Food Plots: A Great Tool to Improve Hunting Quality (Episode 394 Transcript)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GLEN: I’ve come down here with my son and he said, “Dad, I’m gonna put you on some deer.”
GRANT: Frequent viewers of GrowingDeer know how much I enjoy taking my father hunting. We’ll be celebrating Father’s Day soon. It’s the perfect time to start planning a trip to take your father hunting this fall. There’s no doubt if you plan a good hunt, the memories you make will be worthy of his trophy book.
GRANT: During the past few episodes, we’ve shared some advanced techniques to establish food plots and improve soil quality. Food plots are often a great tool to improve the hunting quality where you hunt. This week, we start another project to improve the hunting even more at one of my favorite food plots.
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GRANT: The team and I went to a plot we call North Boom. Boom is short for boomerang and it’s a boomerang shaped ridge here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Years ago, we created a food plot here. I selected this location because it’s easy to approach without alerting deer and I can hunt it when there’s either a north or south wind.
GRANT: We’re at a food plot we called Boom North. Boom for boomerang and we’re on the north side of the ridge. Deer travel this ridge, but we need to bottleneck ‘em into bow range. So, one of the tools I use is a Non-Typical Electric Fence.
GRANT: We just planted this food plot; the beans are just cracking the ground. We’re gonna put the fence up before deer associate this area with feed. And in the late season, take the fence down because those beans have been allowed to mature, then make seeds or seed pods – a very attractive food source during the late season.
GRANT: Everybody thinks our job is sitting around shooting deer and eating venison but that’s not true. And I’m gonna show you why that’s not true through an example of Bo and Austin. Bo and Austin are our new interns here at GrowingDeer. I think this is number 34 and 35 in my career.
GRANT: Folks think I just do intern programs simply to get free labor. That’s not the case at all. You know, I did an internship many years ago before I started my profession. It was a launching point. So, I do internships to pay back.
GRANT: And the trade-off is real simple. Yeah, they help us with projects and we pour into them. I’m really proud that of my past interns, over 90% are gainfully employed in the wildlife profession. So, the trade-off is y’all work hard; we pour into you and help you get a job.
GRANT: The job today is pretty simple. We’re gonna put up a electric fence to protect some beans for late season hunting. And on the outside of this fence, we’re going to use this poly tape. It’s bigger, catches more wind and easy for a deer to put its wet nose on there. You can imagine high humidity at night; deer wants to check something out new; it usually smells it with the nose; puts that wet nose on here with somewhere around nine to ten thousand volts going through it. That’s a big deterrent to jumping a fence.
GRANT: So, we’re gonna put this one at 18” high; move over 3’ and then we’re gonna put two strands of just a poly wire. This is a Non-Typical fence. And we’ll put that at 10 and 24”. Now don’t lose my hickory stick.
GRANT: I’ve used this same fence for about five years now. I just take the wire down after a season, roll it up on this same stick and put it out the next year. That’s great value. If you divide the cost of this fence by five, six, seven years – however long it lasts, I’m down to not much per year.
GRANT: Alright. So, first we’re gonna lay our poles out and get our design. Then we’ll put the wire on.
GRANT: I’ve found the easiest way to install such a fence is to establish the corners first by laying out those posts and then put the wire down to give us a guide where to put the line post.
GRANT: Well, we’re not very long into the project and it’s coming along nicely. We’ve got two of the wires strung. We’re gonna string one more, fasten ‘em on, put the charger on and we’ll be out of here. We’re kind of hustling because there’s dark clouds to the north and we never complain about rain this time of year.
GRANT: I believe deer frequently travel through or near the North Boom food plot because it’s on the end of a ridge that’s an elevator down to a much larger plot we call Crab Apple.
GRANT: Elevator ridges have a more gentle slope to a different destination than most places in the area.
GRANT: Because North Boom is located right in a major travel corridor, the beans often can be browsed fairly heavily in this relatively small plot and often may not produce a full set of pods.
