Deer Hunting Strategies: Finding The Limited Resource (Episode 346 Transcript)

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

GRANT: We’re always looking for limited resource, whether scouting here at The Proving Grounds or designing habitat management plans throughout the whitetails’ range. This week we found a limited resource here at The Proving Grounds and put an UltraFire camera up. But until we reviewed the card, we had no idea how many critters were using that area.

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GRANT: Didn’t have to go far to film this segment. We’re about 100 yards away from my house. I don’t mind working this close to the house, but you’d think we’d have to go a little farther to get much wildlife sign. But there’s a lot of scat from deer and other species right where I’m standing.

GRANT: The reason all the wildlife is coming into the yard is this peach tree. Of course, peaches form pretty early. But when they were ripe, there was a lot of critters right here.

GRANT: These fruit trees are actually in my yard. But after the sun goes down, we were amazed at the parade of animals that was using the peaches.

GRANT: Night after night – deer, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits and turkeys during the day were coming to these couple of peach trees in Tracy’s yard.

GRANT: This is a great illustration of what we commonly refer to as a limited resource. And finding limited resources can make or break hunting trips.

GRANT: There may even be a couple of hit lister type bucks using this peach tree and, again, it’s less than 100 yards from my house.

GRANT: The pictures and footage from our Reconyx camera we placed to monitor this peach tree tell the story. And there’s an incredible, easy lesson to take home from it.

GRANT: If you have something that deer like that is in limited supply, they will come anywhere to get to it. Even in your yard.

GRANT: Even though we’re only 100 yards from the house and our dog, Crystal, is all over this yard all the time, there was no problem with deer, turkey, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, whatever coming into the yard. Even some mature bucks.

GRANT: Imagine the power of this attraction if you’d have had what we call a tree plot out in the timber. No doubt in my mind those mature bucks would have probably been coming during daylight hours to make sure they got their fill of a limited resource – the fruit – when it’s available.

GRANT: This is exactly why we like to double our odds and establish tree plots in, or nearby, our food plots. Having multiple attractive resources in one area to draw deer toward our stand.

GRANT: It’s important to plant the right fruiting varieties for where you live. And we’ve relied on our friends at Flatwood Natives to know the growth zones, the cold hardiness for each area, to recommend trees at the properties where we design habitat management plans.

GRANT: Last week we shared we’re experiencing extreme drought conditions here at The Proving Grounds. And that reminds me that when a drought occurs during hunting season, water can be a very limited resource and also provide excellent hunting locations.

GRANT: Another reason we monitor water is not for potential stand locations, but the health of our overall deer herd. And not just the water they consume – free standing water – but for plant health. Plants need water to be able to move and transport nutrients from the soil and air up to the forage. So, in a drought condition, plants can’t express their potential; they’re not as nutritious; not as palatable. Therefore, deer don’t consume as much and the deer can’t express their full potential of antler growth or fawn development.

GRANT: So, no pun intended, water can literally be one of those glass half full/half empty situations. On a really dry year, it’s pretty easy to pattern deer near the limited water resources. But if that drought carried over into the growing season, it’s likely the deer in your area won’t express their full potential.

GRANT: This week Adam, the interns and I rode down near El Paso, Arkansas to help fellow landowners, Tom and Marc Anderson, design a habitat and hunting plan for their property.

GRANT: Internships are an extremely important part of what we do here at The Proving Grounds. There’s many benefits to the internship. Those benefits flow both ways. The interns gain a huge amount of practical experience of habitat management plans, helping us hunt and everything we do as wildlife biologists and producers of GrowingDeer.

GRANT: On the other side of the coin, they help us achieve projects. So, there’s more hands making easy work for the habitat projects we do here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: I get the question all the time, “Hey, Grant, how do I get your job?” Or, “How do I get a job in the wildlife management field?” And I want to share a big tip with you. I got started in the wildlife management field by volunteering or being an intern with the Bureau of Land Management working with mule deer habitat. And when I look back, if I hadn’t of done that internship, I would have been competing against thousands of other kids that had a degree but no experience. Internships are absolutely a great stepping stone into a job in the wildlife management field.

