This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: This plan is a – it’s not just a next step up the ladder from the first plan. That met your goals.
GRANT: This is a quantum leap. I mean, we’ve got a lot more food.
GRANT: During 2014, I traveled to western Oklahoma to help Martin Smith and his two young sons develop a habitat improvement and hunting strategy plan for a property they had recently purchased.
GRANT: During the tour Martin shared that his goals were for him and his sons to be able to see a lot of deer and harvest a lot of deer. The quality of the deer was not an issue at that time.
GRANT: Based on Martin’s objectives, I designed several food plots that were the appropriate size for hunting and that were easy to approach.
GRANT: During the past five years, Martin and his sons and his guests have tagged several deer. Some of those were the hunter’s first deer or the hunter’s first buck.
GRANT: As Martin’s sons have matured as hunters, so have their objectives. They now wish to hunt mature bucks with larger antlers. And to do that, they realized they needed a different habitat program and hunting strategy.
GRANT: Tyler and I recently returned to the Smith farm to see the improvements Martin has made during the past five years and to help them with a plan that will allow him and his family to meet their new harvest objectives.
GRANT: We toured an area at the north end of the farm which had a great stand of native grass. Martin didn’t plant this stand of native grasses. You know that by how steep and rolling this part of the property is. However, those seeds were in the seed bank and responded to Martin’s habitat management.
GRANT: Before Martin purchased the property, it had been heavily grazed by cattle. The cattle were allowed to roam the entire farm. They weren’t grazed in a rotational basis. And that resulted in the cattle eating the best vegetation and leaving the rest and causing erosion in some areas.
GRANT: When Martin purchased the property, the cattle were removed, the land was allowed to heal a little bit and Martin also introduced prescribed fire. As a response to these management techniques, native grasses exploded in this area.
GRANT: Previously, Martin had only used prescribed fire during the early spring or the dormant season. And I shared with Martin that by using fire on a rotation of dormant and growing season burns, it would encourage not only native grasses but forbs. And a blend of grasses and forbs is much better habitat than a monoculture of native grasses.
GRANT: Working with Martin and Aaron out here on the property in western Oklahoma and there’s an area right behind this that some people might consider a wasteland. It is tough to hunt, but I think it’s a great asset to our property. It’s got great native grass component all through here.
GRANT: Now, it hasn’t been burned in a while, so the grass has taken over. There’s not a lot of forbs or legumes which would be better food, but we’re gonna put some prescribed fire back in here and change that. We need a growing season fire.
GRANT: Growing season fires encourage grasses and forbs and will knock back the grass just a little bit – not get rid of – there’s obviously a huge seed base, but knock it back so there’s some sun getting down there to get some forbs growing.
GRANT: And also, fell these eastern red cedars. Just leave them lay. And then the next fire, we’ll burn it. Normally, we say two years, but there’s – the humidity is so much lower on average in this part of Oklahoma, you may be able to wait just one year. Because you don’t want the cedars to shed all their needles. Then there won’t be enough fuel to get up there and burn those limbs on the top.
GRANT: So anyway, this is a tremendous pre-rut and rut area because bucks will push does literally up in here. There’s all these little gullies and ravines and hidden places. And man, if we put a Redneck blind right where we are, and you’re looking out over this, we’re talking about rifle hunting, of course. Perfect for the pre-rut and rut.
GRANT: So this is a rifle hunting opportunity or a scouting opportunity to see how deer are coming up to the food source or when bucks are trying to separate does out during the rut. This is going to be a huge asset to the property.
GRANT: What is neat about this portion of Martin’s property is how well it responded to removing the cattle and introducing prescribed fire. The results of Martin’s management is even more obvious when we look right across the fence on the neighboring farm.
GRANT: I’m still working on Martin’s property in western Oklahoma, and I’m on the border so you can see the fence line. And across the fence line is grazed and that landowner is obviously not using rotational grazing. Cows are just staying on there and they’ve consumed what we’re seeing here to the dirt.
GRANT: There’s not much quality food. There’s no wildlife habitat and it’s much more prone to erosion. If they had used rotational grazing where the cows are really on and then moved off, this would flush back and is much better for the land, much better for wildlife and it will be more profitable for the farmer because there would be something to eat. When cows do this, they select the best, eat the best food and leave the rest, and it becomes a weed patch.
