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>>GRANT: Brrr. It’s cold outside.
>>GRANT: As y’all know, a big, brutal, vortex cold front swung way down and brought with it single-digit temperatures in areas that rarely have those conditions. In addition, there was a little bit of ice in some areas, and here we got about eight inches of snow.
>>GRANT: Man, I feel bad for those folks that weren’t prepared. Their pipes are busted. There’s power outages; all types of mayhem. It’s tough on two-legged critters and just as tough on our four-legged friends.
>>GRANT: This is an extreme of the type of weather I reference when I talk about the two critical stress periods – late summer, which is certainly not now, and late winter.
>>GRANT: In many areas, food sources may be extremely limited for critters, or even if it’s there, it’s tough to find because it’s covered with snow and ice.
>>GRANT: You may be in a comfy house wondering, “How do critters survive those conditions?” And it can certainly be tough. In fact, we were out in the yard doing some stuff yesterday, and Clay found a starling that appeared to have frozen and fallen out of a tree.
>>GRANT: One way deer survive these conditions is by adding insulation or piloerection. Now they don’t put another coat on, but they stick each of their hollow hairs out – hollow, holding air, great insulation – stick it out, and in the winter those hairs, as you know, are much longer than during the warm season or the summer coat. I mean that’s like putting a big layer of a down coat on.
>>GRANT: Another way deer stay warm is by cranking up that giant, onboard heater they carry around. I’m talking about the stomach or that four-chambered stomach called a rumen. When that thing’s got ample food in there and billions and billions of bacteria are doing their thing breaking down that food, it can generate a lot of heat.
>>GRANT: Now that heat can escape much easier with thin hair or hair that’s compressed, like a wet down coat, but when that hair is sticking up and trapping in that warm body air and there’s a lot of heat being generated internally, deer can survive extremely harsh conditions.
>>GRANT: Like any heater, a deer’s heater needs a good source of energy. And this time of year they’re burning a lot, and that energy needs to be high-octane or a food source high in calories. Think acorns, grains – something that’s got fat and energy in it.
>>GRANT: As an example, a few days ago I saw some deer behind my house eating on a small patch of grain. It was standing above the snow and a great food source. In fact, I hadn’t seen many deer behind my house in several weeks. But when these conditions hit, deer were really tuned in and needed that food source.
>>GRANT: Deer know their home range really well and will go throughout that home range to where the conditions are best for their survival.
>>GRANT: With that said, I am absolutely not promoting going out behind the house or to wherever you hunt and pouring out a bag of corn. If you haven’t been using a supplemental feeding program and you add a bunch right now, it’s gonna be horrible for the deer.
>>GRANT: We talked earlier about the rumen, or that big stomach, having billions of bacteria in it, and there’s many, many species in there. And they kind of come and go and build up or decrease depending on the food source deer have been eating. So, if you think about it in a natural habitat – you know in the summer deer eating forbs and high-protein, protein-rich foods, and then the first few acorns start falling.
>>GRANT: Now they didn’t need to maintain a big population of bacteria that could digest high carbs and energy through the summer. There’s a residual population.
>>GRANT: The first acorns fall or maybe a windstorm comes through and a few would fall off early, and deer start eating those. And that food allows that population or populations of bacteria to build up and match that food supply as it increases.
>>GRANT: However, if you haven’t been using a supplemental feeding program and the acorns have been gone for a long time where you hunt, if you go out here right now and pour out a bunch of corn or energy-rich food, deer are gonna ingest it about like me looking at a big, ‘ole ice cream. I don’t need it, but I’m gonna ingest it. But they don’t have the microbes in their rumen to break it down, and sometimes they’ll walk off and you may see ‘em go, “Oh I feel so good about what I’ve done,” and then the deer die a few hundred yards in the woods with a full belly.
>>GRANT: This is well published, especially in the northern states. People would wait until the snow is deep and conditions were harsh and then start a feeding program and they ended up killing a lot of deer.
>>GRANT: Researchers discovered this and have published it very well in those areas. But south of there, throughout the rest of the whitetails’ range, I find a lot of people don’t understand this because right now I’m getting comments and questions daily about starting a feeding program.
