Food Plots And Native Browse | Best Whitetail Forage (Episode 443 Transcript)

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

GRANT: I hope you join the Woods’ family and not only honor those that gave their life serving our nation but also take time to thank those that are still living that served our nation and those that are serving it right now. The Woods’ family and the GrowingDeer Team really appreciates our armed forces and the families that support ‘em.

GRANT: Rain is in the long-term forecast and the soil temperature is plenty warm for soybeans. So, we’ve been rolling with the Genesis drill.

GRANT: For many years, Eagle Seed forage soybeans have been my go-to crop during the warm season.

GRANT: The family that started and owns Eagle Seed has literally been hand breeding, selecting, pollinating soybeans for over 40 years. They’ve selected traits that make ‘em great for food plots.

GRANT: More forage, bigger leaf surface area, higher protein levels, drought resistance, everything we want in a food plot crop. No other company, no large ag company, no one else has put this amount of effort into breeding soybeans for food plots.

GRANT: While selecting all these traits, the family also worked on pod production. Why is that important in a forage soybean? Because nothing attracts deer like soybean pods during the cold season.

GRANT: Myself and many, many other food plotters throughout the whitetails’ range have benefited from Eagle’s intensive research program. So, when it come time to calibrate the drill this spring, there was no doubt, I’m calibrating it to plant Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans.

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GRANT: This time of year, I get excited ‘cause it’s planting season. We’ve got the Genesis here and just put a first bag of seed in it and start calibrating.

GRANT: So, when we calibrate, it’s important to do it every year because the seed harvested last year – what we’re planting now – will change size even though it’s the same variety. A wet year ends up with larger seed. A real dry year, maybe, smaller seed.

GRANT: It doesn’t seem like much, maybe hundredths of an inch, but thousands of seeds going through here makes a difference in how it’s calibrated.

GRANT: Genesis makes this process easy because they have a seed tray right here that can be turned over and seed flows through it or flip flopped and it catches seed. So, it’s catching all the seed going through the meters versus putting a tarp on the ground and trying to gather all those seed and then weigh them.

GRANT: The first step is I simply selected the same gears we know worked right last year. Different gears turn at different rates and turn the seed meter which allows more or less seed to flow through and be planted.

GRANT: Another advantage of the Genesis system is it’s measuring total output from all meters. One meter may be slightly different than another meter and if you’re only collecting seed from one meter, it may be off or not representing all the meters across the drill.

GRANT: But with the Genesis system, we’re calibrating based on every single meter and getting a perfect average.

GRANT: There’s a calibration guide in the Genesis manual. But in simple terms, we’re gonna turn the ground meter – or the wheel that drives the seed meters – 26 times. When I do that, I stop; pull the seed out of the tray; weigh it; see if I need to adjust up or down.

GRANT: Genesis has a flat free wheel – there’s no air in the tire. So, I simply make a black mark on one of the studs and that lets me know where I’m starting. I want to go counterclockwise or think about which direction the drill is moving and turn it 26 times.

GRANT: 1, 2, 3, 4, 17, 18, 26.

GRANT: On this drill, there’s a calibration tray. Collect the seed and then we can gather that seed in the bucket really easily and then weigh it and adjust our drill.

GRANT: A lot of folks ask, “How many seeds are you planting per acre?” There’s really no one size fits all. I go by the recommendation on the bag and then I tweak it based on my soil conditions and the deer browse in the area.

GRANT: If I’ve got a small plot and I know there’s gonna be a lot of mouths in there feeding, I’ll up the rate a little bit to compensate for some of that browse during the early growth stages.

GRANT: I almost always plant more than recommended for a large ag field. Those fields are not considering the amount of browse deer, groundhogs and other critters are gonna remove.

GRANT: For several years now, I’ve been tweaking my planting technique – not only to be more productive, but more cost efficient.

GRANT: I started studying natural systems because it’s tough to beat systems that have been proven for hundreds of years in nature.

GRANT: Through this process, and the help of many others, I’ve come up with a technique we call the Buffalo System. Today, I’m gonna share four of the primary principles of the Buffalo System.

GRANT: The first is keeping the soil covered. In nature and the Great Prairie, you almost never see the soil bare. It may get trampled; the vegetation may get flattened with buffalo coming through or a herd of elk, but it’s never ground up and tilled like we see after a big ole plow goes through a field.

GRANT: Others and myself have called this keeping armor on the soil. There’s something protecting the soil from wind and water erosion throughout the year.

