This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: I still reflect on the horrible events of 9/11 and to the many men and women that lost their lives. The GrowingDeer Team’s hearts go out to those that mourn their loved ones and we’re very thankful for those great men and women that protect and keep us safe daily.
GRANT: During the summer of 2018, Clay, the summer interns, and I visited a property about an hour and a half east of The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: The property owner, Mr. Tom Free, recently purchased 755 acres and wished to develop a habitat improvement and hunting plan. They hoped within a few years to be seeing some good bucks and have some great hunting opportunities. Their goals were realistic and with some sweat equity could be achieved.
GRANT: One of the first places Mr. Free and David showed me was a food plot where the timber had been recently cleared.
GRANT: We’re out here in a food plot they just had cleared with timber, really haven’t done a lot with and as soon as they cleared it someone gave some probably ill advice of ripping the soil and what that did was serve to bring a bunch of weeds up in this area. I’ve recommended taking care of the toughest weeds, the thistle, behind me here; we’ll take care of the thistle and then we’re going to spray everything with RoundUp and the next day drill in soybeans. Of course, soybeans are RoundUp-resistant. And we’re gonna need to use that for a year, or maybe two, to get the weeds under control; then we’ll be able to switch to a true Buffalo System.
GRANT: This plot served as a great example of why it’s always important to disturb the soil the least amount possible when creating or maintaining a food plot. And I promise you, they won’t allow anyone to rip future plots on this property.
GRANT: The best thing to do and I know it’s labor…
TOM: Is to come chop ‘em out.
GRANT: Chop ‘em out.
GRANT: Rather than mechanically ripping the soil, hard pans can be fractured by planting the appropriate crops in a rotation.
GRANT: As we continued touring the property, we came to some areas where eastern red cedar had invaded what was once high-quality native species habitat.
GRANT: Quality native grass and forb species were growing in the few gaps between the cedars, and I knew, based on experience, that if these cedars were felled and followed with a prescribed fire the entire area would be a lush native grass feeding and bedding area.
GRANT: I’m not stopping my glade cut here. As far as I can see down through there is useless for a deer. Look. Come here and look through this hole right here.
DAVID: I was sitting here looking at that one (Inaudible).
GRANT: There’s nothing in there. So, you and I walk through here and are going, “Oh man, it’s thick; it’s cover.” But get down where deer, quail, and turkey live, there’s nothing. It’s a biological desert. Whack it.
GRANT: By felling the cedars and following up with prescribed fire I knew we could make some openings where hunters could see deer moving, but the cover would be two, three, four feet tall which would make deer feel extremely comfortable using these areas.
GRANT: As we continued touring the property, it was obvious quality food sources was a huge limiting factor at this area.
GRANT: We studied the map, walked the land to confirm and strategically located some larger plots. Not only adding more food but creating travel corridors that could be hunted when deer were going to food, cover, water in any wind direction.
GRANT: I toured Mr. Free’s property a few months later. He had hired a chainsaw crew and they had already felled most of the cedars allowing sun to reach the ground.
GRANT: David had also planted the food plots with Eagle Seed’s Fall Buffalo Blend, and it was already feeding deer and working to protect and improve the soil.
GRANT: I was very impressed with the amount of work Mr. Free and David had accomplished in a few short months.
GRANT: Last week, Daniel, Clay and I returned to Mr. Free’s property to follow up on the projects we designed.
GRANT: I’m back with David. We’ve become friends. We laid out a management plan for Mr. Free and David a year ago; is that correct?
DAVID: Yep, right at a year ago.
GRANT: And they have worked so fast it seems like it’s been longer.
GRANT: When we were here, standing right here, this was a field that had been timber cleared out, and it was full of thistle, and Johnsongrass, and sericea lespedeza – a bunch of bad nasties. And I recommend they clean that up and plant Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans that turn it into a great food source. And you can see, David has done an incredible job and they’ve been extremely successful in their plan.
GRANT: The program we had designed had worked extremely well at controlling the weeds in this plot. What I didn’t expect to see was the definitive line right through the plot. Now, there was no fence line or anything else there, but deer clearly preferred browsing on one side of the line versus the other.
GRANT: David had explained that the previous fall he had planted clover on the left side of the line and the Fall Buffalo Blend on the right side of the line. And then this spring he planted beans right through the entire field.
GRANT: The difference in the amount of browse on the line where the clover met the Fall Buffalo Blend was so obvious that it seems the Fall Buffalo Blend made the soil a bit better and the beans on that side more palatable.
GRANT: The fall Buffalo Blend did exactly what it’s supposed to do. It served to pull more nutrients out of the soil, and, clearly, these beans taste better because you can see a definite line. Now, I need to make this clear. All these beans were planted at once. This whole field was just the same treatment, correct, David?
DAVID: Yep, they were.
GRANT: You did it, right?
DAVID: I did it.
GRANT: You’re the tractor guy.
DAVID: I know. Yeah.
GRANT: Yeah. You planted all of this at once, but there’s not near the browse pressure over here as there is over here.
