Fire And The Hard To Age Buck (Episode 245 Transcript)

This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.

GRANT: There are basically two types of fire used for habitat management. Dormant season and growing season fires. Dormant season typically means when the leaves are off the trees and plants are brown versus growing season, the trees are all leafed out and, of course, the plants are green and growing.

GRANT: So our objective today is to remove 80/90% of the leaf litter off the forest floor, kill these hardwood saplings, not do any damage to the bigger, mature, standing trees and remove a bunch of ticks.

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GRANT: So, I don’t want to see flames any taller than that. That’s kind of the maximum I want to see.

GRANT: So you can see how fast it’s going with the wind. That’s a head fire. And how slow it’s backing – that’s a backing fire. So, look at the difference in flame height up front here versus here on the back side where it’s just barely backing through. I think I can hear some ticks screaming right now.

GRANT: Forbs, which are just flowering weedy plants like ragweed, polkberry, partridge pea and many, many beneficial species to wildlife, tend to re-colonize an area after a growing season fire. Less hardwood saplings, less grass, more forbs and legumes. You’re making a natural food plot when you use a growing season fire.

GRANT: Growing season fires tend to replicate natural conditions more. Typically, replicating that natural cycle results in the best wildlife habitat.

GRANT: Conducting a prescribed fire is not as simple as getting some buddies together and dropping a match. To do a safe and effective prescribed fire takes planning, a lot of work ahead. In fact, the day of the fire is the easiest part of the whole program.

GRANT: Before we burn at The Proving Grounds, we make sure we have the area under a large fire break either by removing all the leaf litter and debris or using creeks and roads as the edges of our fire perimeter.

GRANT: The width of the fire break is dependent on how large we think the fire will be when it gets to that area. So if we’re backing down a mountain and it’s a small creek and the fire’s just backing to it, it doesn’t take much to stop that fire. But if we’ve got a head fire going up the mountain, pre-heating the fuel, getting larger and larger – well, it takes a large break to make sure a spark doesn’t jump that break and start a fire in an area that you don’t want burned.

GRANT: Hey, boys. I’m backing down the line; give me just a little bit bigger black line. I got a four inches of flame height. What are you seeing where you’re burning?

ADAM: Grant, I got about a four to eight inch flame here.

BRYCE: Uh, I got anywhere from four to six right where I’m at.

ADAM: Ten-four.

GRANT: My objective is to keep that flame height about six inches to a foot tall, which is plenty big to kill trees an inch or so in diameter or less and not do damage to the larger trees I wish to protect.

GRANT: I get a lot of calls from land owners and state agencies asking how I find people to help with prescribed fire or food plots or treating noxious weeds or camera surveys or all the stuff we do. The answer is real simple. I look to kids from a good university – obviously gotta have good grades and practical experience. And most kids the way they get practical experience is through an intern program. I did mine 30 years ago at the SCA, Student Conservation Association. There’s other programs like interns here. You want someone that’s got a little dirt under their fingernails and maybe their clothes smell a little smoky; they’ve actually seen something besides the backside of a textbook. And those are the kids that are next year’s great wildlife biologists.

GRANT: Make sure you have an insurance company that covers the activities you’re gonna do on your property – you know, felling trees, timber stand improvement, prescribed fire or whatever. Make sure you and your family are covered.

GRANT: Our objective is not to make you a prescribed fire expert in the few minutes we have together. Just to introduce this technique and encourage you to go to your local university or state agency and seek more training so you can use this tremendous wildlife habitat management technique.

GRANT: Had a couple objectives we wanted to achieve. One was to simply remove tick habitat. You’ve seen pictures in the past or video footage of how bad ticks are here in the Ozark Mountains. The best way to get rid of ticks is to remove their habitat. Ticks require a lot of moisture. So when you burn off the leaf litter this time of year and it doesn’t rain for a week or two, all the ticks that were in this area they come back out after the fire has moved through, seeking moisture, are gonna desiccate or dry out and die.

GRANT: Annual, semi-annual fires in larger areas are an effective tool to reduce tick populations. One fire one time and leave it go for five years isn’t gonna make much of an impact on the overall tick density on a property.

GRANT: Another of our objectives for this particular prescribed fire was to remove some of these saplings, or understory, in this wood lot. This was a low intensity fire with flame height, you know, six inches to a foot tall. Just enough to girdle these young saplings, but not do damage to the mature overstory trees. But without the ability to move the energy from the leaves through the circulatory system back into the root system, well, this tree will die during the winter. That’s the difference between a growing season fire, basically when trees can photosynthesize or make energy, and a dormant fire, when plants are living off energy reserves down below the ground. A dormant season fire rarely kills hardwood trees because there’s so much energy stored in the root system. A growing season fire will remove these, allow grass and forbs to come up where there’s sun reaching the forest floor and provide much better quality habitat.

GRANT: Th-This is cool where we’ve killed this little tree but did no sign of damage to this tree – if we want to come up close and do this.

GRANT: By removing thousands of these saplings, we’ll get a little bit more sunshine to the forest floor. We might get some grass growing in here or some forbs and provide cover in this critical area down here where critters that we’re after make a living.

GRANT: These leaves up here at three to five feet may slap us as we’re walking in but they’re not providing any cover down here where most of the critters want to be.

GRANT: To be honest, all this habitat work is fun, but the end objective is producing a healthier deer herd and larger antlers.

GRANT: I’m just backing up to get where I want to be man.

GRANT: The last couple of episodes we’ve shared with you some characteristics of bucks that were obviously mature.

GRANT: This week I want to share some pictures we took at our farm from a buck that’s a little bit more challenging to accurately age on the hoof. From the first view, you can tell this buck has a pretty nice rack, especially for early July. And as soon as he picks his head up, it appears he has a hump over his shoulders and you’re thinking, “Mature shooter buck!” But as he changes posture and kind of moves around and you’re getting a better view and in comparison with other bucks and we see that hump has somewhat disappeared now. His back is very straight and, certainly, no sign of a pot belly. We may be second guessing ourself to how old this buck is. It’s very rare for a buck that’s four years old or older to have this very sleek, physically fit and narrow appearance.

GRANT: In this position, we can clearly see that the neck merges with the chest well above the brisket. And the legs appear almost long or kind of on the longer side. When I put all this together – no hump over the shoulders, very straight back, no pot belly, the legs appear long, the chest is clearly not extending down into the legs, there’s no extra flab or flesh hanging down, a very fine face – I come to the conclusion this is a three year old buck.

GRANT: Most experienced hunters can easily identify a yearling buck. And almost every hunter doesn’t hesitate to tag a big mature buck with a pot belly, sway back and a large set of antlers. But those intermediate bucks have a nice set of antlers, but maybe have some characteristics that are tough to identify in that moment of truth. Well, those are the ones we need to practice aging the most before we hit the field this fall.

GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get outside this week and maybe do some habitat management or just some scouting. But most importantly, find an area where you can be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching

GRANT: There we go. Let’s see how she’s gonna respond. Lot of fuel right there I put down so that’s why the flame height is a little taller.