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>> GRANT: It’s late January here at The Proving Grounds, but I’m already thinking about next deer season.

>> GRANT: I’m not just thinking about where to put a stand or a blind, although we’re looking for sign while we’re out shed hunting. I’m also thinking about what my doe harvest will need to be.

>> GRANT: You may have noticed we didn’t harvest a lot of does at The Proving Grounds this past season, especially compared to past years where we were pretty mad at does and took as many as we could.

>> GRANT: [Shot] She’s down.

>> GRANT: The reason, well, it’s really simple. A primary key to managing deer herds and habitat is balancing the amount of deer with the habitat’s potential to make quality forage.

>> GRANT: That balance isn’t just in the spring when everything is lush and flushing. It’s year-round, but especially during the late summer and late winter.

>> GRANT: Those are the two most common stress periods as far as eating in a white-tailed deer’s world. It could be dry in late summer or simply the crops that were planted have already been consumed by the time August rolls around.

>> GRANT: That’s especially common if you plant a monoculture or something like that and all the crop grows, gets palatable and matures at the same time.

>> GRANT: That’s one reason I really like blends, even in the summer, because you have different species growing and becoming palatable at different times.

>> GRANT: The same is true with my fall crop. You know, if I’ve got a little hidey hole food plot, I’m just planting something to attract deer during the hunting season.

>> GRANT: But if I’ve got a larger plot like this where I can not only attract deer, but provide quality forage, I want to plant a blend that has quality food early, mid, late season and after season. I want to make sure deer have all they want to eat every week out of the year.

>> GRANT: When you have a deer herd that lives in an area where there’s ample groceries year around, that allows every individual in that herd to express its full genetic potential – either antler growth or the amount of fawns that doe produces.

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>> GRANT: So, it’s not just having a lot of food. You can attack this from several angles. Let’s say you hunt an area that has a large expanse of closed canopy forest. Well, there’s not going to be much food throughout most of the growing season. Maybe some acorns, but other than that, pretty much starvation alley.

>> GRANT: You can still grow some good quality deer, but you’re going to have to harvest enough out of that population to get it way down so there’s not much competition for the available groceries. I like seeing a lot of deer and that’s not an ideal situation for me.

>> GRANT: I prefer a situation where I’ve got high-quality food plots and really well managed native vegetation so I can carry more deer; allow them to express more of their genetic potential. So when I’m out hunting or just out walking around, I’ve got a much better chance of seeing deer.

>> GRANT: In areas that have really high-quality forage, of course, the deer are healthy and a healthy deer herd can produce enough fawns to increase that population by a third each year.

>> GRANT: So, this past hunting season here at The Proving Grounds, we weren’t very mad at does. We didn’t set a very high quota. In fact, we took just enough does to make sure everyone had plenty of venison in the freezer.

>> GRANT: July, August, September, I’m out looking all the time – working, but looking at habitat quality. And I realized our food plots were lush and had more food than the deer could eat. The native vegetation areas where we’ve thinned trees or cut cedars and used a lot of prescribed fire, man, it was waist high; full of different species and providing high-quality food and cover.

>> GRANT: Knowing that’s the situation at this property – site specific right here – again, we took enough does to fill the freezer and didn’t need to take anymore because we’ve got plenty of groceries for all the does out there carrying fawns for that fawn to develop and produce plenty of milk this spring.

>> GRANT: I suggest you do the same. Go out now to your hunting location and check out the amount of quality forage in your area. If your food plots are lip high, you should have harvested more does and you’re going to need to start next season off filling some doe tags.

>> GRANT: If your food plots are doing okay – two, three, maybe four inches high – you still need to be harvesting does, but you probably don’t need to harvest every one you see.

>> GRANT: If you’re like us and your food plots are tall and lush and green. You’ve got clover and cereal grains and brassicas and you can tell deer are just kind of eating on the edges – they’re eating the good stuff and leaving the rest, feel good that you didn’t take a lot of does. There are going to be more deer to see and hunt this coming season and the deer you see will likely be very healthy.

>> GRANT: Being a good deer manager means paying attention to your habitat year-round. And checking out habitat – that’s a great way to get outside and enjoy Creation.

>> GRANT: But make sure you take time every day, no matter where you are, to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

>> GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.