Downwind Hunting Strategies | Protecting Food Plots (Episode 498 Transcript)

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

DANIEL: We’re out checking cameras today. We came through this creek crossing and spotted something in the water, and it is a big shed.

DANIEL: Getting out here looking at it; it’s got a kicker on one of the tines, and I know it’s Red.

DANIEL: We’ve had some heavy rains here at The Proving Grounds. This shed likely was shed further up the creek; it got washed off the mountain and came downstream. I’m excited. I can’t wait any longer. I’m gonna pull it up and see what Red’s shed looks like.

DANIEL: Holy cow! Look at that! Look at the mass of this guy!

DANIEL: We call him Red. He’s got this little kicker right there, just a big eight-pointer. Heavy horned deer; just a great deer.

DANIEL: Here it is the end of May and we’re still smiling because we’re finding sheds.

DANIEL: We’re coming for you this fall, Red.

GRANT: It will be Father’s Day soon, and long-term viewers of GrowingDeer know I had a great relationship with my dad, but not everyone is that blessed. So this year let’s celebrate our dads and, in addition, let’s also be a father figure to someone that needs a dad in their life.

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GRANT: Last fall I had several hunts from a Summit stand in an area we call Tracy’s Bowl.

GRANT: The terrain at this location makes a bowl shape in the side of the mountain, and deer typically travel the top end of the bowl.

GRANT: The bottom of the bowl is steep, and there’s a drainage coming out the bottom that serves as a pinch point.

GRANT: This is the location where we filmed Daniel having an encounter with Red last winter.

GRANT: I really enjoy hunting this area during the pre-rut. There’s a bedding area to the north and to the south. Them bucks cruise around the top of this bowl going to those bedding areas and scent checking for does.

GRANT: There were a lot of acorns at The Proving Grounds last winter, and that made this location even better because there’s some mature white oaks just above the stand.

GRANT: While hunting there one morning last October, Tyler and I saw a lot of deer, including a buck we call Big Deal.

GRANT: While hunting there in the previous fall, I had an encounter with a buck we call High Riser.

GRANT: Not only has Tracy’s Bowl proven a successful stand location, but the next ridge south of there is what we call the 50-Acre Mountain. That’s another great stand location as during the morning the bucks are cruising using the thermals to scent check does and we can get just below that travel corridor and get in there without alerting deer.

GRANT: Based on our observations, it’s clear there’s a great travel corridor between Tracy’s Bowl and 50-Acre Mountain.

GRANT: There’s a couple of food plots between Tracy’s Bowl and 50-Acre Mountain, but one of ‘em we had some Code Blue scrapes, and last year those scrapes were lit up with buck activity.

GRANT: A deer we call Louie was one of the bucks working those scrapes.

GRANT: Given all the buck activity we’ve observed in this area during the past couple of years, we started studying the onX map to develop a hunting strategy for this fall.

GRANT: After considering our approach, predominant wind directions, thermals, and what we know about deer movement in the area, we decided to put a Hot Zone fence and protect part of the beans from being browsed during the summer in the Second House plot.

GRANT: Before hunting season, we’ll put a stand or a blind on the east side of the Hot Zone. We selected the east side because it backs up to a creek, and with the thermals, and cold air, and the predominant winds, our scent should drop in that creek and go down it so we can approach, hunt, and exit from the east without alerting deer.

GRANT: Once we had mapped this strategy out, it was time to head to the Second House plot, put up the Hot Zone.

GRANT: The Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans in this plot are looking great, but it’s early in the summer. We want to protect a portion of those beans from being browsed on so they produce the maximum amount of pods.

GRANT: During the late summer, we’ll broadcast a fall blend into the standing beans so we’ll have greens and grain in the same place. This is a neat way to make a great stand location ensuring there’s high-quality forage right in front of the stand.

GRANT: When the conditions started getting right to hunt this stand, we’ll remove all or portions of the Hot Zone and give deer access to the forage.

GRANT: We used the same strategy last year in a plot we call Prickly Pear. We waited ‘til about the late season, then opened up a portion of the fence, and when the conditions were right, Daniel hunted the downwind side.

GRANT: Just after shooting light, a mature buck we called Ringer Eight entered the plot.

GRANT: Ringer Eight was obviously hungry and seeking those high energy bean pods.

