More Deer, More Food: Better Deer Hunting (Episode 480 Transcript)

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

GRANT: Two summers ago, we designed and created a new food plot at The Proving Grounds. The area we selected was low-quality habitat dominated by eastern red cedar.

GRANT: I knew the quality habitat at that site could be greatly improved by removing the closed canopy cedars and putting in a food plot.

GRANT: The interns that summer and I walked the area, figured out exactly the boundaries of the food plot and then flagged it.

GRANT: A few weeks later, my good friends, David and Brenten, moved their equipment in and started clearing the area. They harvested the big cedars and sold them and pushed the rest in piles to burn.

GRANT: Once the piles burned as much as they would, they buried the stumps on-site.

GRANT: I was very excited about this project. That corner of The Proving Grounds didn’t have any food plots and the source of quality forage would be a huge addition.

GRANT: We finished preparing the plot just in time to plant Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend. The following spring, we used herbicide to terminate it, rather than the crimper.

GRANT: Because we disturbed the soil a lot, there were several weeds in the area.

GRANT: When the conditions were right, we loaded the Genesis drill with Eagle Seeds forage soybeans and started planting.

GRANT: The beans were absolutely the best forage in the area and they were heavily browsed.

GRANT: Late that summer, we once again planted the plot with Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend and had several good hunts there.

GRANT: Hunts at the Tombstone plot yielded a bunch of venison for the GrowingDeer Team. But now that it’s post-season, I’ve returned to the plot to see how the forage is doing.

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GRANT: I’m in a food plot we created almost two years ago we call Tombstone. And we’ve been using the Buffalo System exclusively in this plot.

GRANT: One of the things I wanted to try when we created this plot was not using any fertilizer. Now this is different than plots we’ve had in the past – and grown a lot of vegetation; let it die; decompose. This was all covered with cedars.

GRANT: I wanted to see what happened when we took raw land that was covered with cedars and started planting.

GRANT: We’ve tagged a lot of deer out here and had a lot of trail camera pictures, but the forage, well, it’s not doing what I’d hoped.

GRANT: I planted the Fall Buffalo Blend here and it’s doing great – it’s germinated. But there is not enough nutrients in the soil for it to express its full potential.

GRANT: There is scat and browse all around, but the forage isn’t as tall as other plots where we’ve had the Buffalo System for several years. We’ll do some soil tests when it dries out a bit. But I can assure you, we’re not building enough organic matter by looking at the crops.

GRANT: Organic matter in the soil is critical for holding both water and nutrients. And without that organic matter to hold nutrients, when these plants decompose, those nutrients could leech way too deep for the next crop of plants to take ‘em up.

GRANT: One of the reasons the forage isn’t doing well here is, I mentioned, it was covered with cedars. We harvested the cedars that we could harvest, pushed the rest of ‘em in a pile to burn – we couldn’t leave ‘em spread equally over the place.

GRANT: Those cedars had been collecting nutrients for 20, 30, 40 years – we’ve pushed a lot of nutrients in the piles when we pushed the cedar tops in and burned them.

GRANT: We needed to so we could plant.

GRANT: We haven’t had time to build up a lot of organic matter on this site where crops have decomposed and make those nutrients available to the new plants.

GRANT: When that’s the case and you’ve removed a lot of nutrients off the ground, you’re probably gonna need to add some fertilizer to jump-start the crops.

GRANT: I will be planting Eagle Seeds forage soybeans here this spring and they need some P and K – phosphorous and potassium. So, we’ll pull soil samples; see how low our P and K levels are; add the appropriate amount; drill those soybeans right through this crop; and then use the crimper to terminate it when it greens up this spring.

GRANT: The added nutrients should allow those beans to grow a lot; give us a lot of biomass, not only for the deer to eat, but to add organic matter for the next crop.

GRANT: I also noticed there’s a little moss on the soil and that’s an indicator – not only of moisture – but the pH probably isn’t correct. When I get the soil test back, I’ll look at the soil pH and see if we need to add just a bit of lime.

GRANT: We know from other projects here at The Proving Grounds, once we get the Buffalo System going, it will maintain itself. We’ve just got to jump-start this area because it was timbered and we pushed all the nutrients in the burn piles.

GRANT: Daniel and I moved over about 70 or 80 yards to a burn pile. That is, to where when the guys cleared the plot, they pushed up the trees and stumps and burned it here.

GRANT: This was planted same day, same time. Of course, the Buffalo Blend – and you can see a huge difference. If we would have filmed here a month or two ago, the difference would even been more noticeable.

GRANT: The forage would have been very tall; they’ve browsed it off now. And you can tell none of these turnips grew in the other area. In this area, the turnips that are left – many of ‘em have been chewed on; half consumed; and the soil already looks darker.

GRANT: There was so much organic matter from the burn pile – that looking here – the soil is dark, looks great. The clover that survived the deer browse is looking good; the turnips, obviously, grew very large. A massive difference between the nutrients here where there was a burn pile and where we’d pushed everything off.

