Managing Whitetails: Growing Antlers in Spite of Drought (Episode 87 Transcript)

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

GRANT: You may remember we all worked together and installed a Redneck elevated blind by Rae’s Field. We put the ladder all around and really checked out where we wanted to put it. We happened to have a trail camera – I got to tell, accidental on my part – trail camera, Trophy Rock, in the background is that Redneck Blind. Just cause we always face our cameras north, so we don’t get interference from the sun. Loads of picture of deer using that Trophy Rock, daytime and nighttime, right in front of that Redneck Blind. They’ve already conditioned to it. You can get away with so much more in the summer, when the pressure’s down, and the hormone levels are down, than if we’d just stuck that blind up three days before we wanted to hunt out of it. I can’t stress enough that now’s a great time to position your stands, and especially, a big old elevated blind, so the deer can get conditioned to it, and it just becomes another innate object in their hunting area. Those pictures were extremely rewarding to me, because I’m already thinking about my dad, or my children, and I sharing some great days this fall hunting in that location. And I’ve got the trail camera pictures to prove to me they’ve already conditioned to that blind, it’s just an innate object in their world, until we open the window and go “tow tow”. It’s gonna be fun this fall.

ANNOUNCER: is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops. Also by Reconyx, Trophy Rock, Gallagher, Muddy Outdoors, Eagle Seed, Nikon, Winchester Ammunition, Redneck Hunting Blinds, Derby City Turkey Calls, Ansmann, and Antler Dirt.

GRANT: You know, the severity and timing of this drought – early spring, before the canopy of even native and cultivated plants closed over – so a lot of bare dirt exposed, and that sun’s radiation can hit it and cause evaporation, has made the growing conditions extremely tough. The severity and timing of this drought, unquestionably, has impacted plants, and animals, and even man. I mean utility bills are high, and plants aren’t growing, and animals are stressed, but there’s always good news at The Proving Grounds. I want to share with you some of the stuff we got going on here this week.

GRANT: Early this morning to beat the heat, Brad, and Nathan, and I, we’re gonna inspect some food plots and kind of lay out our tasks for the week.

GRANT: When we pull into Crabapple Field, one of the first plots we come to, it’s eight acres. The north half is in corn this year; the south half in soybeans. It’s been one of our biggest producers, but right now, July 18th, there’s not a bean on four acres more than six/seven inches tall, and every bean has been browsed on the top aggressively. And a whole bunch of lateral branching coming off, and that’s okay, because if it’d been a normal cultivar of soybean, that plant would be dead from that much browsing. The drought stress, and the browse stress, would kill almost any other commercial variety. But Eagle Seed forage beans literally have been bred. That family has cross pollinated, and pollinated in selected traits for about 41 years now, to make that bean able to survive these horrendous conditions.

GRANT: Drought conditions like these are just another time when utilization cages really pay for their weight in metal, so to speak. You can tell the beans are literally twice as high, if not a little taller, inside than out. And outside, every bean has been nipped off. Matter of fact, they’re really bushy. Beans this young, they’re like this, growing up straight, and just putting off side leaves. Beans outside are just bushed all over where they’ve been bitten on several times. But they’re still producing. Now, if we can get a rain or two, these things will just blow up. They’re putting a root system down, not expressing a lot on top, but it’s mid-July and it getting time and I’ve got to decide whether to go ahead and purchase my fall food plot seeds, or are these gonna come on and make enough pods to get through the year?

GRANT: There’s really a bigger take-home lesson here, because this is our largest soybean field. It’s about four acres, and literally, every stem has been browsed on. And that’s because the native vegetation, to protect itself from the drought, has basically shut down, not providing fresh forage, becoming very leathery, and not palatable. Rabbits, deer, groundhogs – everything is coming in these lush food plots and just putting pressure. We went from last year having corn over my head and soybeans waist tall in this field, to now, it’s boot high. Our deer herd did not increase that much in population in one year. It’s just the extreme drought and that needs to be taken in to my deer harvest considerations and my overall management program. I really hope you had a utilization cage out early, and you’re thinking about the resources, overall, as you go into the hunting season.