GRANT: Based on our past observations, we couldn’t wait to put up another Hot Zone and make a great stand or blind location.

GRANT: A nice, cool morning here at The Proving Grounds. It’s not raining, which is a pleasant change from the past couple weeks.

GRANT: We’re at a small plot, probably just less than an acre, we call Second House. There’s an old house, but it’s all dilapidated over here. And last year we had several bucks in this general area. So, we’re gonna get ahead of the game this year, put up a Hot Zone fence. Protect these beans from being browsed – let them really mature and make a lot of pods – ‘cause we think again this year during the rut, bucks will be circling this area, and we’ll have the best food right here.

GRANT: There’s food plots all up and down the creek. But right here the creek kind of makes a little bend, and there’s a 30-acre bedding area right behind that line of trees.

GRANT: Bucks tend to cruise downhill to the bedding area. It’s cold during the rut usually. The wind is coming down off the mountain; the thermals are coming down. They cruise the bottom side of that bedding area scent checking does.

GRANT: So, we’re gonna have a food resource that’s gonna be very attractive; we’ve got a big bedding area and a natural funnel. Put it all together, and hopefully we can tag a couple good bucks out of this plot.

GRANT: The steps are easy. We’re gonna figure out exactly where we want the fence; think about tree stands or blinds, how we’re gonna approach, lay the fence out, and start putting it up.

GRANT: A couple hints about using the Hot Zone successfully. First you need it grounded good. People always think the solar charge is not working, but it’s usually a poor ground. You have to have a ground for the electronics to all work.

GRANT: Second is keep the fence at least 10 feet or so from the edge of thick cover. You might have a coyote chasing deer or something. They’re going through thick cover and they need a step or two to see the fence so they can adjust their pass. Otherwise, they might run right through the fence.

GRANT: Got some new interns here at The Proving Grounds. Gonna break them in right and show them how we use a Hot Zone to protect some forage until hunting season.

GRANT: I think we’re gonna try to get a little bit more than a third of an acre here.

GRANT: It’s obviously a good stand of beans. If we get rain through the summer, you know no catastrophic droughts or something, we’re gonna produce a lot of pods – especially if they’re not getting bit on all the time.

GRANT: All right, let’s get it going.

GRANT: We used a rangefinder to measure the size of the fence and make sure we were within shooting distance of where we’d place a stand or blind.

GRANT: That’s good.

GRANT: We then laid out the fence by driving the corner posts.

GRANT: The Hot Zone is a two-layer fence. There’s an outer fence where we use a half inch wide electrical tape, and it’s placed 18 inches above the ground.

GRANT: The second layer is three feet toward the forage you wish to protect, and on that layer we use electrical wires that are 10 and 24 inches above the ground.

GRANT: This design is very important. If the two layers are placed too close together, deer tend to jump both of ‘em at once. And if they’re too far apart, deer will jump one and jump the other. For reasons not totally understood, three feet works perfectly to keep deer from jumping.

TAYLOR: Okay, three feet is right there.

DANIEL: Last fall this was a hot spot. We had two active Code Blue scrapes on this cedar tree and on this cedar tree. They got tore up. Old Louie came in, put on a show, hit both scrapes. And right here there’s a heavy trail. You can just see. They’ve got a path worn out coming in to the Second House food plot.

DANIEL: Just a few yards out there, there’s the Hot Zone. We’re saving those beans for later this fall to hunt over, and maybe we may just put a tag on old Louie here in Second House.

GRANT: Once the corner posts are in place, we string a wire between them so we know exactly where to put the perimeter posts.

GRANT: We place posts about every 15 yards or so around the perimeter. Sometimes we place a post a bit closer or a bit further apart based on any change in topography.

GRANT: We’re careful to drive the post just the right depth so the holes in the post where the wire will be attached are at the appropriate height to give us either 18, 10, or 24 inches above the ground.

GRANT: Clipping the wire to the post is easy, but each post has multiple holes so you can drive them deeper or more shallow, if there’s a lot of rocks in the area like there is here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: When laying out a Hot Zone fence, once you get the perimeter established, walk right between where the fence is gonna be. You want to mash that down anyway. You don’t want to be walking willy-nilly through the middle or on the outside killing beans. Walk right where you want to keep the beans low; keep them from shorting out the fence.

GRANT: The guys quickly had the fence up and it was time to install the power unit.