GRANT: …bottom from one side and then racing up the other hill…

GRANT: If you’re looking for a chance to get ahead of everyone else applying for a job in wildlife management, I’m looking for one or two interns to help us this fall. If you’d like more information, simply go to the bottom of the GrowingDeer home page and click on the internship tab.

TOM: …and if you’ll follow that gum thicket there…

GRANT: Marc and Tom’s property near El Paso, Arkansas is a little bit different than here at The Proving Grounds. In fact, as soon as we stepped out of the truck, we knew it was a lot different ‘cause we could see a long ways. It was flat.

TOM: So, we started developing and trying to develop a little deer habitat up, mostly up here. And we started out really good. We saw a lot of deer; uh, shot, you know, several. The boys always got one or two each year.

GRANT: Sure.

TOM: And then it seems like the more we did, the less deer we’re seeing, uh, in the way of develop – development – not necessarily hunting.

GRANT: Right.

TOM: Uh, I’d like to be able to go out and see deer often – almost every time we hunt. Uh, not necessarily kill a Boone and Crocket. Have the boys uh, keep their interest and, and grow some, some decent bucks, you know over time we could…

TOM: I’ll tell you before we start. We put up a Hot Zone fence from here to here.

GRANT: Okay.

TOM: Two weeks ago this past Saturday. It’s, it’s unbelievable.

GRANT: The difference?

TOM: It covers about two-thirds of that, that spread right there.

GRANT: Okay. Well, that’s good. Good to know.

TOM: You’ll get to see that.

GRANT: Yeah. That’s a good – I want to see that – that’s a good indicator of what’s going on. So.

GRANT: They had wisely put up a Hot Zone fence in one plot they had planted with Eagle Seed forage soybeans. And it’s a perfect example of protecting forage. Outside the fence was literally nipped down to the dirt. Inside looked like a good bean field that needed a little rain and is ready to go.

GRANT: I mean, literally, I’m looking straight down here. It, it’s stunning.

TOM: I don’t think they put their head over it, do they?

GRANT: It’s got to be going under.

TOM: Yeah.

GRANT: I’m pretty sure it’d be under. I, I don’t know. I – these deer are hungry. It’s interesting – even with just a lit– this isn’t, obviously, much of a canopy – and I assume these have been treated the same – everything’s the same, except fence. Right?

TOM: Yeah.

GRANT: There’s more weed out here because there’s less competition from soybeans. There’s clearly more weeds and grass growing than in here.

TOM: Yeah. We sprayed it and then put the fence up.

GRANT: Gotcha. So, it’s all been treated the same.

TOM: Yeah, we sprayed the whole…

GRANT: Adam and the interns and I came down by El Paso, Arkansas today to work with Tom and Marc. We’re just starting to tour their property and one of the first things we saw was they’ve got a Hot Zone fence up and inside the beans look great. But, literally, inches outside, they’re browsed to the ground. So, I want to go through a couple of my observations as we tour the property about what we have going on here.

GRANT: And one of the first things I see is for feeding deer right now. And does are milking, providing milk to fawns and antlers are growing. We’re basically out of food. This is browsed down to almost zero leaf production outside. So, we’ve got to increase the amount of acreage for- during the growing season so deer can express their potential. That’s been one of the goals of the property.

GRANT: And the second thing – they have an, an older ten-row planter – works great. But, it’s on 30 inches. A lot of the farming in the past was 30 inch rows for combine tires and what-not – tractors to fit through the rows without damaging the crop. But even here, where we’re getting a canopy, we see a lot of bare and exposed soil. So, we think about those plants – the root system is not that large yet. All that ground in the middle that is holding fertilizer and soil moisture is not being utilized. If we had seven and a half inch rows, much more of the resources would be utilized. And then, also, those plants would canopy over quicker and limit weeds competing for that moisture and nutrients. So.

