Scouting Hot Food Sources | Small Food Plots Made Better (Episode 499 Transcript)

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

GRANT: I’ve been hearing a lot of crows and even seeing some critters come to this food plot more than normal, so I knew there was something going on besides just the fresh soybeans.

GRANT: There’s two mulberry trees here; and mulberries are tasty and fine for human consumption and critters really love ’em.

GRANT: There’s a lesson here besides just seeing critters under these two trees. All the berries will be cleaned up long before hunting season, but finding fruit in trees during hunting season can be a hot place to put a stand or blind.

GRANT: When you can find a very desirable source of food, hang a stand quickly if you can approach, hunt, and exit without alerting critters. Most wildlife is very tuned in to high-quality food in their home range.

GRANT: Another real important take-home message is spend a lot of time out observing Creation. The more time you’re on a property scouting and learning it, even during the off-season, the better chances you’ll have of knowing where the critters want to be on the day you wish to hunt.

GRANT: The berries from these two trees are just starting to fall and, when I look up, they’re absolutely loaded. So there’s no doubt more and more critters will start using this area.

GRANT: When I check out some of the scat underneath the tree, it’s obvious they’re loaded with seeds.

GRANT: I mentioned the berries would be long gone before deer season. So you may be wondering why I’ve got a Redneck over my shoulder. Well, it’s a great place to do some summer scouting and deer will hopefully be using this plot during season.

GRANT: Finding high-quality but limited-availability food sources can be a huge key to filling a tag.

GRANT: This usually requires a lot of scouting. It may be walking the woods during the early season looking for a white oak that’s shedding acorns earlier than most in that area.

GRANT: I can’t stress how important it is not to just show up at hunting camp and walk to the same stand you’ve hunted for years. Spend some time before hunting season and during hunting season scouting the property.

GRANT: Don’t only learn the lay of the land, but notice all the potential food sources and specifically return to those that may be providing food that week during season.

GRANT: While we were coming down to film this today, we saw a gray fox under a mulberry tree. Just another example of how important finding current, quality food sources can be to seeing critters.

GRANT: During the past few weeks we’ve shared about a technique we call the Buffalo System.

GRANT: The Buffalo System is an incredible technique to reduce input cost, grow great quality forage, and improve the soil at the same time.

GRANT: I often receive questions about how to apply the Buffalo System to small hidey hole or staging area food plots.

GRANT: Hidey hole food plots are often created specifically as hunting locations. They’re not designed to provide tons of forage.

GRANT: (Quietly) Perfect, perfect. Oh my gosh! Hidey hole food plots. Sent the Bloodsport down range. But it’s not about the shot; I mean the shot was seconds. It’s, uh, I’m so emotional. It’s the practice all summer and preparing this plot, ‘cause this little hidey hole food plot — even though he wasn’t coming here to feed — it’s a staging area. He’s checking out other does or does might be feeding in here. It was a little bottleneck, ‘cause if this was all timber — you can see how thick it is — we’d have never seen that deer if he had walked 40 yards away without preparing an opening.

GRANT: Just once again, just simple hand tools, real small area in the middle of timber — hidey hole food plots, buddy.

GRANT: The principles of the Buffalo System can be used on any size plot, anywhere. But sometimes, depending on the conditions, the techniques need to be changed slightly.

GRANT: The weatherman forecasts more rain today, but it’s a perfect time to get out and broadcast some seed in a small hidey hole food plot.

GRANT: This plot is called Boom Back South. It’s small, less than an acre, but it can provide some great hunts.

GRANT: It probably wouldn’t produce a good crop of beans because it’s so small and there are a lot of deer in this area.

GRANT: So we’re planting Eagle Summer Soil Builder Blend. It’s an experiment. And we’re using it to improve the soil and keep the weeds at bay throughout the summer without using herbicide.

GRANT: This blend typically does well with broadcast, but any time I’m broadcasting seed, I like to do it right before or during a rain because the rain helps give seed-to-soil contact.

