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WOODS: My daughter Raleigh and I are out today checking out how much food we have left for the deer here at The Proving Grounds. It’s February 6th, and we’ve had snow on the ground for weeks on end, you know, the build up, meltdown, build up and more snow comes. The deer are stressed. They’re hungry and this time of year is really important for next spring’s fawns. Remember, those fawns are inside the mother right now. They’re developing. They’re alive. They’re growing and each day they get a little bit bigger and it takes more nutrients for mom to go through the winter in good health. So, the mother’s trying to maintain her body size so she can maintain weight and her health and her coat in good shape to keep her warm. Thermal regulate. And grow a couple of fetuses inside of her, so that’s a huge amount of energy.
WOODS: Bucks are really storing nutrients to recover from the rut and they’re storing calcium and phosphorous in their skeletal system that they will release when antlers start growing this spring. They don’t just grow a, an antler on a big deer, enough bone the size of my arm out of what they’re eating at that time. They store it in their skeletal system, unlike humans, and then they can release it from their skeletal system. We can’t release it.
WOODS: We were coming down here to look and there’s this massive trail for The Proving Grounds, a really massive trail. There are deer tracks and turkey tracks and scat and droppings all in it. Obviously going to a preferred food source. And that preferred food source is that soybean patch right behind me there.
WOODS: Soybeans make a great late winter food. Most people think of soybeans as green forage in the spring. But, late winter, those stems are sticking up. They’re erect. The seed pods are the perfect height for deer to browse on and the seeds are readily digestible. High in protein. Actually, pretty high in energy. The oil in the soybean itself is, the oil is fat, or very high in energy.
WOODS: It’s easy to tell where the deer were coming to. Of course, we could see the trail through the snow, but when you get out here, it’s a great food source. So I’ve got soybeans chest high on me, standing through multiple snows this winter and rain and wind, so it’s a readily available food source that’s just the right height for a deer to come browse on. They don’t eat these stems or stalks unless they’re starving.
What they’re after are these pods. They’re just hanging there at the perfect height. Of course, everyone knows the nutritional value of soybeans. What they may not recognize is how much there is, so even at a relatively low yield, like 30 bushels per acre. 30 bushels per acre and a bushel is 60 pounds, so that would be 1800 pounds of just a bean inside the pod per acre of food. 1800 pounds per acre and that’s after they’ve browsed on the green forage all summer long, so that’s just a huge benefit. We use Eagle Seed beans. They’re a forage variety, bred just for forage production. The beans are a whole byproduct. That’s a bonus. So you’re getting summer food, all summer long, real high quality and great winter food as that trail showed. Man, they’re piling in here. I wish it was deer season. I know exactly where to put a stand. So, you feed deer all summer. Then you feed them in the winter with these very, very good, um, very good pods. I like ‘em too. My daughters like ‘em too.
There is about 30% oil in a soybean; 20-30%. And that oil is real high in energy. Soybean oil is used for a lot of cooking and it’s a really high quality product, so deer eat these pods – boom, boom, boom, boom, unlike a soy, unlike an acorn, they don’t spit the hulls out, they consume the whole thing. And that’s great value. Huge amount of food per acre. Even on a marginal crop. And that’s after we’ve fed deer all summer on the forage. So, forage soybeans are a great tool – not the only tool – but a great tool for a deer manager. Certainly the deer at The Proving Grounds are loving it as the trails show.
WOODS: Small plots are wonderful cutoffs. I call them little “hidey-holes”, especially in the early season. But you know, by late season, most of the food’s gonna be consumed and they’re going to the bigger feeding plot, so I’ve got a bedroom just to my right; I’ve got a creek or a water source to my left; I’ve got this little small plot and the deer can come right out of that bedroom, stop here and got a great big Sycamore tree with two or three stems in the background that’s great for a stand. But right across the creek, you see that big green field back there. That’s the big feeding area. If it wasn’t for this big feeding area, these beans would have never made it as tall as they are last summer. That big field took the bulk of the browse pressure, allowing this to get some height and some volume to it and that was the secret to growing beans in a small plot. But again, on your property, if all you got’s a small plot, beans are not the crop for you.
WOODS: Most people don’t realize that take any property, about 90% of it is not going to be concentrated deer activity. And how you manage your property and where you plant stuff and what you’re doing, how you do your trees, where you do prescribed fire, where will you build your ponds, where will you make your bedding areas. That determines where deer move, where you have transition zones and where you can set it for harvest.
This little plot here, just small, Raleigh and I can walk around real easy, is a great early bow season – September 15th – hunting spot if you can control your scent. We’re in a valley, so you can’t get in here real early because the wind’s going to be going upstream. Thermal’s going up because it’s heating up, especially early. But at that magic time, all of a sudden, the air’s gonna go down with this creek and draw your scent down. So if you can park downstream, walk back up this way. Get in that great big Sycamore tree right behind the camera; double stemmed, easy to hide in, deer coming out of the bedding area over here, down to this little soybean field, even though it’s browsed down, it’s a nice tasty morsel before they get to the big field behind us. Perfect setup and that’s what you want to do is design your food and bedding and everything for harvest. Because that’s what we’re out here for is growing deer together.
WOODS: We had a great time today and I hope you learned something. Next week, we’re going to talk about corn as a food plot crop. Not a commercial crop. But a food plot crop for growing deer.
WOODS: Thanks for watching us on GrowingDeer.tv.