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GRANT: Archery season opens in Missouri about a month and a half from now so it’s time to be doing some serious scouting for the early season.

GRANT: I approach scouting very similar to how I approach managing the property. I look for limited resources. Where is the bottleneck and food, cover and water?

GRANT: We’re here at The Proving Grounds. We’ve worked with our native vegetation for years and we have a lot of cover.

GRANT: But food can become available in spurts. Now, you may have a food like a big soybean food plot or something. It’s pretty constant until it matures. Deer really have a sweet tooth. And here’s something that deer really prefer when they’re available – persimmons.

GRANT: Persimmons are a native tree species throughout much of the whitetails’ range. And they make a fruit that’s very astringent or whoo it will make you pucker up if you try to consume it when it’s this green.

GRANT: But some persimmons will turn orange, or ripe earlier than others. Now, the old tale was that persimmons won’t ripen until the first hard frost but I’ve noticed that some trees will ripen before a frost.

GRANT: Persimmons are a bit of an odd tree – either male and female trees. Male trees don’t produce any fruit and female trees will receive that pollen and produce fruit.

GRANT: Persimmons have a very distinct bark. It’s kind of square and chunky, but knowing that they have individual sexes, I need to get out and look and make sure this tree is producing fruit, not only overall but each specific year. Because sometimes, they skip a year, similar to acorns.

GRANT: A lot of critters have a sweet tooth. And when I’ve been hunting here, I’ve seen raccoons and foxes and, of course, deer coming to the persimmons produced by these trees.

GRANT: In fact, this is such a great location, myself and others have tagged several deer from the stands right behind me.

GRANT: There’s a few persimmons on the ground and most fruit trees will have some fruit drop early. That may be due to an insect or a windstorm. I don’t worry about that because when I look up in this tree, it’s loaded with green persimmons.

GRANT: It’s interesting that not all the persimmons that typically produce fruit will produce each year. In fact, I was out scouting the other day at another location where I’ve got some Summits overlooking a persimmon tree and I didn’t see any fruit on that tree.

GRANT: That’s why it’s so important to get out and scout before season. To make sure your old standby locations, if you will, are going to be productive versus waiting until that prime morning during deer season, getting out here and realizing once the sun comes up, you’re not likely to see deer within range.

GRANT: When making the decision whether to hunt a stand based on persimmons or not, you need to make sure the fruit are orange and kind of shrunken in or wrinkly. If they’re really full, they’re probably still extremely sour and unless the deer are really hungry, they won’t be interested in those fruit.

GRANT: You can scout that from a distance – take a good pair of binoculars, look at these fruit. You don’t have to walk right in here and put your scent around. And if they’re really tight and just solid like this, go hunt another stand.

GRANT: But if they’re starting to show a bunch of wrinkles, you probably better climb on up and get an arrow nocked.

GRANT: I’ve shared before that I like as many attractants at a stand location as practical. And you’ve probably noticed that these persimmon trees are hanging over a food plot.

GRANT: This plot is relatively small, long and narrow, and surrounded by big, mature timber. So, I’ve tried planting something very attractive here like soybeans in the past. But the tree roots stick out so far that they take out so much moisture, the beans barely grow and it’s easy for deer to wipe ‘em out.

GRANT: Through the years I’ve learned in areas that have quite a few deer, it’s probably not good to plant soybeans in these small, hidey hole food plots in the middle of timber.

GRANT: Soybeans are still my favorite summer forage where they will grow without the deer wiping ‘em out.

GRANT: But in these locations where there’s a lot of browse pressure and there’s a small plot surrounded by trees and those roots are taking out moisture, I’ve switched to planting a summer blend that’s not very attractive to deer. I want it growing, keeping the weeds at bay and keeping nutrients from leeching too deep in the soil profile.

GRANT: Let’s step over here and talk a little bit more about the reasoning behind, and what species I’ve planted in this plot.

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GRANT: The soils in this plot have been treated the same for years. Obviously, the same rain and everything else. But to my right, you can see a distinct gradient in the height of this food plot crop. And that’s because roots from these hardwoods over here are reaching out.

GRANT: And, of course, the further you go, the fewer roots are there and they’re not removing as much water. What you’re seeing is a water deficit. There’s more in the center – now, in the rain, it was obviously the same – in the space of a few feet. But the tree roots are removing more and more water as you get closer to the edge. Trees in there a ways, their roots are barely reaching here and the ones on the edge are reaching further out.

GRANT: I didn’t add any fertilizer because of the Buffalo System. But in the center of this plot, gosh, that stuff is way over my head. And that’s a lot of biomass to shade out weeds. And there’s another advantage.

GRANT: Some of the components in this blend deer have already consumed. They were a bit more palatable.

GRANT: And the big thing you see, well, that’s simply sorghum. It’s a very old crop, and cattle will browse on it. But deer never touch it unless they’re literally starving.

GRANT: Sorghum is a big grass. It’s like corn and it will make a little seed head out top but nothing near as big or as nutritious as corn. But anytime you have a big grass like this – and you can see in the center here – it’s literally producing several tons per acre of biomass.

GRANT: Well, a big grass will typically be about one percent nitrogen in volume. So, let’s just say where it’s really growing good and the tree roots aren’t impacting it, it’s making three, four, five tons per acre dry weight of biomass. And that’s going to be tipped over, terminated, lay on the ground and decompose while my fall crop is growing.

GRANT: Well, you can count on that being about one percent nitrogen. So, if I’ve got – let’s just take an easy number – two and a half ton. That’s 5,000 pounds and that’s one percent nitrogen. Well, that’s 50 pounds of free nitrogen, if you will, that’s going to slowly be available to my fall food plot and that’s like the perfect slow-release fertilizer.