>>GRANT: You know as I stand here right now and snow is deep, it’s icy; it’s tough to get around; I’m really thankful my deer are not depending on me getting around but have access to a really good food plot program.
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>>GRANT: Not only do deer need quality food, they need quality cover. Gosh, this side of my face is cold right now with the wind blowing in this way, and if I had to stay out here all night, I’d lose my body heat, and I’d be really cold. So, quality cover is key to surviving and thriving in these conditions.
>>GRANT: We talk a lot about a bunch of the whitetails’ range being high-graded hardwoods. Of course, the leaves are off now, and the wind’s whipping through there. High-graded hardwoods or hardwoods of any kind are not quality cover for these conditions.
>>GRANT: And, of course, I talk a lot about cutting cedars, and I’m gonna get some emails saying, “Well you cut out all the quality cover.” Well, there are still some cedars here, but cedars are not necessarily quality cover anytime or even during these conditions. If you think about it, man, if it warms up at all, you don’t want to be under the shade where it’s not melting and it’s wet. You want to be out in the sun and out of the wind. You want to get in your pickup truck, close the door where the wind can’t get to you, but the sun is shining in.
>>GRANT: Well, the same is true for deer. Now they’re not getting in my pickup truck, but they love to get in a big, tall, thick stand of native grasses, let that sun’s energy come down through there. But, you know, that first foot off the ground – think about a deer laying on the ground.
>>GRANT: The wind is getting pushed up above that because of that grass, so there’s no wind or very little wind, and the sun’s energy is hitting them.
>>GRANT: I’ve laid in both places, and I’ll assure you on a sunny day it’s much warmer to be out of the wind and in the sun than under some shaded cedars.
>>GRANT: Here we are in mid-to-late February, and a lot of folks are thinking about shed hunting. Well, these are tough conditions to shed hunt in, but when it thaws and we can get out and see well, it’s gonna be a target-rich environment. And the reason is, in areas like this where we have high-quality habitat, a lot of bucks went into the storm still holding their antlers. Now, I haven’t checked our trail cameras recently, but I bet some of those bucks have now shed. And the reason is simple.
>>GRANT: When bucks get in a really stressful situation and their testosterone level drops below a certain threshold, those antlers are coming off.
>>GRANT: Well, it’s been cold enough and tough enough conditions, I imagine that testosterone level has dropped in a lot of bucks, and there was a big, ‘ole, kind of simultaneous drop of antlers throughout The Proving Grounds and throughout a lot of the whitetails’ range.
>>GRANT: Talking about stress – boy these conditions, especially in areas where there’s not good habitat, maybe it’s a contiguous forest or ag country. We think of ag country as being great deer habitat, but if they haven’t planted a cover crop or done something since the crops were harvested, there’s almost no food and limited cover. And those deer are going through a lot of stress.
>>GRANT: The longer that stress lingers, it’s very likely their potential to produce antlers and fawns has decreased. And the reason is simple.
>>GRANT: The lower the body condition of a buck or doe going into spring green-up and antler-growing time, or milk-production time, their body is in such poor condition from that stress during the winter that they’re playing catch-up versus taking off. And they have to use those resources to survive versus growing antlers or producing milk for fawns.
>>GRANT: This is one reason I’m a huge fan of site-specific management and improving the property where you hunt as much as you can and even at a bigger scale, co-ops. I’ve seen co-ops, or individual properties like here, produce much higher-quality deer and hunting year after year after year than the neighborhood.
>>GRANT: Whitetails have a relatively small home range. They’re not migrating from Canada to the south like waterfowl are. And you can make a huge impact on the quality of the herd and hunting by doing management on a local scale.
>>GRANT: It may not seem like it and it doesn’t feel like it to me right now, but in a few days it’s gonna be ideal conditions to use one of my favorite food plot establishment techniques. And I’m talking about snow seeding.
>>GRANT: Stay tuned and we’ll share my food plot snow seeding technique with you soon.
>>GRANT: I know these conditions are brutal, but you gotta admit if you get a moment to slow down and look around, it’s really pretty outside – fresh snow, everything’s covered up.
>>GRANT: I hope you have a chance, if you’re able, to get outside and enjoy Creation. And more importantly, no matter where you are, take a moment to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.