GRANT: And there’s a line right through the middle of the field. There’s no reason for the deer to be on this side than this side right here. I mean, right here they’re browse to what, maybe a foot tall give or take?
GRANT: And over here they’re a foot and a half, two-foot-tall, a little bit of browse but not much. Every bean has been browsed on here. They clearly tasted better and that’s what I’ve been talking about is recycling nutrients through the proper plant rotation – different species bringing nutrients up and then decomposing on the soil. And the Fall Buffalo Blend worked exactly right in just one year. One year’s progress right here.
GRANT: David, did you think when I came here a year ago that you’d see this much progress in one year?
DAVID: Absolutely not. It’s amazing how it’s just – well, we put the product in and just followed directions. It blew up. And every field is blowing up like that, so it’s really exciting. This was our worst one, so I’m glad to see our worst one looking this good.
GRANT: Yeah, I mean, there was thistle, and sericea and Johnsongrass.
GRANT: The gentleman that had cleared the timber for them talked them into, “Oh, I need to rip the soil.” And he had two or three-foot-deep rippers on the back of the dozer. When I got here, I said that’s a bad thing because that’s bringing up weed seeds from decades ago. And they’ve had to fight it and there’s still some weeds they’re fighting.
GRANT: As I tell people, disturb the soil the least amount possible, and you’ll get the best results.
GRANT: Look at all these flowers.
DAVID: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: These are all future bean pods. I mean, I don’t know, there’s dozens. Even though this plant has been browsed.
GRANT: This is incredible browse pressure. It would’ve killed a normal soybean.
GRANT: This is feeding deer, still putting on – here we are in late August – still putting on new leaves, dozens of flowers getting ready to make pods and adding a whole bunch of nitrogen to the soil.
DAVID: It’s perfect.
GRANT: Deer are extremely selective on what they choose to eat. Typically, they choose higher nutrition, higher palatability and this is a perfect example. A different practice, planting clover versus the Fall Buffalo Blend, made a difference in a field that otherwise had been treated exactly the same.
GRANT: David was preparing to plant the entire field with the Fall Buffalo Blend; he’ll simply drill through the standing beans. This will result in about 50% of the beans standing and producing pods while forage is growing between all of those mature beanstalks. Perfect. On the cold days, deer will select the pods. And on the warmer days, they’ll eat the green forage.
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GRANT: As we continued the tour, we noticed several mature white oaks that were loaded with acorns.
GRANT: Deer love white oak acorns and hunting near where they’re dropping can be an extremely effective strategy.
GRANT: During our first visit, when we were creating the habitat plan, we found these mature oaks and designed a food plot to go along the edge leaving plenty of room for travel corridors between the plots.
GRANT: Dave and I are out looking around some more and come across a white oak on the edge of a food plot he’s developed, and it is loaded. So, right past me, there’s a big food plot and, David, you left this corridor through here with a bunch of really mature nice white oaks – they’re loaded. This is gonna be like little Iowa.
GRANT: This is going to be an incredible travel corridor now, especially pre-rut and rut. They’re just going to be blowing through here. Bucks will be going through here scent checking these fields for does and a great stopping point because there’s a gazillion of these white oaks coming on here.
GRANT: This is why it’s so important not to just create a food plot. Don’t just say, “Well, let’s cut some trees here,” or whatever, but to lay out a plan. And the plan is not only based on where the soil is appropriate but how to hunt the property.
GRANT: So, wind direction, layout, travel, bedding – back here where we cut a bunch of cedars – everything feeds in to make this a very huntable property.
GRANT: Approximately a year ago, I stood right here with the landowner, Mr. Free, and David and talked about this being a biological desert. There just wasn’t any cover or food. They had all the cedars felled based on that recommendation. And, even though we haven’t burned yet, there’s tremendous amount of forage out here, and obviously cover, but forage in this area.
GRANT: We talk a lot about felling cedars; we usually talk before. This is a great opportunity to return one year after cedars have been felled and see the results.
GRANT: Short of coming out here and doing test plots, I don’t know how to quantify the massive improvement of habitat quality by felling these cedars. And there’d be an even larger jump in habitat quality once we put a fire in here, stimulate that native seed base to cover the area.
GRANT: Mr. Free already has plans to put a couple Redneck Blinds in strategic locations, once we complete the fire, and I promise you they will see and harvest many critters out of this area through the years.
GRANT: David, when I first toured this property, I talked about I want to be able to slap it, and a bunch of needles fall off. And you can see I’m slapping pretty hard and a few are shattering but not many. It’s clearly not dry enough to have a really good quality fire. It would burn, but it would burn the drier needles off, leave all the little limbs, be kind of messy, to be honest. So, one more year, when you slap this baby, they’ll shatter. And when we get that it’s time to drop a match and make better habitat.
GRANT: Many people fail, and they don’t want to look at this, so they burn in one year and that’s a mistake. It needs to dry at least a year and a half, two years, to get a really good fire that not only will consume this but stimulate that native seed base to really grow and express its potential.
