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WOODS: Good morning. It’s August 4th and it’s been hot at The Proving Grounds for several days. So, this morning, Brad and I are out here right at 6:00 a.m. and it’s 79, 80 degrees on the truck bouncing around already this morning. It’s been over 100 several days in a row in the afternoon. It’s stressful. And although, there’s been a few occasional showers around at Brad’s house, my parents’ house, we haven’t had a drop here. We had a couple light sprinkles; didn’t even get the sidewalk wet and that’s been that way for about a month now; that we haven’t had a significant precipitation event. So, it’s dry. And I’m just thrilled at how good these beans look. I mean, look at the size of that leaf and how green and lush. Now, we may, if we can because we’re gonna be working all day, but we’re gonna come back out this afternoon and you’ll see these leaves curl up and avoid the sun. They’re trying to conserve moisture. And when they do that, obviously the plant is under stress, and anything under stress is not as healthy as it could be – humans or plants – and, therefore, when deer consume a leaf that’s under stress, it’s not providing as much nutrients and it’s not as palatable, it’s not as tasty as a plant that’s wide open and dark green and lush and growing.
So, stress comes in many forms and fashions to humans and to deer. And if you look over my shoulder, my yard in the background, it is so dry that when we mow it to try to knock the weeds down, and I’m not much of a yard guy, so I usually let it go too long and Tracy has to tell me to mow it or something, but it’s just duff coming up and filling up the radiator on the lawn mower. It’s just so dry that the duff is so light, it’s just coming up and filling up the radiator. It’s super dry and these conditions cause a lot of stress to the deer. There is no doubt in my mind that antler development, although it’s looking great in our survey, is not as good as it could be this year at The Proving Grounds due to stress. Organisms just don’t express their full potential when they’re stressed. So, this morning, we’re going to talk about stress and how that may impact your Proving Grounds and what you can do to eliminate some of the sources of stress. Stay tuned.
WOODS: Making sure the appropriate forage for the appropriate time of year is available at your property is a tremendous tool in reducing the amount of stress your deer are experiencing. For example, if I had every plot in all clover, my deer would be hungry right now. Clover, this is a perennial clover, it knows there’s a better day coming. So, it’s just sitting there holding reserves in its root system and not putting a lot of energy into growing because if it put it all up top and it doesn’t rain or something doesn’t happen, it would die. Whereas, soybean plants, it never sees a “second dance”. There’s one senior prom. It makes it all that year or that’s it. And that’s how they’re genetically programmed. That’s how God created these plants. This has the ability, on a good variety, to have endurance and staying power or put it down in the root system and wait for a better day, and hopefully, there’ll be a better day coming.
Now, if the drought goes on forever, this will go ahead and give up the ghost and it will be dead. But soybeans are running for the “finish line.” They’re not sitting there waiting. They’re running for that finish line. Especially these Eagle Seed forage beans that are just a really aggressively growing bean. Now, these are roundup ready so you can tell that we’ve got some weeds right here on the edge because we were trying not to overlap and we didn’t want to kill a bunch of clover. We’ll go on out here in a minute in our clover field, and of course, clover is not roundup ready, and we’ve got a lot of weeds. Those weeds have a deep root. They’re coming in and trying to overtake the clover. Weed means competition. They’re something you don’t want. That’s the definition of a weed and we didn’t spray. This year we mowed a time or two. We just didn’t spray our clover this year and we’re paying the price for it now, because there’s a lot of unwanted grass and, and broadleaf weeds have come in and they’re surviving the drought better than the clover, but I’ve got this for my deer to eat and I’m proud of that. If all I had was this, my deer would be hungry, and when they’re finishing out antler growth right now, this wouldn’t do much for me.
Now, if you’re in the northern climates, or you’re in an area where it’s raining a lot, this would look great. I’m not anti-clover at all. And in the early spring before this is planted, this is carrying the load. I want a mix of both. There is no one plant that does everything and I wanted the appropriate amount of acreages to make the design. So, I usually plant less clover, because it’s, when it’s growing, it’s wonderful and you don’t need many acres. It’s just producing more than the deer can consume in most cases. I need more acres of this because it’s one dance shot. We call it “one dance Betty”, but when it’s dancing, it’s the best dancer on the floor. So, balance what you’ve got planted, think about the conditions where you are, know that a drought or a late frost, or some form of stress is always coming and manage appropriately. Let’s take a look at this clover stand and learn from our mistakes.
