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GRANT: Mid-September means the start of archery season here in Missouri. The food plots are planted and the bucks are shedding velvet. It’s a great time of year. One thing we can do year round is work to improve the soil quality. Remember, better quality soil, bigger antlers and healthier deer.
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GRANT: There’s some easy techniques to improve soil quality no matter where you create food plots. These usually involve using some type of no-till drill, or broadcasting seed, and a cover crop. Basically, we want crops growing throughout the year. This is an ideal food plot. To my right are Eagle Seed beans that are, gosh, four feet tall, or so, loaded with pods coming on and still making flowers.
GRANT: This field looked exactly the same, just a little bit ago, except, we put the no-till drill through here and put Broadside in the same field. You might ask why we would run over beautiful looking beans, and that’s a fair question, but look at these beans. They’re still making plenty of forage, new leaves are coming on; they’re setting flowers and I see pods developing all through here. So in this part of the field, we have great forage, still – pods developing, we have brassicas, wheat, radishes, and even young soybeans coming on strong. So on the warm days, deer will eat the fresh greens, and on the colder days, late this winter, they’ll eat the pods. In addition, you don’t see hardly any bare ground, because we ran over some beans. That duff – that really rich duff is on the ground, slowly decomposing, making fertilizer for next spring.
GRANT: By using a crop rotation program where we drilled this half this year. This spring we’ll drill the whole thing in beans again. Next fall, we’ll leave these standing and drill this half. We’ll have a continual supply of organic fertilizer – the decomposing duff. We have no erosion. We’ve never tilled the soil and we’re suppressing weeds. All this duff is blocking out the ground, so weeds aren’t growing and it minimizes the need for us to use herbicide. Obviously, if this was a smaller plot, or there were more deer in the area and it was all browsed down, we’d have drilled the whole field, but these beans are, literally, four feet plus tall, full of pods, and we’ll leave that as a tremendous winter food source. Warm days are feeding here, cold days are feeding here, we’re building soil throughout the whole plot.
GRANT: This is a beautiful plot of Eagle Seed Big Fellow soybeans. I mean they’ve made a huge amount of forage – making pods everywhere – but we know about the first or second frost, these leaves will drop and there will be a little gap between when the leaves drop and when the deer start consuming pods. There’s another technique, besides running over these beans with a no-till drill, that can ensure you have winter greens coming on to feed deer on those warm days and to recycle those nutrients that are critical for making better soil and bigger antlers.
GRANT: It’s tough walking through beans this tall now, but imagine walking through here when they’re soaked, and it’s raining, and you’re trying to spread seed, but that’s exactly what we did a couple weeks ago.
GRANT: We walked through here holding the seeder up high, so we’d get above these tall beans, broadcasting the Broadside blend. And when I look down in here, you wouldn’t think there’d be enough sun reaching through these tall beans, but they hold so much moisture down there – it’s like a greenhouse below this canopy – and the growing conditions are so great, and just enough sunshine penetrates, that we’ve got a stand of Broadside coming up underneath these beans.
GRANT: It’s mid-September, now. In another month, or so, we’ll have a frost. Part of these leaves will start coming off. More sunshine will make it down to the soil and that Broadside will explode. In addition, these leaves are protecting the young Broadside from that frost, so truly, we have a greenhouse effect going on – capturing moisture, protecting from extreme temperatures, and making ideal growing conditions for our cool season food plot.
GRANT: When I wade in here and I’ve got the beans pushed back, I see all kinds of wheat. Gosh, five, six inches tall already growing in there, brand new soybean growing – little brassicas coming up all over underneath this thick canopy. Imagine how that will explode, once the leaves start falling, even 10 or 20 percent, and letting more sunshine reach the soil. That canopy is limiting sunshine, but remember August and September tend to be pretty dry months and check out the soil moisture down here. Look at the color of that dirt and the soil moisture, because the dew sets on these leaves. You can still, probably, see the shininess on here. Drips down in here, but doesn’t evaporate, because this thick canopy holding the moisture in, just like a greenhouse. This will be interesting to watch this plot develop and we created it simply by walking through and broadcasting seed during a rain.
GRANT: We’re in a hidey hole food plot that’s very small and this is just a second fall planting, so we haven’t had much time for plants to grow and die and build up organic matter. Because this plot is going into its second fall growing season and only one summer growing season, it hasn’t produced a lot of organic matter that’s fell over in the cage yet. That lack of organic matter is obvious by this turkey dusting area and just how dry the soil is. It’s like powder. We’re not far from the other food plot where there’s so much moisture, because the canopy was holding the moisture in. Same rainfalls as far as I know, a difference in the cultural practices. This was dozed out, cleaned off, almost like discing, if you will, planted, and not enough growing seasons produce that organic matter and a good canopy to allow this soil to be more productive.
GRANT: We still have plant growth, and it’s still, obviously, attracting deer. You can see all the browse pressure. But each year, this will get better, as we go through our system of never discing – planting by broadcast, or no-till drill, spreading Antler Dirt, and building organic matter.
GRANT: This is another great example of why it’s important to plant at a higher rate in smaller plots. You need more stems per square foot to get ahead of the deer herd and provide a canopy, so it will shade the soil, and all the benefits that come from a thick plot.
GRANT: Typically, this time of year, we load up the truck and head to Kentucky. We’ve had some great hunts there, because Kentucky opens up a week or two earlier than Missouri.
GRANT: This year, we’re changing directions. Instead of heading East, we’re going West. Adam and I, and a bunch of our friends, are going on an elk hunt in Colorado.
GRANT: We’ve been planning this hunt for months, not only practicing with our bow, but getting in shape. Adam and I have been going up and down the mountains here at The Proving Grounds and doing everything else necessary to make sure we put our best foot forward in The Rocky Mountains. Whether you get to hunt out of state this year, or sticking close to home, one of the most important things you can do is make sure you slow down each day and enjoy Creation and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.