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GRANT: May 15th. We’ve been busy planting and checking on our deer herd and Reconyx cameras are showing up a disturbing trend among the deer here at The Proving Grounds.
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ADAM: Day one of planting. Full of energy. Ready to go.
GRANT: We’ve been busy calibrating our drill and planting at different seed densities at different food plots so we can continue our research here at The Proving Grounds. We’re also planting different varieties side by side. Literally, we have a ten foot drill and we’re putting variety A in five foot of it and variety B in the other side of it – same field; same fertilizer; same rain; same insects; same sunshine; everything the same. And we’ll find out what’s the best combination we can get the most tonnage per acre.
GRANT: One of the things I enjoy doing most as a research biologist is trying new things and just tweaking slightly, not huge drastic changes and then sharing that information with you – the GrowingDeer Team – so we can all enjoy Creation and the results of our work even that much more.
GRANT: Monday, May 14th and we continue planting here at The Proving Grounds and this year we’ve got a couple of different things going on. We’re just putting an in furrow or going right where the seed goes through this sprayer – some special bacteria to help this grow. So, early in the morning about 7:30, we’re getting some more water and go-go juice in here, putting seed in the drill, put some fuel in the tractor and crank up for another great day here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: This is a field we call Boom Back West and when we have tours here, no one can believe we plant this. But we’re so limited for flat ground that we have access to, of course we plant it and you’d be stunned at the crop of beans we grow here. When we first started this and this was just all locust trees, the guy I get my Antler Dirt from, Galen Kropf said, “How come you’re not planting this? You’re always talking about flat ground.” I said, “Galen, nothing will grow here.” He said, “I’ll give you enough Antler Dirt for this field here if you’ll plant it one year. And if it grows a good crop, then you gotta get it from now on out. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to plant it again.” And here we are many years later planting. It is stunning what core ground will do if you add the right nutrients to it. Of course, we never plow this. You just break a plow. We no-till drill right over it. Or broadcast right over it. So, wherever you have an association with land, be it the swamps of Florida or way up North, there’s always management techniques you can use to improve that habitat. Don’t whine about it. Just roll those sleeves up and get busy. Let’s get some work done.
GRANT: This is exactly where the College of the Ozarks van got stuck just a few weeks ago when their wildlife class was out here taking a tour. As you can see right now, the creek is literally dry as a bone. It may have an impact on antler development and milk production for new fawns. And there’s no rain in the forecast. I checked the radar this morning. There wasn’t a cloud between here and the California coast.
GRANT: It is so dry and the forecast doesn’t hold any promises of moisture. So, we’ve literally parked our no-till drill, unhooked the tractor and at least wait to put anymore seed in the ground until there’s a hint of rain in the forecast. That’s especially important with larger, soft seeds like a soybean seed or sunflower or something like that. If you have a little hard seed – maybe like a brassica seed, a rapeseed, a clover seed – those hard seeds can maintain their germination even in harsh environments for quite some time. But I never keep soybean seeds from one year to the next. If I have any leftover in my spring planting, I’ll put them in a fall food plot. Planting on your local conditions will most likely give you the best success yielding bigger antlers, healthier fawns and better hunting experiences this fall.
GRANT: One of the techniques we use to conserve water is, we always have a cover crop or a winter food plot in the fall. Now most food plot guys got this down automatically. But some agricultural guys may grow soybeans or corn in the summer and just leave their field bare all winter. That allows the wind and the sun’s radiation to evaporate the moisture out of the ground. Well, we’ve got a little comparison right here. We’re at milo over here about 50 yards and a heavy crop of wheat right here. And you can see all this wheat duff. And I just kind of want to compare the difference of moisture. Here where we had a mulch, if you will, of this cover crop versus where there was no cover crop.
GRANT: So for food plots, a cover crop is a double whammy. It feeds our deer herd and other forms of wildlife throughout the winter; can provide cover depending on what you want, but it’s protecting the soil. Not only does it shade and physically cover the soil, but that root system is going down deep in the soil profile, getting nutrients that rain and just natural movement have leeched very deep; pulling it up to the surface and when this decomposes, it’s releasing those nutrients right on top of the ground to go right back into that root zone and be recycled through other crops or stored inside of a consumer like a deer, antlers, a new fawn and recycled in the environment. What’s gonna help me through this drought that we’re in right now is how I prepared last fall to conserve soil moisture and even the soil. Because the wind blowing across bare dirt will blow the smallest particles, which tend to be the most important particles, away. A cover crop is much more than a food plot. It’s the right way to be a conservationist.