GRANT: And a third and another point that’s really important is on the 30-inch row, it’s really easy for a deer to walk right down the row – almost like they had a serving line at a restaurant and eat everything.

GRANT: When you’ve got total coverage, they’ve just got to work a little harder to get their groceries. So, you’ll, you’ll, you’ll get each plant surviving a little better.

GRANT: So, for all those reasons and more, uh, using a seven and a half-inch planting for soybeans will give you a little bit better results – especially in a food plot environment.

GRANT: Want to probably, at the end of day, we’ll prescribe increasing the amount of acreage. This is gonna work great for hunting season. So, recommendation number one is either reduce deer numbers, which no one wants to do if they don’t have to. Right? Or increase the amount of food so each deer can express their potential.

GRANT: Their property was split by a gravel road. And the west side of the property was extremely flat – most of it a large hayfield. In fact, only about 15% of that side of the road was timber.

GRANT: Marc and Tom had developed a couple of food plots on this side of the property. They were relatively close to the property edge and, obviously, not large enough.

GRANT: Currently, these food plots are right on the edge or near the edge of their property. Deer may be bedded on a neighboring property and they could wait ‘til dark, ease out and be in the food.

GRANT: But by moving these sources of food to a more central location, it means deer will, likely, spend more daylight hours on their property, traveling further to get to the food and giving him more time to ambush their hit list bucks.

GRANT: In addition to expanding the acreage of forage and moving it to the center, we designed some travel corridors we planted with milo, sorghum, sudangrass or other tall forages from the edges of the property leading to the central feeding area. This will provide deer a known travel corridor and just as importantly, hunters knowing exactly where the deer are likely to travel.

GRANT: By having them coming in from all directions, no matter what the wind direction is, these guys can hunt their property on any day with a favorable wind.

GRANT: Oftentimes, we’re called to work on properties that are primarily timber. And it can be expensive or difficult to create additional acres of food plots. It means harvesting trees or moving stumps, etcetera. But here, the project is very easy.

GRANT: We’re gonna convert some pasture land into forage. We can create enough forage to feed deer throughout the year. In fact, it’s so easy to create additional acres of forage – we have a large area with forage soybeans – a much smaller area that we will plant in corn. Everyone knows that deer love grain – especially during the late season.

GRANT: And there’s no row crops in this area. So, by having beans and corn, these guys can have Iowa quality hunting in an area that’s all forest and pasture land.

GRANT: The open portion of Marc and Tom’s property is being invaded by sericea lespedeza. This species can literally take over pasture land areas.

MARK: Well, they’ve done a different study where they actually force fed quail sericea seeds. And they starved because they’re not getting any nutrient content from the seeds. So, they’re eating it just because it’s out on the landscape, but they’re not actually getting any nutrients. So, some people think it’s good for quail and that’s not the case.

UNKNOWN: Yeah. (Inaudible)

UNKNOWN: Everything that I’ve read, it’s it’s…

MARK: It’s not good for quail. No.

GRANT: Next, we rode over to the eastern portion of the property which has a much higher percentage covered by timber.

GRANT: When a property is flat and the timber is mature, it can be really difficult to find a pinch point or limited resource. But as we’re touring the property, we came upon the hidden gem that will make hunting the timbered portion of this property much easier.

GRANT: We’re touring Tom and Marc’s property and come across, literally, a hidden gem. This is a utility way – a gas pipeline underneath where I’m standing. And if I owned this property, I’d probably leave a little buffer from the fence – we’re fairly close to the neighbor – as a visual screen. Start back in here a few yards and I’d have this mowed. I’d have the edges trimmed off as wide as I could be because basically, they treat the woods on both sides as sanctuaries. And this gives us a view right through the middle to see deer crisscrossing back and forth – especially when the timber is producing acorns.

GRANT: This gives hunters the opportunity to slide in – even when deer are chasing acorns – and have a view through the timber without alerting any deer.