GRANT: Second, the soil is not only covered, it’s never tilled. Tilling destroys lots of the biologic life in the soil. We talked about earthworms recently but there are thousands of beneficial species that live in the soil that are damaged by tilling.

GRANT: Third is keeping living root in the soil as many days out of the year as possible. A living root is pumping carbon into the soil – some plants more than others. Carbon, of course, is the foundation of all of life. Carbon is what makes good soil look black.

GRANT: The living root also extracts nutrients from deep in the soil; brings it up to the forage portion of the plant for critters to consume or that forage decomposes and becomes great slow release fertilizer.

GRANT: Fourth is having a diversity of plants at least a portion of the year. A diversity of plants feeds more or a wider range of the living organisms in the soil and extracts a much wider range of nutrients to the top of the soil.

GRANT: When we consider great natural soil systems like the Great Prairies, we find these four principles are almost always in play.

GRANT: I’m also very excited about techniques to improve native habitat. Most years, we share techniques for using prescribed fire to improve habitat. And as soon as we do, I get a lot of emails saying, “Why would you burn now? What are you doing?” So, today – a couple of months after we’ve used prescribed fire in this area – I want to explain why we used that valuable habitat management technique.

GRANT: We burned this area about two months ago and you can see it’s covered with vegetation. Within just a yard or two of where I’m standing, I see big bluestem, little blue stem, milkweed, coneflower, wild plox and a host of plants I can’t identify at this stage.

GRANT: Tremendous diversity working the soil and providing nutrients at different times of the year for different critters. So, we’ve got great cover and great food – all the result of prescribed fire.

GRANT: Consider the diversity you see here in a couple of yards and multiply that by 10 or 20 acres and it’s easy to imagine tremendous cover and high quality native browse.

GRANT: I don’t have to imagine the quality of this type of habitat and the benefits of prescribed fire because I’ve spent a lot of time in the Redneck Blind behind me and tagged several mature bucks using this area.

GRANT: There is more to this story. See all the cedar skeletons behind me and around me? When Tracy and I purchased this property, this area was covered with cedar trees.

GRANT: We are just a couple of hundred yards down the slope from the area of native vegetation. Not only did these cedars block the sun from reaching the soil, they limit a lot of moisture from reaching the soil.

GRANT: Research shows that about 40% of the moisture that hits a closed cedar canopy like this is either taken up by the tree or evaporated back into the sky before it reaches the ground. The combination of lack of sunlight and moisture, well, you kind of end up with a biological desert.

GRANT: When I look around – pretty much – I see bare ground, some cedar duff and Carolina buckthorn and a few herbaceous plants. But not near the tonnage or the cover that we just saw where we removed the cedars.

GRANT: If cedars are encroaching and taking up valuable habitat space where you hunt, do what we did here at The Proving Grounds. Get a little sweat equity, a good chainsaw and simply cut the cedars below the bottom living limb. If you do, you’ve terminated that cedar.

GRANT: In some areas, there’s a pretty good cedar market. In other areas, just let ‘em lay depending on the size of the tree; let ‘em dry for a year or two; and you use prescribed fire. You’ll probably be amazed at the native species that result from getting sunshine to the forest floor and putting fire to remove some of the duff and allowing those seeds to germinate.

GRANT: There are certainly areas cedar serve a great purpose. Maybe a visual screen between a public road and a feeding area or as a windbreak. But in areas where cedars have been allowed to encroach in fields and pastures, it’s probably best to terminate them, use prescribed fire and convert those areas to more productive habitat. When I walk through these areas now, I’m thrilled with the quality of the habitat no matter the season.

GRANT: The researchers at Eagle Seed and myself – and some other people – have had great input on finding the right blends to put together. It’s one thing to have a bunch of blends that improve the soil. It’s another finding the right species that work together well and provide high quality forage and are attractive to deer.

GRANT: I’m right on the edge of my yard and a food plot. And it serves as a great illustration of the benefits of the Buffalo System. You can see in the yard where we’ve kept the grass short, that the soil looks really dry and baked-out light colored ‘cause there’s no structure keeping the full sun from reaching the soil. Just a few feet behind me in the food plot, it’s a different story.

GRANT: This is an experimental blend we had with Eagle Seed. You can see the annual clover down low; some wheat that’s just starting to pollinate – it’s Eagle’s Monster Wheat; and another cereal grain.

GRANT: So, we’ve got three layers of structure capturing all the sunshine and moisture and protecting the soil. You can see this blowing in the wind up here, but down here – just back in here a foot – well, it’s dead still. Saving the moisture and leaving it in the soil.