GRANT: We’ve shared several hunts from this food plot. In fact, this food plot is so productive, we have a Redneck Blind and three different sets of Summit Stands around the edge.
GRANT: Getting ready to install the energizer or the charger. Of course, it’s solar driven and an important thing is to make sure this solar panel is facing pretty much straight south. We were all guessing, but you know what? Even though we’re all great outdoorsman, I’m sure I’d rather take my compass – my phone’s got a compass app. I find out here is straight south; got my face right here. That way we can mount it for maximum solar energy charging our fence.
DANIEL: Don’t hit a rock, Clay.
CLAY: Oh, it’s already hit rock.
GRANT: The system uses a solar panel to trickle charge a 12 volt battery and the battery actually keeps the fence hot.
GRANT: Got our fence laid out and the charging station put up. It’s looking great, guys. So, what we’re gonna do now is – Clay, you go ahead and put the gates up. You’ve got some experience doing that.
GRANT: We have a gate – just in case we need to get in and spray. I doubt we will with the cover crop. And then, this fall, we’ll peel back 20, 30 yards of fence this way. Keep it hot. You gotta keep it hot. Open up the gate on this side. And that will serve as a natural funnel, or bottleneck, pulling deer in right in front of the Redneck Blind.
GRANT: We had plenty of great help, so we finished the fence project quickly. It’s cooking now. Pumping out over 8,000 volts. That’s not gonna hurt anything but it’s certainly enough to deter deer from browsing on the beans on the inside.
GRANT: I want to share a little bit about our hunting situation here. So, early season the fence will act as a bottleneck, pushing deer on one side or the other. I’ve got a Summit ladder stand here. I’ve got a Redneck Blind on the other side. So, no matter what the wind direction is, I’ll be good to hunt this bottleneck. Late season, we’ll probably take part of the fence down. These beans will have been eaten on pretty hard, but inside the fence will be those big, mature pods; big attraction for deer. And again, no matter the wind direction, we’ll be set up and ready to hunt.
GRANT: This is a great project whether you’re hunting five or 5,000 acres. Protecting forage until you’re ready to hunt is just a great plan. Maybe you’re hunting a suburban area and nothing grows because there’s so many deer. Plant you a little hidey hole food plot; protect it with the fence; open it up come hunting season; you’ve got all the deer in the neighborhood coming there.
GRANT: We’ll keep you posted on this project, not only through the growing season, but as we hunt it this fall.
GRANT: Food plots tend to be like icebergs. Everyone focuses on what’s above the surface, but what’s below the surface is just as important.
GRANT: Now that most of our plots are planted and stuff’s growing, I’m gonna switch gears and start talking a little bit about what’s happening beneath the surface.
GRANT: I’m standing right on the line that used to be the west edge of this food plot. We call it Little Cave. So, this has been a food plot in our crop rotation for several years and this was standing trees a few months ago. It looked just like behind my left shoulder.
GRANT: So the rainfall has been the same. The earth was created the same. All that’s the same. But this has had the advantage of a particular crop rotation. This has been standing trees that was greatly disrupted when Russell removed the trees to create the food plot and you might consider that interruption like tilling or discing a food plot.
GRANT: I’m not gonna get into deep science right now. But I want to start explaining that when plants are growing, that root system has all kinds of associated beneficial fungi and bacteria and even nematodes that are doing wonders for the soil. Actually building new soil if managed correctly. Like the Great Prairie.
GRANT: And over here where we basically disced it all up – or tore it all up – well, we killed a lot of that biotic life, or those beneficial insects, fungi and bacteria, and I want to show you the big difference.
GRANT: If I just take a few steps over here where heavy equipment has been and again, it’s been like tilled. And I take my spade and I’m pushing her pretty hard. I’m getting maybe a half inch deep. There’s really nothing to spade up. It’s a gravel bed and the soil – and I’ll get down and show you some in a minute – it just falls apart almost like sand.