GRANT: The attraction of a food plot – a source of green planted right in the middle of this acorn producing area – means you’ve got the best of both worlds.

GRANT: And about central on this utility right-of-way is a small drainage that, no doubt, deer use as a travel corridor.

GRANT: Well, guys, appreciate you having us down. Been a great day. Just kind of want to summarize a little bit. And, of course, the most obvious thing to our group is how flat it is. And it’s an open canopy.

GRANT: Some people think, “Well I’ve got some pasture land and hay land and I can’t do anything.” Well, to me, that’s ideal.

GRANT: If this was all sweetgum, then it’s dozer work and real expensive to create wildlife habitat. Here, we’re gonna use some herbicides, prescribed fire and change what we’re planting. And literally, within a few months, this becomes a wildlife mecca or at least a lot more attractive than a hay or grass field. So, we really like this compared to a, an over mature timber stand that we’ve got to get dozers in and do stuff with.

GRANT: Did y’all have any questions for us before we got gone?

TOM: I don’t think so. I think you covered about everything we had before you got here and then some afterwards. So.

GRANT: Yeah.

MARC: I did have one question. What you gave us to do, what kind of timeframe are we looking at to kind of have a plan to, to shoot for?

GRANT: Well, that’s at your pace. So, if it was me – I, as we talked about – I’d prioritize that the habitat we’re gonna do out here is relatively easy.

MARC: Hmm. Hmm.

GRANT: A lot of tractor work. So, I would start on that pretty soon. The timber stuff we talked about is when you – after you’ve prescribed fire or you’re waiting on stuff to get to the next stage here – you can start trimming limbs and improving that, that utility line in there, taking care of the weeds that are in there now so that we can convert that to a food plot. Those type of things.

GRANT: We talked about scouting the acorn trees. You’re gonna want to start that in late August or so. No need of even going in that section of the woods right now. Just let that be a sanctuary as we talked about.

GRANT: Deer don’t want to bed out here – maybe a little bit at night. But, you know, gosh, it’s hot out here right now, guys. They’re over there in the shade somewhere with the cottonmouths and the other bad critters.

GRANT: So, so, you’ve kind of got a priority list. Feel free to call us with questions. I’ll look forward to seeing a change.

GRANT: One great thing about our work anymore is we can get on Google Earth – they update it so much – and I’ll know if y’all are being lazy or making progress.

TOM: That’s right. Yeah.

GRANT: Because, every six months, I’ll give it a check and say, “Hey, those guys are making good progress.” Or, “Oh, I need to call them and push ‘em along a little bit.”

GRANT: We had a great day with Tom and Marc touring and helping them design improvements to the habitat and huntability of their property. We can’t wait to hear their progress and their success as time goes on.

GRANT: The GrowingDeer Team is very passionate about helping fellow hunters. If you’d like to see some of the techniques we use to establish food plots, scout deer, place stands, use trail cameras and everything else we do, join us August 12th and 13th for our next Field Event.

GRANT: We’ll spend a couple days going through everything from our coyote trapping techniques to how we approach a stand.

GRANT: We’re super excited about our Field Event coming up in August ‘cause we’re gonna share lots of new information using some new stops and portions of the property we haven’t toured before – showing you exactly how we hunt The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: Remember the buck that we showed you from my yard eating peaches? He’s new to us and we need a little help coming up with a name. He certainly appears mature. His chest is so deep that his legs appear short. He’s got a very thick neck for this time of year and the basal circumference of his antlers is large – even considering they’re covered with velvet. We want you all to help us come up with a cool name for this buck.

GRANT: Check out the GrowingDeer Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages this Friday night, July 15th and share with us a creative name. What would you name this buck if he was on your property? And whichever name we pick, we’ll get a hold of you and send a GrowingDeer hat.

GRANT: I hope you’ve had a chance to get outside and do some scouting or check your trail cameras and they’re loaded up with hit list bucks. But even if you’re too busy to make it to your hunting property, I hope you take a walk somewhere and enjoy Creation. But most importantly, take time each day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.