Deer Management: Fired Up For Better Habitat (Episode 281 Transcript)

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

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GRANT: As spring green up gets in full swing here in the Ozark mountains, we took a little time this morning to check on the results of one of our best habitat management techniques.

GRANT: During past episodes, we’ve shared some different techniques for conducting prescribed fire.

GRANT: This is an area that was once covered primarily by eastern red cedar. You know, it’s a very invasive species that will take over old cow pastures or fields that aren’t maintained. There’s a few hardwood trees in it, also. We came in by hand, years ago – chainsaws and cut all the cedars, just fell ‘em, let ‘em dry, and then, had a big prescribed fire.

GRANT: Over the course of the years, a lot of hardwood saplings have come back in and colonized this area. Those hardwood saplings have got three/five/ten feet tall, spread their crown, and shaded out the ground level. So last fall, during the growing season, August/September, we used prescribed fire in an effort to reduce, or kill, many of those hardwood saplings and cause herbaceous forage to come back in.

GRANT: Here we are in the first week of April and you can see it’s literally a green carpet of dozens of different species of forbs and grasses.

GRANT: Many species are great deer and turkey food, and of course, at this young stage, they’re very succulent – very attractive to wildlife and very nutritious.

GRANT: Before we did the original treatment and removed those cedars, it looked just like the background – solid cedars with a few hardwoods in there; and after we did the treatment, it made a great bedding and feeding area. That’s a great use for this steep hill country.

GRANT: A growing season fire does a much better job at controlling these hardwood saplings than a non-growing season, or a winter, fire.

GRANT: Just a little bit of heat around the base will actually girdle, or kill, that cambium layer – the circulatory system of the tree – and prevent it from moving all the nutrients that were up here in the leaves down to the root system. And what happens is the tree actually runs out of food during the winter.

GRANT: I get great satisfaction out of walking out of areas where we’ve had a growing season fire and breaking these saplings and noticing there’s no green in there, they’re dry and brittle, and this is top killed. There may have been enough energy in the root system for it to sprout back at the bottom, but now we’re dealing with something a couple of inches tall versus six feet tall. It’s not shading out the ground, and actually, those young, new growth is fairly nutritious for deer and other critters.

GRANT: A growing season fire was obviously a great treatment for this area. It achieved our objective of taking out most of the hardwood saplings and caused a lot of new food and cover to grow. This cover will grow rapidly during the spring. It’ll be this tall by fawning season, perfect height to cover fawns. Remember, this up here isn’t doing anything to cover newborn fawn down low. It’ll also be great bugging areas for turkeys. We’ve took an area that was about to go to low quality habitat and made great quality habitat.

GRANT: Love that sound. This one, obviously, is green. Here’s one it missed – you can see the buds coming out on it – but right next to it, this big one, got zapped. So if you’re not gonna get 100%, get most of it.

GRANT: As we walk through some of these south and west facing slopes that we burned last growing season, I was thrilled. There’s literally tons of native grass and forbs germinating throughout the area. Lots of quality food; great quality habitat; and certainly, a reduction in tick habitat.

GRANT: A few years ago, after another growing season fire, the state botanist and I walked through the area and actually identified 176 different species of grasses and native forbs. That’s a food plot that can’t compare. There’s something new coming up throughout the year that deer and other critters like to eat and that is highly nutritious.

GRANT: One of the best ways to learn is by comparing, or having a control, as scientists would say. So we’re in an area that’s been treated similar to the area we just showed you, except, this area has not been burned for three years. Right off the bat, when you’re just looking around at the ground behind me, you don’t see near as much green, and what green you see is pretty much limited to grasses. Very few forbs have germinated this spring in this area.

GRANT: This is a hawthorn tree – big spikes on there – and a wild cherry, and this, of course, is a winged elm – you can see the wing is going off the side. And they’re all very pliable. They’re not snapping. They’re obviously alive and doing well. We plan on burning this unit this summer, a growing season fire. If we’d have burned during here in the winter, it wouldn’t have got hot enough, and all the energy of these trees weren’t up here, but down in the root system, and we’d had a minor top kill on these hardwood saplings.