GRANT: There’s a variety of species growing here – all removing different nutrients out of the soil. We will plant right through this and then crimp on top of it – adding more mulch.

GRANT: Now, the variety of species all take different nutrients out of the soil and they’ll make slow release fertilizer for the soybeans we’re putting in. And that mulch – it’ll cover the surface of the soil and keep the moisture where it should be.

GRANT: So, obviously, no water erosion in here; no wind erosion; slow release fertilizer and we’re not gonna need any herbicide in this stand. We’ll plant right through it; crimp this over – just like the buffalo regenerating the Great Prairies.

GRANT: I want to tap everybody on the head right here and wake ‘em up just a minute. Man, the system works; it’s proven. But don’t think you can go out to a bare red clay or sandy pit and start one year and see these results. The Great Prairies took time to build and your food plots are gonna take a little time.

GRANT: In some instances, you may want to add a little fertilizer to get it going; get that vegetation working, decomposing and get a growing cycle or two in before it’s self-sufficient. You need to have realistic expectations or you’ll be upset with the results.

GRANT: Provided high quality forage for the deer throughout the cold season; conserving soil moisture; great slow release fertilizer and weed control. We don’t have to use any herbicide. What’s not to like about the Buffalo System?

GRANT: These Ozark Mountains are rough and basically high graded habitat. Most of the forests have been cut at least twice when different groups of settlers came through.

GRANT: Restoring this area to productive wildlife habitat, well, it takes some intentional efforts.

GRANT: I recently had the opportunity to share some of these techniques. I was invited to speak at the annual Taney County Soil and Water District meeting. Tyler, our newest summer intern, Nathan Drake, and myself arrived and enjoyed a great meal.

GRANT: I always like opportunities to catch up with friends and fellow conservationists.

GRANT: After dinner and a period of visiting, I was able to share how I’ve used the Buffalo System to improve the rough, rocky soil here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: This is out the back door of my house. My wife’s (inaudible) station’s right over here. This is her yard. I’m not much of a yard guy. Like I do food plots; I’ll work a food plot all day long. My wife’s got to mow the yard, to tell the truth. Her yard got bare dirt – notice I said “her yard”. Bare dirt; patchy. My food plot looks awesome.

GRANT: She’s spent a lot of money on fertilizer and stuff on the yard. All I do is plant and shoot deer. We will, just here in the next few days, we will no-till drill through this to plant our soybeans. This sounds crazy. Let the soybeans get up about an inch or two to the two- or four-leaf stage and then the steel buffalo will hit it.

GRANT: We plant through this. Why? Because what do deer like to do to young soybeans? Eat ‘em. And quickly. But deer don’t like sticking their head way down in this ‘cause they can’t see the booger bear coming from behind ‘em. So, we use this as camouflage.

GRANT: We’ll drill our beans right in here; let ‘em germinate; and then crimp it and it comes right through the mulch. No weeds can – that thick a mulch bed – no weeds coming through there. The only thing that’s gonna come through there is the soybeans in rows from my no till drill. It’s a awesome system. It’s just replicating nature.

GRANT: And remember, I always want my ground covered. I haven’t used any herbicide on this plot and I’m drilling through lush soybeans in Taney County. You’re thinking, “That guy’s an idiot, man. That college boy’s an idiot.”

GRANT: This is tremendous slow release fertilizer. See these beans already starting to pop back up? I don’t kill ‘em. You think those are dead. So did I. That is tremendous fertilizer. I can’t buy any better fertilizer than that. That’s how the Great Prairie was built.

GRANT: Noah was not out there after the flood putting fertilizer on the Great Prairie. It’s plants growing; dying; decomposing; earthworms eating the decomposing plants and making the best fertilizer on the planet. And I’m just replicating that system.

GRANT: I plant right through it. See all these bean stems? We planted through that.

GRANT: About half the beans will survive. Different crops; different levels. And that’s my fall crop coming up. I’ve never tilled the soil. I’ve had vegetation growing as many days out of the year as possible.

GRANT: Based on the results I’m seeing – and many others throughout the whitetails’ range – I really believe the Buffalo System can be a great tool to improve soil no matter where you are.

GRANT: If you’re gardening; if you’re food plotting or even if you’re an ag producer.

GRANT: Thank y’all very much.

GRANT: Whether you’re gardening or planting flowers or planting a food plot, watching stuff grow is a great way to enjoy Creation. But more importantly, take time every day to slow down, be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.

GRANT: If you’d like to learn more about these techniques or see our weekly results, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.