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ADAM: That’s way bigger than that one.
GRANT: Trapping season ended this week and we had one of the best days of the year on our trap line.
ADAM: 13. 13 pound female.
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GRANT: As you’ve watched throughout the fall, you’ve noticed we’ve had our Duke traps throughout The Proving Grounds, trying to catch predators and find that balance here at our property.
GRANT: We’ve had a productive trapping season so far. This last week, it got even better.
GRANT: Late January, here at The Proving Grounds, and another coyote on our trap line. By this time of year, most of the rabbits have been consumed and the mice are underground. Of course, the grounds frozen right now and the coyotes can’t dig ‘em as easily, so they really do a number on deer, especially rut stressed bucks. A lot of bucks have literally lost 30 percent of their body weight; they’re weak, they’re wore out, and that’s the time when coyotes can take down adult bucks. Several states reported a significantly reduced deer harvest this last year and when deer numbers are down, obviously there’s not as many fawns, and when fawns don’t survive, well the deer herd doesn’t build back very rapidly. That’s another reason I want to remove coyotes. There’s no way we can trap all coyotes, or all predators, but let’s work together to find a balance between predators and prey so deer populations and turkey populations can bounce back a little bit, and we still have plenty of coyotes to go around.
GRANT: I’m gonna take care of this coyote, reset the traps, and move on down the trap line.
GRANT: Right there and right there. All right. That’s fine. You can leave the stick right in there, poke it down in there, cover it up a little bit. Make ‘em work for it. All right.
ADAM: Oh gosh. This one’s 26.
GRANT: We were surprised to find another coyote at the last trap we checked that day. Another coyote this morning here at The Proving Grounds. We had put a double set here, two traps with a hole in the middle, so if they worked on either side, we’d have a chance of catching the coyote. Research by the University of Georgia has shown coyotes can take up to 60 percent of a fawn crop. 60 percent. With our herds a little bit low, it’s a good thing to pull this coyote population back down.
GRANT: We finished out that morning on the trap line with two coyotes and two raccoons. A very productive day here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Trapping season ended a few days later and Adam and Brian were excited to see what the last day would hold.
ADAM: That’s a good cat. Really good cat. I mean beautiful face.
ADAM: Male or female? What’s your guess?
BRIAN: I’m saying it’s a male.
ADAM: Yeah, I do, too. Yep, I’m gonna say it’s 17.
BRIAN: Oh buddy, that’s a good cat.
ADAM: 16, yeah. I’d fight a coyote every day of the week before I’d fight a bobcat.
ADAM: Well it is the last day of trapping season here at The Proving Grounds and we were blessed with one more beautiful pelt, so we’re gonna weigh him, put him in the truck, head on down the line, and start closing up the traps, and calling it a season.
ADAM: He is 17.
BRIAN: On the dot. You were right there. Good cat.
GRANT: Throughout the year, we’ve caught several coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and opossums. Oftentimes, landowners don’t understand how much of a predator raccoons are. They look warm and fuzzy, but they are a extremely serious predator, especially to ground nesting birds, like turkeys and quail. Many years ago, Mississippi State published a theory called the wet hen theory. Basically, turkey hens will sit on a nest for about a minimum of 28 days. If it rains one time during that period, well wet turkeys have a really strong and distinctive odor. Easy for a raccoon to smell that odor, go to the nest, certainly destroy all the eggs, and in some cases, kill the hen turkey.
BRIAN: All right, well you about done? I closed the traps all the way up to uh, Second House.
ADAM: Oh okay. Sounds good, so they’re all closed then, ‘cause I got ‘em at Lower Field down.
BRIAN: Yeah, everything’s closed. I’m up here on Boom Glade waitin’ on ya.
ADAM: All right, be there in a second.
ADAM: 13. 13 pound female.
GRANT: I like comparing seasons in different states because seasons are usually set based on tradition, or other reasons, than biological factors. For example, we’re just 20 miles or so from the Arkansas line here, but their trapping season extends through the month of February, which is a great time to trap, as food resources are limited and those predators can really work on prey species.
ADAM: Now that we’ve closed out bow season and closed out trapping season, one of my favorite off season winter projects is burning brush piles.
GRANT: A couple of years ago, we created a food plot we call Big Boom and the dozer operator had pushed the refuge, logs and stumps, off to the edge and we never had an opportunity to burn them before it started raining.
GRANT: Some people think log piles are good wildlife habitat, and that can be the case, but more often they usually hold more varmints than desired species. Coyotes, bobcats, and groundhogs often inhabit log piles.
GRANT: If deer, turkey, quail, or rabbit are more of your concern, those log piles holding predators of either the animals or groundhogs which tend to eat all the forage you’re trying hard to grow, can be real damaging. In fact, quail and rabbits, turkey and deer, will do much better when cover is spread out and the predator has to hunt much harder than condensing them into a brush or log pile.
GRANT: So during the late winter, on a dry day, is a great time, as long as you have the right precautions, to burn these log piles down, remove that predator home base, and make better habitat for the prey species.
ADAM: It’s not all about lighting it up, watching it burn, and having a good time. We’re gonna take our leaf blowers, blow a line to bare dirt all the way around the pile, that way the fire can’t creep away from the pile into the woods and cause damage on down the ridge.
ADAM: Well you can hear the big fire over there snapping and cracking. We’ve got this small backing fire that’s worked its way from the pile, working its way to the line. You can see it just creeping along, little, little taller than a foot. Won’t damage the big trees, maybe kill a few little sprouts, but all in all, looks like it’s gonna be a great burn.
GRANT: In addition to always working on cover, we want to think about food resources. Because during the late winter, food is critical for wildlife survival. Unfortunately, a lot of deer managers only think about food plots up to the end of hunting season. But the conditions right now are a huge influence on fawn production and antler development. If they’re limited on quality food right now, those body weights can dip even below where they started the previous year, and they spend all the antler growing season, or fawn production season, just trying to catch back up to normal.
GRANT: During this time of year, the temperatures usually below freezing here at The Proving Grounds, so we want to grow crops that grow that mass during the growing season, and still maintain it during these cold days so deer have something to eat. We had split this plot, planting some wheat on this side and Eagle Seed forage beans on this side. We can see the wheat sticking up above the snow an inch or two, and certainly, deer would use that, but they strongly prefer these bean pods way up above the snow and much higher energy which will help them beat the cold.
GRANT: In smaller food plots, where deer might damage soybeans because they’re over browsing, an ideal plan is plant your beans at a pretty thick density; add a little bit more seed than normal, knowing the deer are gonna browse some of the plants all the way down, leaving these gaps, and then come in, in the early fall, and plant your green mix right over top of the beans. That results in plenty of green throughout the fall and some standing pods for the late winter.
GRANT: This not only creates a good food source throughout the year, but it also makes an attractive hunting plot, eating the greens in the early season, and deer craving these pods in the later season.
GRANT: I had a great time this last weekend, speaking to First Baptist Church in Paris, Texas, and another church in Grannis, Arkansas.
GRANT: Now here’s a real quick way to estimate the age of a deer on the hoof. It has nothing to do with the antlers. Antlers are highly variable. They’re not …
GRANT: I’ll be in north central Illinois on March 1st at the Hunter’s Clinic. Be a great opportunity if you live in that area, to come on out and let’s visit about hunting and habitat management techniques.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the late winter scenery, wherever you are this week. But most importantly, take some time and slow down and be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.