The Proving Grounds come February.
GRANT: This was one of the best hunts we’ve experienced during late September and it’s a result of all the hard work we did last summer.
GRANT: Have you ever checked your trail cameras and noticed one particular day – maybe a morning or afternoon – had a bunch of deer activity? During the morning of September 30th, our Reconyx cameras picked up Handy, Swoops, and Tall Eight all active during the morning.
GRANT: Three hit listers active at almost the same time at three different locations on the property. I want to know if there’s anything I can correlate and plan my hunts with that information. During the morning of September 30th here at The Proving Grounds, the temperature was much cooler than the preceding days. In fact, it was probably the coldest morning of the fall so far.
GRANT: Another factor was that a high pressure system was moving through the area. In fact, the barometer was well over 30 during the morning of September 30th.
GRANT: Through the years we’ve noticed a lot of daytime deer activity associated with the first cold snap of the fall. And that seems to be elevated if that first cold snap is paired with a high pressure front. Putting this observation with past observation gives us a larger database to plan when to hunt.
GRANT: Now, we can’t plan what day of the week to hunt ‘cause we don’t know the future weather conditions. ‘Cause we watch the weather forecast, we can make determinations on which days to hunt and which days to work. You can bet that the next time there’s a strong cold front passing The Proving Grounds, Adam, Matt, Daniel, and I will try to find a way to be in a tree stand.
GRANT: Adam, Matt, and I were recently invited to travel to southwest Georgia and assist Mr. Steele with developing a habitat management plan for his property.
GRANT: That’s, that crown – that was a good fit whoever did that thin. That was a good – better than what I normally see on client land.
GRANT: And with that amount of space between the crowns, we’re getting enough sunlight that even if those pines are gone, we’re rapidly going to get regrowth of, of grasses and forbs. What we don’t want to see – and, and, this could be a real problem in this part of Georgia – is that taken over by either wax myrtle or sweetgums. We, we want to, even at the cost of a, a herbicide application, we want to avoid that ‘cause once it gets, gets started, we’ve – you’ve got a huge uphill battle.
GRANT: I was impressed with the quality of recent thinnings in some of the pine stands. However, there wasn’t a follow up after the thinnings to control some of the undergrowth, specifically volunteer pines.
GRANT: Hey, Adam, Matt, and I are in very southwest Georgia today near Blakely, Georgia with Kevin Steele. Kevin’s invited us down to help him with a habitat and hunting management plan. And one of the first observations we made is a beautiful, thin pine stand. But unfortunately, the undergrowth wasn’t controlled in a timely manner. So, there’s literally thousands and thousands of volunteer pines that are head tall or 15 feet tall (Inaudible).
GRANT: And that sounds like a great thing but volunteer pines, Kevin, come in so thick – gosh – there’s what – 10 or 12 right here in just a few feet – that they’re never going to mature into a productive tree. They’re not gonna make great quality wood 20-30 years from now. And they’re gonna shade out everything beneath it. We see right here on the edge where the sun’s coming in some, some stuff growing that deer would eat on or make good cover but what’s gonna happen just back in here a few feet – it’s shaded out, nothing’s growing, food or cover and so it’s gonna be a biological desert. Almost like a young pine stand underneath a adult pine stand. So.
GRANT: The best tool to come in here is gonna be a pretty hot growing season fire. The mature pines have such thick bark they’ll take it with minimal damage. And try to kill these. That’s gonna be least expensive ‘cause obviously a herbicide application where we’re trying to kill pines, under pines we want to save, that’s not a good option. And to come in and mechanically grind up or chip or something like that would, would take a lot of resources so, right off the bat, we’re gonna prescribe some warm, growing season fires to set back a majority of these pines and encourage native grasses and forbs to develop the understory.
GRANT: We created a prescription using either prescribed fire or mechanical means, depending on the stand, to remove these volunteer pines and allow a more desirable habitat of native forbs and grasses to repopulate the area.
GRANT: On another portion of Mr. Steele’s property, we found a couple of large stands of sand pines. These were planted well before Mr. Steele purchased the property.
GRANT: We’re continuing to tour of Kevin Steele’s property and one thing we’ve noticed as we’ve covered more ground is a pretty significant proportion of the property is in sand pines. These are sand pines. Not really endemic, or natural, to this area. They were planted in rows like agricultural crop but they don’t yield a real good value, Kevin, as you’re experiencing now. And almost nothing grows underneath ‘em.
GRANT: So, I’m gonna short stop the pain here – prescribe total clear cut of all sand pine. And let’s don’t use the word clear cut – let’s call it even age regeneration ‘cause that’s what we’re really doing. And I want to come back and plant the native, or naturally occurring, longleaf pine here. And longleafs allow more sunshine to come through at greater wildlife habitat – much higher quality wildlife habitat. And, although you don’t get the instant return of like a loblolly or a quick or financial return in the long run, you can actually make more money off longleaf. So, better for wildlife, naturally fits here and better financial return in the long run.
KEVIN: Sounds like a good plan to me.
GRANT: Because here we’re basically looking at a biological dessert. I mean critters pass through here but they’re not making their home here. There’s no food; no cover. It’s a very dry site, limited water. We’re not gonna improve the water table with the, the longleaf pine but we can improve food and cover. So, I look for a really good flush of native vegetation – unless this was a cotton field 30, 40, 50 years ago and then we may have to help reestablish some of those native plants.
KEVIN: Gotcha. What does the cotton pull out of the soil?
GRANT: It’s not that it pulled it out; they just killed all of those native plants.
GRANT: And the seed bank got interrupted.