GRANT: We are going to give this a double treatment today. We’re gonna put Eagle Seed Blend out and we’re gonna put some Plot Rock on top of it.

GRANT: Plot Rock is made by Trophy Rock. I’m in a CWD zone, so I can’t place Trophy Rocks out. I still want deer to have access to all those great trace minerals.

GRANT: So Plot Rock is ground up Trophy Rock and some other natural things — some clay and whatnot. We’re gonna broadcast it across the entire plot.

GRANT: It improves the soil. It’s not just a mineral you put in a pile. It’s a soil amendment like fertilizer, but instead of having nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, it has 65 plus trace minerals.

GRANT: And we’ll let the plants take that up just like they would other elements out of the soil and make those minerals available to deer and other critters.

GRANT: I got a new class of GrowingDeer interns here, so it’s a great opportunity to teach them the broadcast technique.

GRANT: The weatherman says the rain is coming in an hour or two, so we’re gonna get going. We’ve got the stands hung. We’re gonna get it planted; come back this fall with the Fall Buffalo Blend; be ready to tag some deer.

GRANT: There’s a few species in this experimental blend that deer likely won’t browse, but they’re not going to waste.

GRANT: As the whole blend matures and deer browse the palatable species, those plants that aren’t desirable by deer will take up more space, grow, adding organic matter to the plot while suppressing weeds.

GRANT: This technique ensures the plot is in excellent shape to plant that cool season plot, which is the whole goal of a hidey hole plot – to have a desirable crop to attract deer for observation and hopefully harvest.

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GRANT: Another consideration of small plots designed for hunting is that they may not be able to be accessed with large equipment. Given this, it’s important to have a summer and fall blend that can be established and maintained by hand tools.

GRANT: Terminating the mature crop can be done with a foot crimper or herbicide. Herbicide is almost always less damaging to the soil than tillage.

GRANT: Seed can be planted with an over-the-shoulder broadcast seeder. And if you’re using a foot crimper to terminate the previous crop, you want to spread the seed before using the foot crimper. But if you’re using an herbicide, it’s probably best to terminate the crop and then spread the seed just before or during a rain.

GRANT: I want to emphasize how important it is to broadcast the seed just before or during a pretty significant rain — let’s say a half inch or more. That rain will help the seed make contact with the soil and allow it to germinate quickly.

GRANT: Seed that lays on top of the soil that doesn’t germinate quickly will be consumed by rodents and birds. So given that, I usually plant at least one and a half to two times the recommended amount of seed when broadcasting to ensure enough of it makes contact with the soil.

GRANT: In addition to the technical aspects of terminating a past crop and planting a new crop, I’ve learned a few other techniques through the years.

GRANT: One of these techniques is to place the broadcast seeder in a large tub. Pour seed in the seeder. Any that spills out or misses the bag can simply be poured into the seeder.

GRANT: It’s very tough to calibrate a broadcast seeder. Most models have a simple gate you open up to determine how much seed is coming out. So I always open it a minimal amount, walk fast with my seeder held up high so I’m getting really good distribution and plan on double covering the plot.

GRANT: When I say “double cover”, I don’t mean walking the same path twice, rather I walk north and south and then east and west. That pattern allows me to ensure the whole plot is covered with seed.

GRANT: When I’m spreading seed, I’m guilty of looking around for tree stand, camera locations, or something else. But it’s important when you start to figure out how far the seed is being spread and make sure you’re barely going past the edge of the plot. There’s no need of throwing seed five feet into the timber because those seeds are not gonna be productive.

DANIEL: Just a few hours after we planted it, a good rain moved through.

DANIEL: It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m standing in the same hidey hole food plot we planted last Thursday morning. Already, there’s a great stand of crop, already germinated less than a week. It’s a thing of beauty.

GRANT: I recently visited another plot where we planted forage soybeans.