GRANT: So just a little point that cattle grazing can be used to make really high-quality wildlife habitat, but it requires a break from the conventional – just turn ‘em out in the pasture and leave ‘em – and using a rotational grazing program.
GRANT: The sparse ground cover on that farm is allowing erosion and certainly not providing quality wildlife habitat.
GRANT: We also visited several of the food plots on Martin’s farm. When I first toured Martin’s farm, he was using tillage as part of his planting program and I explained that tillage greatly increases the chance for erosion and causes loss of soil moisture.
GRANT: What I really want to see you get into is 100% what we call conservation tillage. So you’re going to – let’s just, for an example, you might have wheat or oats and, of course, once they go to head, they’re – it’s nothing really for deer. Once it goes out of the blade stage –
MARTIN: It’s kind of moot.
GRANT: Yeah. Once it goes out of blade stage and starts making that round stock, deer are off of it unless they’re starving.
GRANT: Yeah. We’re just going to spray it with glyphosate, kill it and no-till drill right into it with your drill, whatever your next crop is and – and two things are going to happen. When you turn soil, especially this clay, any moisture you’ve saved, evaporates and you’re going to build up organic matter, or a black layer of dirt on top of this clay.
MARTIN: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: And if you’ll switch to no-till or conservation tillage and allow those root systems to penetrate and especially if you will use some brassicas and radishes, they have the big bulbs. You really bust that up and you’ll be amazed how productive this land will be.
GRANT: I mean, amazed.
GRANT: Martin agreed and has now adopted the Buffalo System. He’s now using a no-till drill and planting right through the standing crop so there’s always food available in his food plots.
GRANT: We’re at a small hunting size food plot, less than an acre here, that Martin just created about a year ago. And I think it’s interesting how Martin established this plot. Martin, would you mind sharing with us how you did this?
MARTIN: So yes, Grant. It was about a year ago, a friend of mine and my son and his son, we came in here. We had – we had burned this area about four years ago –
MARTIN: – so there was a lot of cedar skeletons. We cleaned all those up and we got rid of most of the sticks, and then in the spring we came in here sprayed this with glyphosate, planted Eagle beans – and this being a small plot and just a great bedding area – and the deer just annihilated the beans.
MARTIN: And then in the fall, we planted the Buffalo Blend. As you can see, it’s well grazed off.
MARTIN: But we just sprayed this with glyphosate and drilled right through the grass and it’s done quite well.
GRANT: Yeah, so you never disked. You never disturbed the soil really.
MARTIN: Did not.
GRANT: You just – you pushed off a couple of cedar skeletons from a prescribed fire, drilled right in that grass mat that was there and let that hold the soil in place, so if you got a big thunderstorm or something, you wouldn’t have a lot of erosion and now, boy, there’s scat all over this.
GRANT: I mean, it’s a small plot in a bedding area, like I said, so it’s getting browsed hard, but deer are definitely using it.
MARTIN: All the time. This was one of our best hunting plots this fall.
MARTIN: One of the great encounters here.
GRANT: So just a easy way to establish a plot. You don’t have to get the turn plow and the disking. That’s old technology and Martin has shown it can be very successful just using a no-till drill and establishing a food plot.
GRANT: For more information about the Buffalo System, check out this link.
GRANT: We continued touring Martin’s property and discussing how to improve the habitat and hunting.
GRANT: So you’re in a little food plot. Let’s just say it’s a little food plot right here. A little food plot right here, and you come over here right next to this thicket, and you’re a buck, and you come over here. and you’re pawing and making a scrape and doing stuff. You’re pretty doggone vulnerable to predation.
GRANT: And you’re right here next to the bushes.
GRANT: And you’re – you’re not 20 yards off the bushes over there, but you’re on the edge of a big, eight-acre food plot, it’s a little tougher for a bobcat or a coyote to get up on you.