GRANT: Kevin, we’ve had a good tour of the property, so far, and been through a lot of pine trees but now we’re on a large 50 plus acre field that, unfortunately, has been let go through the past cultural practices before you purchased the land. And it’s got a lot of pigweed in it. And we tried to – your land manager tried to eradicate some pigweed here with various cocktails of herbicide and did a pretty good job.
GRANT: We pulled a few pigweed out this morning but had some residual effect from the chemicals so we weren’t able to get the desired crop in now. But what I want to prescribe for this area is the whole thing year one in LibertyLink soybeans. LibertyLink allows us to use a herbicide treatment that will control the pigweed – and other noxious weeds – but allow soybeans to grow.
GRNAT: And this will be just a huge addition of food to the area while getting this weed – very noxious weed – under control. So, we can come back with different alternative food sources in the future.
GRANT: And instead of just waiting until next spring and letting all this pigweed out here that’s behind us mature and add x billion more seeds. What I’d really like to do is have the farmer – we’re gonna have a farmer do this versus your land manager – ‘cause of the scale of the field – come in this year and plant a cover crop. We’re not gonna let it mature all the way – of wheat or cereal rye. Cereal rye actually adds more tons – little bit more drought resistant – of biomass, more tons of biomass. And help build an organic layer on top of this moonscape we’re standing on to a hard clay pan and that rye will help fracture that clay a little bit; conserve moisture and then we’re just gonna terminate that and drill right into it with the soybeans.
GRANT: To get rid of the pigweed, we suggested using LibertyLink soybeans and Ignite herbicide. Roundup doesn’t have a big impact on certain species of pigweed. But using this variety of soybeans and that particular herbicide, we can get rid of the pigweed and then return to normal agricultural practices.
GRANT: We’re gonna need a really good cover crop program to build organic matter – hold that in. So, we’re going to start with a blend of cereal rye and some brassicas and stuff this fall and, and build that organic matter – and provide deer food too. We don’t want to destroy that. We’re just going to terminat, terminate that crop – either by roller chopping or a herbicide. And then drill soybeans in – right into that duff. So, we can protect the soil moisture as early as we can. That may be literally late March early April here – soil temperature about 60 degrees – and get ahead of the deer herd.
GRANT: We’re going from folks – literally like you know 20, 30 acres of food plots to many multiples of that to get ahead of the deer herd. We’re gonna reduce the deer herd a little and really strive to bring the food capacity to production capacity up to that level.
GRANT: Kevin and his guests enjoy turkey hunting but all the improvements we’re doing – removing the sand pine, making early vegetation growth, adding more food plots – will be great for turkey production here at the farm.
GRANT: This habitat is very different than where I live, the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. We do a lot of work in this part of Georgia/Florida line. And all areas throughout the whitetails’ range can be productive. It’s using the right approach for each property. We don’t want to prescribe the same thing here that we prescribe in Minnesota or even in the Ozark Mountains or somewhere else. We want a site-specific program that meets the landowner’s objectives that uses the natural resources available.
GRANT: Kevin, that sound okay with you?
KEVIN: Sounds great.
GRANT: Well, we really appreciate you having us down. We want to stay in touch ‘cause I’m very excited about this project. There’s a lot of major changes here. This is – a lot of our projects are minor tweaks; these are some major changes. They’re gonna result in major results in changes in the deer herd also. So, let’s stay in touch. Maybe and want to come back and share this with our audience in a year or two – after you’ve put in some of these improvements – and talk about the stages that happened and what you saw that worked and didn’t work.
GRANT: Thanks for your opportunity.
KEVIN: Thank you.
GRANT: These are just some of the suggestions we prescribed for Mr. Steele’s property. We’ll develop a detailed written plan and a map to help him, his land management team, implement our plan. And we look forward to returning in a year or two and seeing the progress.
GRANT: Really, really rich. So, we haven’t added any fertilizer on this field, literally, in three years.
GRANT: Even though it’s deer season, I don’t mind taking time out to share information, especially with those it can have a big impact during the future.
GRANT: You use a roller crimper on the front and a no-till drill on the back and it’s one pass. They terminate the past crop or whatever is left – stuff left over from the harvest or whatever it is – and plant in one pass and they’re done. See you next fall to harvest.
GRANT: I had such an opportunity last week as the College of the Ozarks wildlife management class came out to tour The Proving Grounds. And I’ve learned through time and other great people teaching me, that it’s really more about the biotic life. And I say biotic because I’m talking everything – worms to fungi to bacteria – all living components below me here that really build soil. So, to feed them and have healthy populations of those, I need the ground covered with plant material and even decaying plant material 12 months out of the year.
GRANT: During the trip, we covered several subjects – but one of the most important subjects, and near and dear to my heart, is always improving soil quality because without maintaining or improving soil quality, all wildlife suffers.
GRANT: So, discing, it turns out, although it makes a feel good seed bed to us, is really disruptive to quality soil. So, we start with the dirt and we just took a roller crimper, which we’re gonna go show you down here physically in a little bit – it’s, it’s actually even new for us. And, and instead of terminating this crop with herbicide – and I’m not anti-herbicide – but I want to use the least amount or the minimal amount necessary.
GRANT: And then we took the no-till drill and if you look carefully you see little rolls like here’s one here and you can see little green – that little green row right there. There’s some brassicas, and some wheat, and some cereal rye.
GRANT: I really support wildlife students getting out of the classroom and learning in the field. There’s nothing that replaces boots on the ground, especially if you want to be a wildlife biologist.
GRANT: Whether your job takes you outside, or you just take a little break, take time every day to enjoy Creation and more importantly, slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.