GRANT: We’ve sprayed with glyphosate or just a generic killer to kill the existing crop here. That’s all we did to the crop. We didn’t mow it or do anything else. We just sprayed, let it kind of melt down or burn down, if you will, and we come through and drill.
GRANT: You can see where the drill has cut this wheat and made a furrow to put the seed in. We never disturb the top. So, we’ve conserved most soil moisture that was there. In a rainy year, that might not matter. But in a year like this where we haven’t had any rain in awhile and there’s no rain in the 10-day forecast, this cover crop is doing more than protecting soil. It’s the only chance we have right now for these seeds to stay moist and be able to germinate and grow.
GRANT: We’re 50 yards away from where we just filmed that segment. And this part of the field we had grew a crop of milo last year. You can tell by the color of the dirt or just the powdery nature of it that the soil moisture here at this site has already evaporated. It didn’t have that protective mulch cover. And that means some of the beneficial insects aren’t doing as well. There’s not as many earthworms here. You don’t see the tunnels in the dirt. It’s hard. And the furrows are not as deep because the soil has dried out and the no-till drill, same drill, same amount of weight, same tractor, same operator, physically couldn’t cut as deep to bury the seed down to where there was moisture. I wished I’d of had a cover crop here, but the way my milo rotation worked out, I didn’t. But, usually when you see me planting beans – now the big Eagle beans are so tall, that’s not a problem, but if they ripen soon enough, I’ll broadcast over the top a cover crop so I’ve got that grain growing and green forage coming on and just as important, a cover crop to conserve the quality of the soil. Because quality soil means quality deer.
GRANT: Although it’s fun to go coyote hunting, one predator that’s really tough to control is ticks. People don’t often think about ticks being a deer predator. You know, a deer can literally have hundreds or even thousands of ticks on it. Think about having hundreds of ticks on you and how hard your immune system would have to work to limit that having a negative impact on your body. Let’s take that one more step. Think about a newborn fawn, five to seven pounds, laying in cover where ticks are gonna be the thickest and it’s not moving for five, six, seven, eight, twelve days in a row. What attracts ticks is what mammals or what we exhale. Not our body heat. That fawn is breathing day in/day out. Not moving inches. Think about how many ticks come to that fawn. There are some fawns that will probably never leave the birth bed because they are killed by ticks. Ticks are a huge predator and oftentimes there’s literally more pounds of ticks per acre than there are coyotes per acre in pounds. That’s how many ticks are out there in some habitats.
GRANT: You can go to my Facebook page – there’s a link to it right below me here on the screen – and see some pictures of deer from right here at my Proving Grounds and how bad the ticks are on the back of their ears already. People have asked me, “Grant, how come we see ticks on the back of deer ears?” That’s because they can’t groom themselves there well. They can kind of reach down here and reach other places and groom. But unless they rub on a limb or something, they can’t physically get to the ticks behind their ears. Also, that hair is very short, especially in the summer and ticks can get to a blood meal very easily there.
GRANT: There’s no rain in the extended forecast. When I look at the weather maps there’s hardly any clouds between here and California or here and the Gulf. So, we may be in for a long dry spell here. But, I’m not gonna get down about that. There’s plenty of projects I can be working on to improve the wildlife here at The Proving Grounds. I’m gonna get outside, enjoy Creation and be thankful for all the good stuff that’s going on. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: Join me at the Land and Wildlife Expo this August 9th through 12th at the Gaylord Hotel, fabulous place, in Nashville, Tennessee where we’re going to be with the QDMA’s – Quality Deer Management Association’s – national convention and the Land and Wildlife Expo simultaneously. I’ll be there giving some seminars and just visiting with people; having a good time. It’s a great thing. You can find the link for information right here below me. And also, Sunday morning, we’re gonna take a special field trip up to The Kentucky Proving Grounds, about two hours away. And we’ll see, touch, feel, all the projects you see us doing right here on GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: Come join us. I think we’ll limit to 100 people so there can be a lot of one on one. You’ll see exactly how the compost is made that we use to fertilize our food plots and all that stuff will be right there. Come be with Adam and I as we lead a tour on The Kentucky Proving Grounds August 12th. Stay tuned for more information or go to the Land and Wildlife Expo website. I look forward to seeing you in Nashville.