GRANT: And that’s exactly why we’ve been talking about pinch points. And I haven’t heard y’all mention this at all. Mock scrapes – incredible tool. Incredible tool, because if we had, like right here, there’s – I don’t know – 100 low-laying limbs around here. But if we come out here, 10 yards away from the edge, or 15 or whatever, and put at T-post right here and get us an oak or hickory, something durable that’s got a horizontal limb about four and half feet off the ground and put us some – I use Code Blue synthetic – but put us some scent on there. And, you know, paw the ground up a little bit, deer would much rather scrape here than over there because deer have binocular vision for 60 degrees in front. Stereo vision, both eyes working. And that’s good depth perception. If you’ve got depth perception – if you’re eating acorns or something and you didn’t have depth perception, you’d be bouncing your nose on the ground.
GRANT: But monocular vision, single vision, sees movement much better. And they have about 120 degree monocular vision on each side.
GRANT: Where do the predators come from? The back or the side. They don’t come head-on. They come back or the side. So this is, gives you much better movement.
GRANT: So a deer can stand here working a scrape and see almost all around him, see if a predator is coming up behind him. That’s why mock scrapes work so well, or you’re going to see more scrapes on a big field. And then just a simple factor, there’s more bucks around that bigger field because there’s more food there.
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GRANT: As we walked the property, I found another area that would make a great food plot and hunting location.
GRANT: So, we’re working on Mr. Smith’s property in western Oklahoma today and in this area, there is a lot of cedars. I’m sure it was a pasture many years ago; and a little bit of an opening and he’s like, “How do I pattern deer in here? Where do I hang my stand?” And I had to answer, “I don’t know.” Because there’s no habitat feature here that’s directing deer within 30, 40 yards of any place. And you said that, “Well, deer just kind of move through here.”
GRANT: So what I’ve laid out is a long, skinny food plot. You don’t know this, but there’s a creek over here not too far and it goes up a little hill to a large, feeding food plot.
GRANT: So we’re going to make a long, skinny food plot, stop about 70 yards off that food plot and about 70 yards out of the flood plain this way. And deer are either attracted to that food plot or you’ve got a bottleneck on either end. They’re going to go into cover on that end or this end. So no matter the wind direction, north, south, east or west, you can hunt this on one end or the other; and during the right time of year when deer are coming to forage, hunt the food plots. That sound like an okay plan?
MARTIN: Sounds really good.
GRANT: So, and what I don’t want – we talked about this earlier. We’ve been touring the property a little bit. So let me catch you up. On some of the food plots they’ve already created, they took the cedars or the hedge or whatever and just pushed them over to the edge.
GRANT: I hate it when I see that and I see that all throughout the whitetails’ range, because what you’re doing – you know, you push a big brush pile up. You’re making the perfect home for groundhogs to eat your food plot down, coyotes, bobcats, Bigfoot, whoever, to live in there. And you don’t want to be attracting deer right next to the coyote den.
GRANT: So I want you, when you’re doing this, to push the trees and piles, burn them – that’s releasing nutrients, decades of nutrients that trees have taken out of the ground. Burn it, burn it, push it, burn it as much as you can and then bury the stumps. And you’re not creating predator homes right next to where you’re attracting deer.
GRANT: After a great day of touring the property, we returned to the lodge, warmed up a little bit and used onX to create a map showing all the habitat improvements we discussed.
GRANT: Well, we’re going to basically double the size of food plots or add more acres of food plots I should say. Basically, on the south end of the property, just the way the land lays. It’s one thing to force a plan, it’s another to work with the land.
GRANT: We’re a little bit flatter, some old pastures down here that we can convert to food plots pretty easily. So we can see some large, feeding-area food plots here.
GRANT: And again, a lot of people look at food plots one dimensional – source of food. I look at them as a source of food and creating travel corridors around the edge because you may have acorns or maybe the rut. Deer aren’t worried about eating. And they don’t want to run through the middle of a food plot. I mean, we’ve all seen the big buck, but more deer running through the cover on the edge.
GRANT: So in the design we have, we can see right here, just a tremendous travel corridor here. All the deer coming this way that want to end up over here by the creek are going to want to cut through here.
GRANT: By designing several pinch points throughout the property, Martin and his hunters can hunt on any given day no matter the wind direction.
GRANT: We’ve got multiple small food plots. We enlarged a few of them. We’re going to add one here that, again, we don’t necessarily need more food right here in – in Iowa because we’ve got these big fields. But this long, skinny food plot will create a bottleneck going through here and between the river and this side.
