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WOODS: Good morning. It is Tuesday, July 13th, and we are so excited. It’s cool and it feels great and it smells great and that’s because a thunder storm just passed, literally minutes ago. Brad and I were sitting in the truck, waiting for the rain to pass. We had looked at the radar and a little narrow band, but over the night we got about two and a half inches of rain and that’s a huge blessing for July. Here at The Proving Grounds, of course, it’s just gravelly mountains. Water soaks right through, so we’re not like parts of the country that are too wet. Our creeks have been dry, ponds are drying up and two and a half inches of rain will turn us around and probably add a few inches of antler development that might not have occurred short of that rain. So, stay with us this morning as we check out The Proving Grounds and enjoy the blessings of a July rain.
WOODS: Brad and I rode down in the valley here and the first stop we just noticed the stunning difference in this utilization cage. Gosh, we’re probably at 8” or a foot difference and what’s really shocking is, of course, deer love these Eagle Seed beans and you can see all the browsed off stems inside the cage. Now, deer have a tongue about 8” plus long for an adult deer and they’re zipping in here, wrapping that tongue around a leaf and tearing it off and pulling it out, so, you can tell how much difference the leaf size is inside the utilization cage versus outside. And that’s because all the leaves you see outside are new growth. Deer have browsed on this over and over and these beans keep trying to put off new growth. That’s good and nutritious. But they just have to take a lot more mouths full out of this compared to these big leaves to get filled up.
WOODS: Another real problem when you have over browsing of soybeans is that they’re not allowed to canopy. And you see all these areas where there’s not canopy closure and there’s all kinds of weeds starting in here. Those weeds are taking nutrients, your fertilizer, out of soil. Storing them in something deer aren’t going to consume versus a type of forage that deer are going to consume. That’s direct competition. So, it tells me that next year, we’re probably going to have to convert this area, this one small field; it’s a very small field, maybe an eighth of an acre or so, to clover. Clover is not quite as palatable as soybeans, low to the ground; makes more of a canopy cover and we can control the weeds, because weeds are competition. Competition means you’re losing something and we don’t want to lose here at The Proving Grounds.
WOODS: We rode right down the road a little bit to what we called Blue Hole Field, because there’s a deep hole in the creek over here. It kind of looks blue and this is exactly what I want to see. Plenty of forage, tons of forage actively growing and maybe ten, fifteen percent at the maximum of the tops have been browsed on. And you see these really light lime green tops. So, here’s a perfect example. This is new browse. You can see where this has been bitten off and shot some new leaves out. Highly digestible. High in protein. Just the best of the best. Well, in this situation, the deer can eat the best and leave the rest to catch sunshine and photosynthesize and make food for this winter. Bean pods. So, we’re feeding the deer all summer on the forage. We’ll feed them all winter with the bean production, should we keep getting rain, but they’re not browsing so hard that we’re getting weed competition stealing the nutrients out of the ground in between. So, to me, this is an ideal field.
Well, when I’m seeing 15, maybe 20% browsing here, it tells me the Z7 is coming out and I need to shoot a few does in this area to stabilize that population density. I want the population matched with the food production. If I had this year’s fawn crop and next year’s fawn crop and all the residual does, this wouldn’t look like this. It would look like the field we were just in where we’ve got 80+% consumption off the top. I want about 15, 20% at the most of my beans being browsed, shooting up new, fresh growth, leaving the rest for bean pod production. And that’s balancing the herd density, the amount of mouths and the amount of forage growing. And we want to find that balance. Too much forage, we need a few more deer for the hunter observations. Hunters like to see deer when they’re out there. Not enough forage. Deer are not expressing their full potential. There’s too much competition and the weeds are coming in. Keeping that balance is a dynamic process and every year you balance by observing in July and August the amount of forage you have with how many deer you need to harvest.
WOODS: As most of you all know, I had a kidney transplant several years ago. As a matter of fact, June 9, 1992. And I’ve been blessed with great health. Man, I’m alive and active and feel good and one reason is I take my medicines every day. It’s real simple. If I miss my medicines, I’m gonna die. And you don’t forget to take your medicines when that kind of pressure’s on you. My body would reject this kidney if I don’t take my anti-rejection drugs. A whole fistful of them. But one I take every day is actually not an anti-rejection drug. It’s simply a vitamin. Now the Mayo Clinic prescribes me to just take a standard, over the counter vitamin every day. Just to make sure I’m getting all the trace minerals I need for my body to really function well and protect this kidney. And that’s just like a deer. They can be eating great forage and I’ve got great native browse here, but if they’re missing one of the elements they need on a daily basis, their body can’t reach its full potential. It won’t be as healthy as it can. Not as many fawns, not as big antlers. And that’s why I use Trophy Rock and you may use some type of supplemental mineral on your property; have it available year round where legal. Because just a lick or two a day can ensure they’re getting all the trace minerals they need. Trophy Rock has over 60 trace minerals in it. And people say, “Well, Grant, is really just a lick or two enough?” Well, this vitamin is, a lot of it is just filler. They just want to make it big enough that guys with fat fingers like me don’t drop it. It’s called trace mineral because you just need just a microscopic amount, but you need it every day for your body to function at its greatest amount, so I’m going to make sure I’ve always got a supplemental mineral out, even though I’ve got great food plots and great native browse.
WOODS: I hope you’re getting just the right amount of rain and everything is really good at your Proving Grounds.