GRANT: The fence is battery powered. We use a deep-cycle battery, but it has a solar panel to put a trickle charge on the battery. That way the batteries last a long time.

GRANT: It probably goes without saying, but it’s important to have that solar panel facing south and positioned so it gets as many hours of sun throughout the day as possible. Don’t put it where shade is gonna cover it during the early afternoon.

GRANT: Once the power unit is in place, the last step before turning it on and testing it, is making sure none of the vegetation is touching the wires. Too much vegetation touching the wires can draw the fence down by shorting it out.

GRANT: We look forward to sharing updates from this project throughout the summer and hopefully hunts from this area during the fall.

GRANT: We recently started working on a soil health improvement project on some production ag farms in northern Missouri.

GRANT: These are large ag fields, not small food plots. But the principles of the Buffalo System are the same no matter the acreage.

GRANT: Conventional ag techniques have been used on these farms — tilled every year; maximum synthetic fertilizer; lots of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, what have you — and those techniques have resulted in degraded soil. This story is common in production ag.

GRANT: There’s a growing concern about reduced soil quality and, therefore, reduced food quality produced on those acres.

GRANT: The objectives of using the Buffalo System on these farms is to monitor the improvements in soil quality and crop yield.

GRANT: Clay and I arrived at the farm last Tuesday, and Tyler arrived earlier. He and the farm staff had been busy planting Eagle Seed production beans.

GRANT: There are about 400 acres of production land on this project, so we’re using two 10-foot Genesis drills so we can maximize the acres planted when the conditions are favorable.

GRANT: There was an obvious weed problem in these fields and it’s easy to understand why there’s a weed problem.

GRANT: When you till soil year after year after year, it’s nature’s Band-Aid to heal that bare soil by something growing, and that something is usually weeds. Weed seeds are present in the soil, blow in, or transported in on equipment that’s been on other farms.

GRANT: Using the Buffalo System to ensure there’s always a growing crop and a mulch layer will go a long ways to reducing this weed problem.

GRANT: Based on how degraded the soils are when we started, I expect it will take a couple of years to show significant improvements.

GRANT: It had been several days since the last rain, but water was still standing in some of the tractor ruts.

GRANT: I pulled up a clump of grass from an area where water was pooled, and I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.

GRANT: The soil was very compacted, very solid, no pore space. So there’s nowhere for the water to drain, and just as importantly, nowhere to store water for when it’s not raining later this summer.

GRANT: Quality soil looks like rich chocolate cake or maybe a sponge. This soil looked like the side of a brick. Clearly it was compacted.

GRANT: After examining the soil where water was pooling, I stepped down a few steps on a bit of a slope where there wasn’t any water and tried to pull up another clump of grass.

GRANT: This wasn’t an easy task. That compacted soil, well it doesn’t give up roots very easily. I actually tried a couple of times and the roots were just breaking off. I finally found one I could work out of the soil.

GRANT: There was no water standing at this site because it was on a bit of a slope. However, the soil appeared the same as the first clump I pulled.

GRANT: There’s no pores. There’s no holes in here at all.

GRANT: After I looked around the property a bit, it was all hands on deck to get as many acres planted before the next rain as possible.

GRANT: We planted late and stayed until lightning was flashing from the next storm.

GRANT: We returned to the property the next morning hoping that somehow the rain missed that area, but we were wrong. There was water standing in several of the fields.

GRANT: We crossed some creeks on the way to the property, and they were extremely muddy. Obviously, there was a lot of erosion from the ag fields in that watershed.

GRANT: We’ll keep you posted on this project throughout the growing season and during harvest. Right after harvest, we’ll be planting the Fall Buffalo Blend. We want to add a lot of organic matter and keep that soil covered to limit erosion.

GRANT: We were working by the Mississippi River in northern Missouri, and I was saddened by the amount of flood damage I saw and knowing the river is forecast to continue rising.

GRANT: Many news sources showed the damage from flooding on structures, but we don’t often hear about the damage of flooding on crops.

GRANT: My heart goes out to the farm families that are really suffering this spring.

GRANT: If you would like to follow the progress of our Hot Zone fence or our ag project in northern Missouri, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.

GRANT: I hope these horrible weather systems end soon and that you have a chance to get outside and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, take time every day to slow down, be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.