GRANT: Take just a few steps to where we’ve been growing crops on a rotation for a while. Get in here just a few steps and put my shovel down. I didn’t hit a rock. Isn’t that amazing? And the reason I didn’t hit a rock – pull these roots up – is we’ve built really good quality organic matter. We’ve created dirt right on top of the rocks. This started just like that. Let’s take a closer look.
GRANT: Now, realize this is the Ozark Mountains. We’ve had decades of abuse. Timber’s all been cut a couple of times, literally. Land’s been cleared, sprayed, cattle grazed, fescue sprayed out the top and then the forest allowed to regrow. So, there’s nowhere we can just stick the shovel 12 inches deep in the soil. That doesn’t happen in the Ozark Mountains.
GRANT: When I do that – turn it up – you can see I pull up these great clumps of black organic matter or soil we’ve built. Kind of looks like black cottage cheese. Got the little lumps in there. And that’s soil aggregates. That’s so cool. That’s the result of very good bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi putting special (Inaudible) around the roots – not only helping feed the plants, but developing good soil structure.
GRANT: There’s more than just fertilizer. There’s soil structure that lets water infiltrate, holds the nutrients in place and lets the plant roots expand.
GRANT: This is good looking stuff here that any gardener would love to have, except for a few rocks native to the Ozarks. But let’s go back to where we were and see what happens when you till the soil.
GRANT: I don’t own a disc, so we haven’t tilled this soil, but it’s similar to being tilled where Russell taking the teeth of the track hoe and what-not, removing the roots and getting ready to make a food plot.
GRANT: You can see just how rocky all the food plots here at The Proving Grounds started. Anywhere I take a shovel, you hear it hitting rocks. I’m not even going a half inch deep; I’m hitting a rock. Even without looking. Everywhere I go.
GRANT: Scratch up what I can. See how it’s just going between my fingers. It’s not holding together like the great structure was over there. It’s not just the roots holding it together. I’m not getting that soil clumping; it doesn’t look like dark cottage cheese. And that’s because we don’t have that living bacteria and fungi and earthworms and all the good stuff in here because of the way it was recently treated.
GRANT: We have soybeans planted here now. We’ll let them mature. We’re gonna clean the weeds out with a herbicide. We have to use a herbicide here because we had no winter crop to smother out the weeds. And we’ll let these beans grow up.
GRANT: The deer will eat ‘em and we’ll come right in over the top of ‘em, plant our cool season blend and we’ll never again till this. And we’ll build up the same level, if not more, given time, of organic matter; of black dirt, that we have just a few feet away. And you can do this no matter where your Proving Grounds are.
GRANT: Most folks were taught – myself included – that it was necessary to add synthetic fertilizer to improve soil quality. That’s simply not the case.
GRANT: Recent research has clearly shown that different species of plants are very capable of extracting nutrients from the air or even the soil and making them available to the next crop. If that crop is left and the soil is not tilled, the duff from that crop when it’s terminated makes great mulch and fertilizer for the next crop. And below the ground – or below the iceberg – where it had root channels, it’s easy for the new crop to follow those root channels down and find great sources of moisture and nutrients.
GRANT: The results of the techniques and crop rotation we’ve been using here at The Proving Grounds have clearly improved the soil. Even better, we’ve got it to a point where we use no fertilizer and very little herbicide. We’re saving money and growing better crops for wildlife.
GRANT: This technique works everywhere. I’ve seen folks in the Deep South turn red clay into black soil. And I’ve seen folks in sandy areas add a layer of black, organic matter right on top of the sand. Not only are they improving the soil structure, but they’re growing much better crops than they did before.
GRANT: We’ll give you updates on this throughout the summer, but imagine if you applied these techniques and used this crop rotation, how much you could improve the soil and grow better quality deer where you hunt.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get outside this week. Whether you’re working in food plots or simply taking a quiet walk and enjoying Creation. Remember, it’s extremely important to slow down every day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.