WOODS: I just wanted to share a close up of clover who is sitting on the bench during the dance right now. You can tell that a lot of this clover is, has, has just turned totally brown. There’s no forage quality to it whatsoever. It’d be like straw. Some of them are, are trying to hang on, but it’s actually tough. It’s very tough when you tear it and you just can’t chew it. It’s leathery and so not much nutritional value. Now, that again, is not anti-clover, because she’s gonna get on the dance floor soon. It’s gonna rain and it’s gonna get fall where the beans will finally ripen off. Now, these are Eagle Seed indeterminate beans. They grow until it frosts, but you know, first frost or two is coming; going. Those are getting leathery and going down. We get a rain and this is coming on strong, and deer are shifting over here. It’s all about the right plant for the right time of year and the right conditions. But, you can tell when clover really lays down.
Now, remember, when we filmed earlier, it was this tall on me or so, because we were getting rain and temperatures were cooler. But these weeds; they’re designed to take harsh conditions and this is poke and it’s coming up. Well, this would have been totally shaded out by the clover earlier this year because it was so lush and growing, so, conditions have changed and that’s why you need different plants. And when we walk out and give you a bigger view, you’ll see all the grass and weeds coming in here because there’s no weed defense here. It’s just a, a thin, very thin mat on the ground. You can see the dirt is exposed. So weed seeds are a little bit tougher; really have little competition from clover and they just grow up. Well we did not use a herbicide this year – just mowing and we, we’re paying the price right now.
WOODS: I just wanted to back out and give you a little bit broader view and explain the management of this clover patch is: we mowed it a couple times this year. Talked about that earlier, but just like mowing grass in your yard, you just clip the top of grass off and it just comes back. It’s still got the same size root system and that root system’s getting bigger and bigger, robbing moisture and nutrients from the clover or the desired crop. Now, it’s totally killed the clover in the center of that stand, shaded it out and it’s hurt the clover around it. And right in front of me is a big old ragweed plant, real bushy. It’s clearly been mowed a couple times, no telling how big that root system is and how much moisture and nutrients it’s robbing around this plant from the desired crop of clover. Remember, weeds are just competition.
So, we didn’t spray. We should hit this with some Pursuit or Raptor or something at the prime time. We didn’t take time to wash out our sprayer from spraying other crops and put that small amount in because it’s a relatively small clover field and it’s costing us productivity and money because now we’ve got to do it right. The old rule is “do it right the first time” is best, is certainly a great rule.
Looking over my shoulder at that soybean field, we sprayed it once before we planted. Took the competition out. Sprayed it again about the time it crowned over or, or cheated all the sun from getting to the floor and there’s hardly any weeds in that soybean field. Very easy to manage. Boy, that’s simple to take care of that way.
So, we’ve made some mistakes. We’ve learned some lessons, but the overall lesson for this episode is this clover field is not reducing the stress of my deer herd right now. It’s adding stress because it’s not providing good quality forage. The soybeans behind me are providing great quality forage and reducing the stress associated with the drought and extremely high temperatures that are now occurring at The Proving Grounds. Drought is probably the source of stress at your Proving Grounds and now is the time to address it so those antlers can finish strong and you have a great fall.
WOODS: You know, speaking of fall, we’re right in the middle of our camera survey right now. We’ll be publishing our hit list and how the bucks did turn out, even in this stressful year at The Proving Grounds, soon.
We’ve got our Field Day coming up August 21st. I think people from 11 states have already registered and I really look forward to sharing with them and learning from them, because they all the time come and say, “Have you tried this, or this combination, or this plan,” or whatever it is. Great way to learn to get a hundred serious deer managers together out in the field, sharing all day long. You just can’t get that in a classroom environment, so I’m thankful for everyone that’s registered. It’s great.
And I also want to share with you, I just found out this week, Nikon’s offering like $100 rebate on some of their great optics. We’ve got some information on the side of the video player over here. $100 off in this economy. I’d be wearing some of those this fall, that’s for sure.
Thanks for watching. I hope you have a great week at your Proving Grounds.