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WOODS: Hard to imagine this field had ice all over it yesterday, but a storm come through and it was bitter cold. Rained a little bit during the night. Melted off. The sun is out today and it is beautiful. The birds are singing. The clover’s popping. It’s almost Easter. It’s that time of year for change. You know at the Woods’ house here, we think Easter is a tremendously important holiday. Because that’s when we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I really encourage you to join us, the Woods family in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
WOODS: This episode, we’re gonna review winter food plots. What we planted, what worked, what didn’t. Did we have too much of one, not enough of the other, so we can do a better job of planting for next year and move into these summer plots that are just now starting to bust and grow warm.
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WOODS: It’s spring break and it’s mid-March. The kids are home, down at the creek, having a cookout and the dogs are down there. Everybody’s having fun. Still pretty cold. You can see we all got our coats on and dressed, but what we want to do today is look at our winter food plots. Because we’re in that transition period between late winter and spring planting time. So what food is left, this is when the deer are the hungriest. What food plots were working; what food plots didn’t work. It’s time to go review our food plot program so we can improve it next year.
WOODS: Foraged soybeans are, of course, a great tool we use here at The Proving Grounds and here’s the reason why. I mean, look at the volume that grew. We imagined this last June, July, August; big lush leaves. Pumping nitrogen into the ground. Shadowed out all the weeds growing beneath it. Foraged soybeans are a great warm season tool, but in the cool season, we’ve got all these pods. Now, here we are in March. Most of the pods are gone. Some of the pods are still here with beans on them. I’m thinking 10-20% of the pods are left in this field. And that’s perfect. That’s just right for the deer to have enough to eat and transition into the green stuff coming on in spring. We don’t want it stopping all at once and go into another food crop. That’s hard on their digestive system. A little slow transition, running out of one food base. Another food base kicking in, is perfect. So, forage soybeans work pretty good here at The Proving Grounds. Seems like we had the right recipe.
Let’s go over here to a winter wheat field and see how it’s doing. See if we got that recipe right for our deer density here at The Proving Grounds.
WOODS: We filmed at this same utilization cage a few weeks ago and it was cold. Inside the cage and outside the cage, there was about three inches difference because the wheat wasn’t growing and the deer had cleaned up all of the available forage. But since then, we’ve added liquid Antler Dirt or liquid compost and outside has got a flush of growth. The big difference now between inside the cage and outside the cage is not so much a height difference as it is that inside the cage, every stem is still pointed. It hasn’t been nipped on or consumed. Outside, I’m seeing about a 50/50, where 50% is still pointed and sharp; 50% has been tore off where a deer’s been browsing on it. This is the time of year when winter wheat really shines. It’s just warm enough for the wheat to really grow and respond to fertilizer and it’s a great tool for late winter. And this part of the property looks like my food and my herd density is balanced. We’re good to grow some big fawns and big antlers there in 2010.
WOODS: We’re in a winter wheat clover field planted at The Proving Grounds within a day or two of the field we were just in. But what a huge difference. Inside the cage, about the same height as the other field. Outside the cage, lip high everywhere. Deer have consumed all the forage. This tells me that in late winter, obviously, I don’t have enough food in this part of The Proving Grounds for my deer to eat all they need to eat. They can’t express their antler growth, their fawn production potential if all the food is lip high this time of winter. When you see wheat sticking out of the edge of a utilization cage and it’s all nipped off, you know that they’re hungry. They’re trying to get their tongue inside the cage. This is not good and it tells me I need more food in this part of my farm.
Right down the road a couple of hundred yards a dozer’s been working. We’re making a new food plot several acres in size. Because this cage told me I had plenty of fertilizer, my plants grew well, but my wheat was not enough in volume for this part of the farm.
WOODS: We were just in that food plot that was ate down to nothing but lip high. That tells me there’s stress in that part of my property. I want to relieve that stress and the secret was in the form of a big D-6. A friend of mine owed me some favors, so we got him in here this year. Cleaned out a few acres of a food plot on a ridge top which will be great for hunting. We’ll plant this in forage soybeans for about two years in a row. Plant it, let them eat the forage in the summer. Beans or legumes, putting all that nitrogen in dirt. Building it for other crops later on. Let them eat the seed pods all winter. Build up the soil fertility. We’ll be fertilizing with Antler Dirt and hunting here this fall. We’re gonna call this the “Big Boom Field.” You can pay attention and see what we see in Big Boom this year.
WOODS: This is a two year-old stand of clover, but you would think it was just planted because it’s so short. But it’s been a cold, hard winter and clover simply has not had a chance to grow. It stored those reserves in the root system and as soon as we get some warm weather, it will pop out and grow faster than a deer herd can consume it. But, right now, winter wheat’s strong. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna change my management plan here. I know it will kick in when we get some warm weather. I’ll spray the grass out of it. Once again. Fertilize. Let it go for another year. Clover is part of my management bag, but a small part used where it should be.
WOODS: I love hearing that hen hammer up there. Gosh, almighty, it makes me think about turkey season. But she’s hammering up there because there’s a great food source right here. All wildlife really enjoys and benefits from corn. It’s a great energy source for the winter. It’s what keeps them warm. Now, this field’s probably 90, 95% consumed already. Most of the ears are stripped, knocked down and gone. But it was a great source. This worked out well for my mission here. Just enough corn to make it through a tough winter, but not so much that we got a lot of volunteer corn coming up competing for our next food plot. Now, corn draws a lot of nutrients out of soil and it’s always good to rotate another crop the following year after you’ve had corn. Not corn on corn. That’s a bad program for most food plots. Boy, if you can time it where 90, 95% is consumed, you hit the nail on the head. This corn worked out great, but on other places on The Proving Grounds, we were a little short of energy in the late winter and our herd might not be quite as productive as it could have been if we’d had a little bit more energy. So, I’m thinking about adjusting my food sources. “Where do I plant my corn? Where do I plant my beans? How can I get in a rotation two, three years down the road.” Hey, corn’s part of a good food plot program, but getting the balance is even more important. Think about wheat and clover and corn and soybeans, and other food plot crops when you design your food plot program for 2010 at your Proving Grounds. But right now, I’m thinking about turkey hunting. I’ll see you next week here at The Proving Grounds.