GRANT: But we’ve got all this fuel growing wherever sunshine is hitting so it will carry the fire. In another year it’s even easier. You need a lot of fuel to carry the fire from cedar tree to cedar tree.
GRANT: So, man, this is perfect. It’s doing exactly what I wanted. In one more year this will be a fun fire to watch.
DAVID: Yeah, it will, won’t it?
GRANT: Better to watch than work but a fun fire. And then we will have tremendous habitat.
GRANT: We’re still on Mr. Free’s property, and I designed this cedar glade to be cut, let it lay for two years like I always do, and then burned. But there’s a wildfire that came through about May and burned this a year ahead of schedule. The results are awesome.
GRANT: There’s tremendous native species diversity in here. It’s looking great, but I want to point out a couple of things. What I’m at looking at when I look back through here is these cedar skeletons. If we’d waited a year more moisture would’ve come out of the cedar skeletons and there’d been more consumption of those.
GRANT: This isn’t necessarily positive or negative. But the positive is, and you can see it right behind me, the vegetation is a little thicker right in this skeleton. They kind of act as a utilization cage.
GRANT: Because there’s food all over in here, deer don’t want to stick their head right down that skeleton and that permits really desirable plants to mature and make a seed base and make sure the areas repopulated with desirable plants. So, the skeletons aren’t bad but now, because they’ve been charred, it will be several years before they break down.
GRANT: This is now – and going to be – a tremendous bedding, nesting, and feeding area. And I’m going to prescribe to Mr. Free that we put a Redneck Blind right up here – it doesn’t have to be very tall; just tall enough to see over the roll of the slope and we’ll catch deer traveling through this bedding area and feeding area.
GRANT: I’d also like to share that Clay and I were here filming when the crew was felling these cedars. There’s some large cedar trees in here, 60, 70, maybe 80 years old; very large cedars. They had shaded out this area.
GRANT: So, all this tremendous native vegetation we see in here – those seeds have laid dormant for decades in the soil. And that’s an advantage of clearing the invasive eastern red cedar because native species will take over, recolonize the area providing very productive and natural habitat.
GRANT: I’m going to suggest to Mr. Free he name this the test burn area. This wasn’t a planned burn. Again there was a wildfire come through, but it’s a great test to show to him, give him confidence, of the rich native species component that was under those cedars.
GRANT: This is a small area; there’s 100 more acres where the cedars have been felled and we’re waiting until next spring to burn them. So, this is just a little test of what’s to come.
GRANT: An aerial view tells another very interesting story. The fire had ripped through the cedars consuming most of them, killing the residual standing hardwoods that were in the area the cedars had been felled.
GRANT: But once it reached that contiguous hardwood forest, that closed-canopy hardwood section, the humidity obviously was much higher because the fire laid down, crept through the leaf litter, and barely scared the trees.
GRANT: I often receive a lot of comments about the dangers of using prescribed fire. I think that’s because the media shows these massive wildfires on the West Coast. But there’s a big difference between the Midwest, of course, the Southeast and the West.
GRANT: Here in this part of the United States, humidity levels rarely drop below 40 or 50%. But in the West, it’s common for them to get down in the teens or even lower. And when the humidity gets that low fire can jump up into the crown of trees and run like crazy. That simply doesn’t happen when the humidity is much higher, keeping those fine fuels very moist.
GRANT: The quality of habitat that resulted from this wildfire is what Mr. Free can expect when he uses prescribed fire to treat the other areas where cedars were felled.
GRANT: I’m extremely impressed with the amount of progress that’s been made on Mr. Free’s property. They’re already getting some pictures of high-quality bucks and seeing lots of critters when working in the area. Mr. Free, his family, and guests will have many great hunts due to the results of this work.
GRANT: You may know we offer internships through GrowingDeer and I want to take a moment and talk about one of our recent intern graduates.
GRANT: Owen Zimmer was from Pennsylvania. I met him while giving a seminar there and Owen had just graduated high school. He had a huge heart for being a property manager and did not want to spend four years in college.
GRANT: After conversations with Owen and his parents, I offered him a year-long internship. He recently completed that internship, got lots of great experience and has already landed a great job in Oklahoma as a property manager.
GRANT: During Owen’s internship he got lots of hands-on experience at planting and maintaining food plots, different TSI techniques, prescribed fire, trapping, and many other techniques that are necessary to be a property manager.
GRANT: Owen also learned how to film hunts and laid down some great footage for the GrowingDeer Team. Owen learned many professional skills, and I hope some life skills, during his internship with GrowingDeer. I’m extremely proud of Owen and know he’s off to a great start in his professional career.
GRANT: If you’re interested in being a GrowingDeer intern, check out the internship tab at the bottom of our website.
GRANT: I’ll be speaking at several locations during the next few weeks and, if one of ‘em is close to you, I hope you come by so we can talk about hunting and habitat management.
GRANT: If you appreciate the content we provide at GrowingDeer, please consider sharing a link with a friend.
GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds walnut trees are starting to shed a few leaves, and that’s a sure sign fall is just around the corner. It’s a great time to get outside and enjoy Creation.
GRANT: But 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.