GRANT: The plan will be to wait until August/September, get a low humidity day. These grasses have grown up as refined fuels so they’ll carry fire better. And we’ll be able to have maybe six inches, or a foot tall flame height come through here –  do a good job of girdling some of these saplings. Hopefully, a high percentage cleaning up all the dead grasses and leaf litter that’s accumulated on the ground and expose that soil, so new grasses and forbs can grow up, making ideal cover and food in this area. Depending on the amount of rainfall and other growing conditions, you’ll want to burn bedding, or sanctuary areas like this, every three to five years with a growing season fire, or these hardwood saplings will get so large that you’ll have to switch over to herbicide to control ‘em.

GRANT: While we were checking out this sanctuary area, we come across a service berry tree. Notice these flowers are already formed and mature. Most trees haven’t even leafed out, or flowered out yet, and this one is dropping petals already. The reason the settlers called this service berry ‘cause those way up in the Appalachian Mountains, when people would die during the winter and the ground was frozen and they couldn’t dig a grave, they’d literally store the body in a cellar or something. And about the time these would come out, they’d know the ground was thawed, and this would be the first flowers of the spring to develop. So they called them service, because it was the first flowers they could have for a funeral service – service berry tree. Just a little bit of American history, along with your wildlife management.

GRANT: It won’t be long until the temperatures are warm enough and we can start establishing food plots. Getting a lot of questions, right now, about what to do with the standing beans, or even the winter food plot that’s growing. We simply spray over the top and prepare to plant our next crop. If we mow all these beanstalks down and they’re laying like this, they actually block more of the herbicide from hitting the crop you need to kill and standing up, and the sprayer passing right over, and still hitting the crop. The most common herbicide used in food plot work is Roundup, or the generic version – glyphosate. And the air temperature needs to be 60 degrees, or higher, for glyphosate to be really effective.

GRANT: You certainly don’t want to mow the crop you’re trying to kill. Most food plot farmers use Roundup, or the generic, glyphosate, and it’s a surface contact killer. The growing leaf surface area is what it needs to come in contact with to kill the plant. But if you mow it off and there’s just little stems sticking up, there’s so little surface area, you won’t get much of a kill, so the best solution, and saves more trips across the field, simply drive across here, spray it one time, and prepare to plant.

GRANT: For those food plots that had standing corn, you just about have to mow it down ‘cause it’s too tall for the sprayer booms to move across there and make good contact with the weeds growing beneath it. The wheat is still actively growing; some deer are foraging on it, and it’s pulling nutrients up, so I’m not in a big hurry. But I don’t want it getting three foot tall and making seed heads, cause by that time, I’ve missed critical early planting season and I’ve got so much plant material on the ground, it’s gonna be hard to get seed-to-soil contact. We’ll probably spray another week, or two, once the air temperature is at least 60 degrees, soil dries out, be ready to spray and start again.

GRANT: Each year, we allow about 100 people to come to The Proving Grounds and try to tell ‘em everything we know about improving the habitat and being successful hunters.

ROBERT: You keep growing beans in the same field year after year?

BRAD: Absolutely.

GRANT: We limit attendance to 100 people because this is a hands-on event. We’re out in the field looking, doing, and actually showing you exactly how we manage and hunt The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: And we’ll just light a little – you know, got a chance of being a little bit more of a head fire, right here. You can see how that are – see the difference already?

GRANT: In addition, great companies like Winchester, Redneck Blinds, Trophy Rock, Flatwood Natives, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and many others will be here to give you tips how to use their great gear and offer huge discounts, right before hunting season.

GRANT: Okay, so first off, we’re going to draw for a, a, uh, a pair of AeroHead LaCrosse Boots. This is actually…

GRANT: Final night of the event, we all go up to Bass Pro’s world headquarters in Springfield, Missouri and everyone gets a VIP shopping card.

THOMAS: One, two, three.

GRANT: The fee is $200.00 before June, and $250.00 afterwards, so sign up soon – save some money to go shopping with us at Bass Pro.

GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get outside this week and turkey hunt, or work on some habitat improvement projects, but most importantly, take time to enjoy Creation and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching