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ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer.tv is brought to you by Reconyx, Barnes, Eagle Seed, Muddy Outdoors, Trophy Rock, Antler Dirt, Nikon, Outer Armour and Gallagher.
WOODS: It’s late June and Brad and I decided to go ahead and film this episode just a couple days early, because I’m going to be working in New York and North Carolina next week on some projects, but here we are in late June and we’ve been without a rain for two weeks here at The Proving Grounds. It’s rained around us, but not here and that native vegetation is hardening off. It’s defending itself against drought conditions and not putting out any new growth. There’s nothing nutritious. It’s like week old spaghetti. The rabbits don’t want to eat it, the deer don’t want to eat it, I wouldn’t want to eat week old spaghetti. But I’ve got a little bitty food plot we’ll show you in just a second in the bottom. It’s still lush and green like fresh out of the oven spaghetti. And now, we’re keeping the deer out with the Gallagher fence. We’re seeing some browsing there and I was like, “Well, what’s going on here?”
One quick check of the Reconyx unequivocally proved what’s going on. So, stay with us, and we’re going to share with you a lesson we learned this morning.
By the way, the, next week we’re all going, Brad and I are going to the QDMA convention. If you’ve never attended a QDMA convention, Quality Deer Management Association, I strongly encourage you to attend one. You know, you’ve got speakers from all over. Friends of mine. Other biologists, coming to share the latest research and tips and Brad and I will both be presenting papers on stuff to help fellow landowners benefit wildlife the most. Hey, think about going to QDMA.com and signing up to attend the convention in Kentucky this year.
WOODS: Just at the very edge of this bedding area, I came right across a Smilax. Some people call it catbrier or greenbrier and it’s a brier, but it’s a preferred deer food. Deer love to eat it and it’s pretty nutritious, but, you know, again, we’re in late June. It’s dry. We haven’t had a rain in two weeks here. Just a mist or two; nothing to really matter and native plants have a defense mechanism; a lot of them do, of just not putting new growth out and conserving what moisture they have so they can survive. Better to survive than to grow. And so, there’s no new growth coming on. The leaves are very leathery. Very tough. Not palatable. Especially, when you could walk a quarter mile or less from the bedding area and have a big old lush food plot down here in the bottom with soybean leaves. And we’ve fertilized the soybean areas. We’ve used compost that holds moisture, so there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s more soil moisture in the food plot than on this rocky ridge. So deer and rabbits and other animals are all concentrating and putting undue pressure on our food plots. Without the Gallagher fence we showed you last week, most of our food plots would really be suffering right now and would limit our opportunity to provide forage and hunting opportunities this fall.
WOODS: You know, a couple days ago when Brad and I pulled up here, this looked really ugly and we’re thinking, “What’s going on? Are deer somehow getting over our fence?” And we pulled the card out of the Reconyx camera. The great thing about Reconyx, and we’re using this feature, you can have time lapse where it takes a picture on an interval. Like we’ve got this one set on every five minutes; early morning and late afternoon; the prime feeding times and motion detector working simultaneously. This plot is so small, the motion detector will pick up movement halfway or more through the plot. So, we’re watching this plot 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, if a deer is here, we know it. We pull the card, we review it. Literally, over a thousand images. Not one deer in the fence. A few deer on the edge, backing off. But, hundreds and I do mean, hundreds of images of rabbits. Cottontail rabbits. We’re right next to that 50-acre bedding area. That vegetation’s hardened off. There’s not good quality food in there. One rabbit finds it. Calls the other bunnies up and says, “Hey, doc. Guess what’s out here? Grant’s favorite soybeans growing in Antler Dirt. Holding moisture. It’s lush. And they got a nice little protector that keeps the deer out, so we don’t have to compete with the deer.” And the rabbits are coming right under our fence. We’ve got pictures of them. This is incredible how much damage rabbits have done.
So when you pull up to your food plot, whether you have a protection fence or not and you see a lot of browse, inspect the browse. See if it’s clipped off clean. That might be a ground hog or rabbit that have teeth on top or bottom. Remember deer don’t have any teeth on top, incisors. These soybeans are clipped off like a razor sharp pair of scissors. I detected it. The trail camera proves it. Rabbits are eating my beans.
WOODS: We’re just looking around a little bit right behind where the trail camera is in the bedding area. And doggone rabbit trails, just the perfect size for a rabbit, coming to the food plot. I mean, you know, this is a huntable trail. I’m about ready to hang my tree stand out here, I think. But, rabbit trails. I want to see deer trails, not rabbit trails.
WOODS: (On phone) Hey, this is Grant. It’s July 7th. I wanted to interrupt this with a simple update. I had a chance this morning to inspect the plot that the rabbits are doing a lot of damage to. And it certainly appears that the suggestion by the Gallagher team of adding an additional wire closer to the ground is keeping the rabbits out. Man, I can’t believe it. Clearly the beans inside the fence are recovering, while the beans outside the fence are totally over browsed and suppressed by rabbits. Those Gallagher guys sure know how to protect the food plot.