GRANT: The hill behind me is a large bedding area full of dozens and dozens of different plants. They’re doing a good job providing food and cover, but in a food plot they would be considered weeds.

GRANT: Given that huge seed source of weeds, if you will, is uphill of this plot, I’m amazed the plot is so clean without an herbicide treatment.

GRANT: The reason this plot isn’t a weedy mess is because of the Buffalo System. Of course the Buffalo System means we never till the soil. We never make a good seed bed for all those weed seeds.

GRANT: We’ve got something growing all the time. We’ve shared in the past how we drill right into the standing crop and then we use the Goliath Crimper to terminate that crop. And when we terminate that crop, some of the fall species have allelopathic qualities.

GRANT: And that simply means they produce chemicals that limit very small seeds from germinating — think like a ragweed or seeds that might blow in the wind — but larger seeds — even large clover, certainly soybeans, stuff like that – would not be impacted by those chemicals.

GRANT: This is a huge advantage to food plotters and production ag folks. You can have a fall crop, terminate that crop, add mulch, add slow-release fertilizer, and weed suppression at the same time.

GRANT: This is a real testimony with a huge weed seed bank if you will – all the native vegetation right behind me – clearly coming down hill and drifting in this plot, and minimum weed pressure reducing or eliminating the need for herbicide, well that’s a cost savings and better for the environment.

GRANT: The amount of rain at The Proving Grounds and throughout much of the Midwest has been way above normal. That made the limited amount of weeds growing in this plot even more satisfying to me.

GRANT: It’s interesting to think about many of the native species in here providing great browse and cover. We love it. We’ve got 18 acres of this right here.

GRANT: Two feet over in the food plot, those would be competitors to the species we’re trying to grow – a weed. Anything that’s growing next to a crop and you don’t want it, is taking nutrients and sunshine from that crop, so we call it a weed. Very beneficial there. If it’s out here in the food plot, it’s a competitor.

GRANT: I’m very confident without the Buffalo System – keeping something growing as many days out of the year as possible, keeping a mulch layer on the soil – this plot would have been extremely weedy.

GRANT: I look forward to sharing more updates about our food plots and additional techniques throughout the summer.

GRANT: I’m not the only one that enjoys making observations of natural things.

GRANT: During the past few weeks here in the Ozark Mountains, several folks have mentioned seeing white oaks with brown leaves or almost no leaves. That’s a strange observation given it’s been a wet spring and everything is growing like crazy. The GrowingDeer Team and I are making the same observations here at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: I reached out to a forester with the Missouri Department of Conversation, and he had made the same observations and knew the cause — the Jumping Oak Gall. Jumping Oak Gall is caused by a small wasp that doesn’t sting and lays its eggs on the back of white oak leaves.

GRANT: Gall is a general term for any abnormal growth on a tree. These wasps target white oaks or species very closely related to a white oak.

GRANT: These are called Jumping Galls because when they fall to the ground and right before they mature, they start to move around and appear to jump. If you’re really close, you might even hear ‘em.

GRANT: It’s scary to drive down the road and see a bunch of big, dominant tree crowns turning brown this time of the year.

GRANT: Sometimes, under certain conditions, these wasp populations build up extremely large, and when they’re laying so many eggs on, specifically, white oaks they can cause the leaves to turn brown or even fall off the trees.

GRANT: Normally the trees don’t die — they will recover from this. But if it’s a really stressful year – gets really dry or really wet and the trees try to put on more leaves – it can damage or even kill a few of the trees.

GRANT: It’s very doubtful these white oaks will produce acorns this year, but I’m hopeful come next spring, they’ll be in great shape.

GRANT: If you are observing white oaks turning brown or dropping their leaves, send me a note as I’d like to see the geographical range of this outbreak.

GRANT: If you enjoy learning about the techniques and interesting observations we share, subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.

GRANT: There’s a huge amount to learn about Creation and one of the easiest ways is simply get outside, take a walk, and look around. But most importantly, take time every day, no matter where you are, to slow down, be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.