GRANT: I noticed that the forage was low to the ground and, in several places, soil was showing.

GRANT: You may recall that one of the principles of the Buffalo System is to have forage covering the soil every day of the year.

GRANT: There are many advantages to having soil covered by vegetation, including stopping wind or water erosion, retaining soil moisture because there’s not as much evaporation, and moderating the soil temperature. It stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

GRANT: We could probably continue with the Buffalo System and rebuild the soil’s quality by allowing the plants that aren’t consumed to decompose on top of the soil and mine and recycle the nutrients. But that’s gonna take several years and I’m not that patient.

GRANT: So, rather than wait that many years, we’re gonna add some fertilizer this spring. To allow the crop to grow really well, we’ve removed several deer from that area. Hopefully, the browse won’t be quite as intense. When those plants die or are terminated, they’ll release those nutrients right on top of the soil.

GRANT: By adding fertilizer a time or two, we can kick-start the cycle and then switch to the full-blown Buffalo System.

GRANT: An easy way to confirm these observations is by an aerial view. We flew a drone over the plot and it’s really easy to tell exactly where the burn piles were located.

GRANT: The vegetation grew much better at the burn pile sites.

GRANT: If you are considering building a food plot where it’s recently been timbered, I would suggest taking a soil test and adding the appropriate nutrients.

GRANT: The same is true if you’re thinking about adding a food plot where there’s been a hay field. When hay is removed year after year, you’re taking nutrients off that site and giving it to cattle or horses somewhere else.

GRANT: I’ve been using and refining the Buffalo System for more than 15 years here at The Proving Grounds. I’ve never owned a disc since I’ve owned this property.

GRANT: Through the years, I’ve refined what I plant, when I plant, and how I terminate those crops

GRANT: I’m super pleased with the improvements we’ve made and the crops we’re growing where that system has been implemented for a number of years.

GRANT: After Daniel and I were finished in Tombstone, we drove by a plot we call Crabapple. It’s one of the first plots I created here at The Proving Grounds and we thought it would be neat to compare what the forage is there versus Tombstone.

GRANT: Daniel and I moved over to a plot we call Crabapple. It started much like Tombstone. I had to doze out a bunch of locust trees that were here.

GRANT: After we cleared out the locust trees, I’ve never disked it. It’s been no-till ever since.

GRANT: For a few years, I used a product called Antler Dirt which is composted poultry litter. However, the supplier shut down many years ago and this field has had no fertilizer or lime for six years.

GRANT: I’ve got to tell you – with no fertilizer and no lime, this field looks great. The forage is very productive and all the species are doing well.

GRANT: This field was planted at almost the same time and with the same blend, Eagle Seeds Fall Buffalo Blend, as Tombstone. We’ve got cereal grains, brassicas, annual clover – they’re all performing extremely well.

GRANT: The difference is, over the years of the Buffalo System, we’ve built very high-quality soil here allowing the plants to express their full potential.

GRANT: This blend was designed to feed deer from early fall, when it was planted, all the way to spring green up. The mixture of different forage species in here come on at different times of the year.

GRANT: For example, I’m seeing the clover come on strong now; it will be really robust, lush and ready by the time we’re starting spring green up.

GRANT: Bucks are growing antlers and does are either in their last trimester of carrying a fawn or producing milk.

GRANT: Just as importantly, when you look close where deer have been browsing hard, the soil looks great. Remember, this started out as a gravel pile. We’re on the side slope here and through years of the Buffalo System, we’ve actually built topsoil, allowing plants to do better and, of course, the deer that eat the plants to show more of their potential.

GRANT: Both plots were planted about the same time and with the same blend – actually, even the same tractor driver.

GRANT: In Crabapple, there’s now several inches of quality topsoil and that’s been built by the Buffalo System through the years. The vegetation looks healthy and, in fact, Tyler and I took several does from that plot this season.

TYLER: (Whispering) Ready?

GRANT: (Whispering) Yup.

GRANT: Welcome to the club.

GRANT: In Crabapple, you can easily see the Fall Buffalo Blend has several different varieties of forage. Each variety has a different role.

GRANT: First off, they attract deer at different times of the season and throughout the winter until spring green up.

GRANT: Each forage variety has a slightly different nutrient need. And that means their root systems are extracting different nutrients from the soil profile.

GRANT: The forage that hasn’t been browsed this spring will be terminated and turn into super high-quality, slow release fertilizer.

GRANT: The Buffalo System improves soil quality, produces great forage, and saves time and money through the years.

GRANT: I’ll be sharing more specific techniques about the Buffalo System closer to planting season.

GRANT: I’m going to be assisting a landowner in northern Missouri tomorrow. It’s a different habitat than here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: And also different weather – the forecast is for wind chills about 20 degrees or colder.

GRANT: If you would like to know more about the Buffalo System, subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.

GRANT: Even though the conditions will be tough, it will be a great time to get outside and enjoy Creation. And that’s what I hope you do. Take time to get outside and enjoy Creation. And 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.