GRANT: Now, if the weather doesn’t change, yes. I’ll be drilling something over it. Leave those beans green for deer to browse, until something else comes up for fall hunting. But if it rains a lot, I may still salvage a bean crop, which is absolutely amazing to me, given the growing conditions.

GRANT: As Brad, and Nathan, and I continue on, we come across what we call Boom Glade Pond. A little pond we actually built when we were reworking that road, four or five years ago.

GRANT: Water’s just drying up. Our creek is dry, except for a few little pockets, and our ponds are really starting to evaporate dry. This pond has always held water, since we built it. I’ve seen it low, but never dry. There’s a spot in the center, about the size of a basketball, and the deer have wore a trail out through it. They’re starting to browse on this aquatic vegetation, cause I’m sure it’s lush. They haven’t been browsed on beforehand, but right here in front of me, we’ll show you, it’s just all the tops are browsed off. So it’s really a stressful time on deer, and these all need to be taken in to a manager’s account of what they need to plan for in the future.

GRANT: You know, if you just listen to the first description of the tough growing conditions here at The Proving Grounds, you might say, “Man, I don’t wanna hunt with Grant this year.” But Brad and Nathan went on and checked the cards off a couple of Reconyx cameras and I went back to do some work. We all huddled at lunch and looked at those cards, which is kind of common for us to do, and I was shocked that the antler development that’s occurred here at The Proving Grounds, given the growing conditions, so far this year during the antler growth season. At Last Lick, there’s numerous great bucks – some with great characteristics – showing up at that Trophy Rock. I mean we don’t have any corn or bait out, it’s just the Trophy Rock thrown out to the side – an interior road. And I’m stunned at the number and quality of bucks going there. Then, we move up to what we call Boom Powerline. Just a Trophy Rock pitched off out of a food plot, and great news this year – looks like Giant Ten is back! Now, he’s in the back of the picture, you gotta kinda look at it. But man, there’s a great deer. And a second deer, a clean 10 pointer with him; may be offspring, may not be offspring, but coming on strong, extremely strong for a drought year. You know watching bucks year to year, and seeing them grow, really excites me. Seeing bucks that we passed up, and are still here for future years’ harvest, gives me encouragement to really continue with my management program.

GRANT: A huge advantage to having multiple Trophy Rock stations, and trail camera stations this time of year, is getting that summer/early fall pattern on your deer. A lot of bucks are big enough to have uniquely identifiable antlers, drop tine or kicked ear, and – and a matched antler, or whatever. We’ve got a couple does. One has got a big old scar down a foot or two of her body, and until she molts and puts her winter coat on, we’ll be able to identify that doe, and probably, her fawn. Now, we have a trail camera station about every 100 acres here at The Proving Grounds and it’s interesting to see are they sliding over full 100 acres, or 200 acres, where they’re going. At our place, our habitat is still good enough that we’re not having any deer move further than the adjoining station. And you can kind of count on that for early bow season, but once those hormones change – the velvet comes off, does thinking about weaning fawns, whatever happens – those patterns change. And another thing to watch for, given these drought conditions, is food sources changing. Acorns start dropping, food plots finally get burnt up, you plant a new food plot, it rains, whatever happens, it’s great  to know those patterns. But don’t lock into a July pattern for a November treestand location, unless you’re doing what we talked about last week, and spying those acorns up in a tree.

GRANT: There’s no doubt about it, the growing conditions have been harsh for a couple months here at The Proving Grounds. And throughout a lot of America, Texas, north, making a loop back around through the southeast, but you know what? There’s a lot of good stuff going on, too. Our bucks are expressing more potential than I thought they would be, given the conditions. And that’s certainly a direct result of all the habitat work we’ve done, and the crops we’ve chose to plant, and the minerals we use, and everything going on.

GRANT: I hope you’ve had some time to spend at your Proving Grounds, and you’re getting all geared up for a great season during 2011. I look forward to sharing with you, throughout that season. Thanks for watching