GRANT: Now the cost of sorghum seed is much less than the cost of nitrogen. And it’s served to keep weeds at bay, certainly, there’s no erosion. And give me a great cover crop covering the soil to keep weeds at bay even longer when I drill through here and then follow up with the Goliath crimper.

GRANT: I wish to make sure and clarify that if where you hunt, where you manage land, there’s so many acres of food plots, or so few deer that you can grow beans without having a browse problem; deer are letting beans get up to a decent height, they’re producing pods, beans are a wonderful warm-season crop. They produce a lot of protein; they’re very digestible. And those pods are extremely valuable and attractive to deer during the cool season.

GRANT: If you’re like me, and there’s quite a few deer and you’ve got a bunch of small plots like this that you really like hunting over, you may need to switch to a soil builder type blend during the summer to keep weeds at bay and improve soil quality. And then put your cash crop, if you will – your best crop – during the hunting season that really attracts deer to the stand location.

GRANT: Our hunting strategy at this location is based on several factors. We’ve got a food plot planted right here in a small area, less than an acre, right in front of our stands.

GRANT: We’ve got persimmon trees, literally about six yards in front of the stand. So, deer coming across the plot are still within range, but oftentimes, they end up really close to the persimmon trees.

GRANT: It’s on the edge of a slope and deer like to travel a few degrees off the top of the slope. So, we get deer actually traveling right through here that aren’t stopping to eat. They’re just going from Point A to Point B. It’s a natural travel corridor.

GRANT: Putting those together with a fairly easy access, we can walk right on top the spine of a ridge. So, the only deer that are going to see us are on the spine. Because just a few feet off either way, it drops off and deer can’t see us.

GRANT: If we get the wind in our favor, we can approach, hunt and exit without alerting deer and there are multiple reasons for deer to be within a few yards of the stand.

GRANT: It’s been really dry at The Proving Grounds and the forecast isn’t much better. There’s some chance of rain but not a lot of rain. So, it’s logical to scout for deer sign next to water.

GRANT: When sources of open water are limited, it’s a magnet for deer. Even knowing that I like to have two or three things attracting deer to an area before I commit to hunting there. And this situation is perfect.

GRANT: We’ve thinned some timber behind the pond here. When I say thinned, just chainsawed or hack-and-squirt and let stuff grow up to create a bedding area. Coming up the hill, we’ve got a source of water and there’s a food plot about 50 yards behind me.

GRANT: Thinking about where to hunt, how can I position a stand or blind to capitalize on these resources can be tricky.

GRANT: But in this situation, north is behind the camera, west is to my left. So, on a northwest wind, it’s going to be pushing our scent over the hill into a big valley. So, I’ve got a couple of Summits hung right up here, kind of at the edge of the food plot but clearly within range of the pond.

GRANT: Deer coming out of this bedding area, especially if it remains dry, are most likely to come up through here, get some water; either go to this food plot or a larger feeding food plot right over the hill.

GRANT: The easiest way for deer to access this source of water is on this side of the pond dam. It’s not near as steep as the other side.

GRANT: That puts them within about 15 yards of the stands. Even deer that come here, get a drink and go up to the larger feeding field versus the smaller food plot over here, will still be within range.

GRANT: This is what we call an invisible bottleneck. It’s almost like there’s something pinching deer in here. But it’s the topography, and food plots, and lay of the land, not a hard edge – like a big ag field and a narrow creek bottom in much of the cropland Midwest.

GRANT: Another attraction is there’s an old logging road right on the other side of the ridge that runs parallel to the ridge that, historically, before I built the food plot, crossed the ridge right here because it gets really steep. So, there’s a pinch point on the other side that dumps right into this area.

GRANT: Putting it all together, there’s not a lot of deer coming from the far side. It’s very steep over there and the water is over here. So, this stand is in a really good location to be right where deer are coming from multiple directions and not have deer downwind.

GRANT: I’m always concerned about how to approach, hunt and exit without alerting deer. And our interior road to access these food plots runs due east from here. So, we can park down the hill aways, walk right up the road to the stand. And, again, on northwest or west wind, the deer will not know we are in the area.

GRANT: We need to stay out of this area on much of a south wind, even if it’s southwest because once it drops over this hill, it may swirl back around the pond because it’s so steep over here, creating a bit of a draft. So, we need to be patient, wait for a north/northwest wind to hunt this stand.

GRANT: Now, it’s certainly possible deer could feed up here all night; come by the pond to get a drink in the morning. But, I’m a little scared coming by this other plot, deer would be out there during the night and we would bust some deer that are coming this way to get a drink.

GRANT: So, we’ll probably limit our hunting in this situation to afternoon hunts.

GRANT: A final attraction is the acorn trees. There’s oaks all around us. But we’ve talked about in the past – open-grown trees, trees that get more sunshine, have a bigger canopy, photosynthesize more and produce more acorns. There’s just more space for there to be flowers on those oaks in the spring and produce acorns in a tight, narrow canopy going up.

GRANT: Well, there’s big oaks around the edge of that plot and if there’s gonna be good acorns in the area, they most likely will be there. Now, if there’s acorns everywhere, all bets are off.

GRANT: But it looks like a fairly limited crop of acorns here at The Proving Grounds this year. And these open-grown oaks are going to be the ones that are most likely to produce a crop.

GRANT: Scouting, practicing with my bow, are both great ways to prepare for deer season and get outside and enjoy Creation. But even more importantly than preparing for deer season is to prepare for life. And that’s why we all need to find time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to us. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.