GRANT: So this is adding some hunting food, but really more importantly, creating some great pinch points. There’s two reasons for that a) we need more food on this end of the property and b) we’ve got this huge bedding area, cover area, security area.
GRANT: Deer are going to want to travel through this going to that food plot. Bucks are going to find receptive does and build a kind of – they’ll actually herd them. Almost like a Border Collie working sheep into this area.
GRANT: Now, one thing you might find interesting – we know at a minimum level, 25% of twin fawns are stepbrother/stepsister. The doe mates with multiple bucks during that 24- to 36-hour period she’s receptive. So you can imagine how much does get pestered by bucks. She doesn’t want to be out in the open. She wants to be where it’s thick cover and literally can get bushes and stuff between her and bucks that are trying to pester her.
GRANT: So this area is just perfect for that. I couldn’t have laid it out better. And let’s put a big, tall Redneck on this corner where we can kind of see all this way for the wind. One up on this corner.
GRANT: We an approach on the eastern side. You have very few east winds in this part of the world. Actually, any part of the world unless you’re right by an ocean.
GRANT: And so you can approach from the east and on a north wind, hunt this one; on a south wind, hunt this one. Those deer will never know you’re in the world and have a great view.
GRANT: Part of my upgraded plan for Martin’s farm was designing habitat with specific pinch points which give the hunters a greater opportunity to harvest mature bucks versus the first program which, basically, was designed for hunters to set over food plots and see deer.
GRANT: So we’ve got an ideal rut area hunt for rifle hunting. We’ve now created a bunch of bottlenecks for bow hunting; added – we’ve doubled the amount of food to allow deer to express more of their genetic potential. More fawns, healthier fawns.
GRANT: You’re a vet. You know, boy, if that cow is producing more milk that young steer or young bull is off to a lot better start in life. It’s about not only health as an infant, but pre-birth health. So having really good food year around, allows does to be healthier, go through pregnancy better and their fawns are in better shape which gives them a better start in life. It just all works together.
GRANT: All age classes of bucks on Martin’s property can probably produce larger antlers on average than they are now. And we will accomplish that by providing more high-quality food and reducing the number of does competing for those food sources.
GRANT: In summary, this plan is a – it’s not just a next step up the ladder from the first plan. That met your goals.
MARTIN: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: This is a quantum leap. I mean, we’ve got a lot more food and a – and now we weren’t just having young youngsters out hunting seeing a deer, or doe, buck, whatever and taking a shot. You have now got strategic locations for during the rut to cut off mature bucks.
GRANT: To harvest mature bucks, the hunters need to exercise a bit more trigger control passing up immature bucks.
GRANT: You’re going to have the best food in the area. You’re not just managing the deer that are resident on your land. Other deer are coming in. So you’re going to need a significant doe harvest.
GRANT: I’m going to say, for the next few years, you’re probably looking at a 5:1 or more. You need to harvest, kind of plan on harvesting, at least five does for every buck taken or more.
GRANT: A step that all whitetail managers need to be mindful of is making sure they harvest enough does each year to ensure there’s enough groceries for the entire herd, especially during the two stress periods – late summer and late winter.
GRANT: Trigger control is more than passing immature bucks. It’s also pulling the trigger to make sure you meet the doe harvest objective.
GRANT: Based on Martin’s track record of implementing the first plan, I’m confident he’ll implement this plan and him and his hunters will meet their objective.
GRANT: Well, I’ll look forward to updates and even sharing updates. You know, a lot of our viewers are going, “Hey, how did that project in Oklahoma go?” So, we’re in western Oklahoma. And, uh, so, I’d like for you to, you know, send me pictures. You call frequently or send me an email and ask questions, so let us know, so, if you don’t mind, we can share with others and encourage them to improve their hunting opportunities also.
MARTIN: Okay. Great.
GRANT: Martin, thanks for the opportunity.
MARTIN: You bet.
GRANT: If you are interested in learning more about these hunting strategies and habitat improvement techniques, I’ll be speaking at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania February 5th and 6th. You can check out the link below for more information.
GRANT: An easy way to learn more about the hunting strategies and habitat improvement techniques is subscribe to GrowingDeer.com.
GRANT: A great way to learn or simply reduce your stress is to get outside and enjoy Creation. But the most important thing you can do is take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.