The Most Important Thing You Can Do For White Tail Deer (Episode 224 Transcript)

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

GRANT: It may seem like the off season to some folks but it’s the time of year we do one of the most important activities we’ll do for our deer herd all year long.

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GRANT: It doesn’t look like it, ‘cause I’m all bundled up, but it’ll be food plot planting season soon and the first step is collecting soil samples.

GRANT: It doesn’t seem like it, but soil samples have a huge amount to do with the amount of deer I see broadside out in that food plot. Quite simply stated, if the soil is not healthy the plants won’t be healthy, they won’t taste good and deer won’t use that plot. A lot of guys know that, but it’s a lot of easier to talk about on the tailgate than go collect the sample, so let’s just give you a quick demonstration on how to collect a proper soil sample.

GRANT: Only a couple simple tools are needed to collect a good soil sample; a clean bucket, something that hasn’t had detergent or oil in it, and something to get the dirt out of the ground. I like a stainless steel soil probe. If you’re using an old rusty shovel, probably get a lot of iron content in your soil samples, from the rust coming off, and that can certainly mess up your fertilizer recommendations.

GRANT: Taking a soil sample may be misleading. You might think about just going to one spot and pulling a sample but that may not represent the whole field. When you’re taking that individual subsample, you want to get from the top, down to about five inches. That’s the primary root zone, and when you’re going through the top, go straight through whatever’s there: vegetation, part of a turnip, whatever. Because all that’s gonna go into the soil and determine what nutrients are available for the next crop.

GRANT: Once we’ve collected all the subsamples throughout the field, come back and stir our bucket up, put it in a baggy, prepare the sample to send to the lab. I’ve just learned through the years, it’s a lot easier to label the baggy before you put the dirt in there. Once I have the bag labeled, just want to stir up all my subsamples, mix it up, pull any rocks out I find. That’s common in the Ozarks; you may not have rocks where you live. Once I’ve got it mixed up really good, couple of handfuls of dirt in food plot terms, and away we go.

GRANT: I’ve got a good sample. You notice a couple blades of wheat in there, actually. That’s all gonna rot right down and become part of the soil. Those nutrients are just as important as what’s in the dirt. Even though you know every food plot by name, a soil lab literally receives tens and tens of thousands of soil samples. They need something easy, not Bubba’s Big Ladder Stand, left corner. So we take all our food plot names and put a number beside it, we use the same number year after years, so we can compare soil tests. We know 12 means Crabapple Field.

GRANT: I’ve tried a bunch of different soil labs, but several years ago, I stumbled on to Waters Ag in Kentucky. They’re a private lab that takes soil samples from around the world. They specialize in getting the results out within about 24 hours once they receive ‘em, which is always important for us food plot guys that tend to be running late, and more importantly, they will give me a maximum yield return.

GRANT: Maximum yield, or high yield, simply means they will recommend the amount of fertilizer to get a maximum yield for those soils versus an average yield. Most universities give an economical yield, which means they give the maximum amount of corn, or soybeans, or clover that will also not cost a farmer too much in fertilizer. I don’t mind spending another 10 or 20 dollars of fertilizer per acre to get more tonnage. That’s less expensive than dozing out another acre of food plots and high quality food tastes better and produces more tonnage in the area, concentrating deer, and making my hunting that much better.

GRANT: Another really important part of getting accurate results for your food plots is to tell them what you anticipate planting in each field, so you can get an accurate recommendation.

GRANT: After we finished with the soil samples, AJ and I rode up to west central Illinois and visited with Randy Quinn.

GRANT: A few years ago, Randy had purchased a nice piece of property in Illinois and wanted a little help taking it a little farther to improve his hunting and deer herd quality.

GRANT: Well, let us get dressed. We’ll probably step in the shed, if you don’t mind, get out …

GRANT: As soon as we walked in the door, Randy had some sheds he’d recently found laid out on the table, and I knew I had a tough job ahead when I was staring at a matching set of 170 sheds he’d just picked up from the farm.

GRANT: He’s got heft. I mean you just don’t feel that kind of heft all the…

GRANT: Do you mind if we take time to score this?


GRANT: 24 left.

AJ: Wow.

GRANT: 5-1 on the four. I’m, I’m, I’m gonna be short, too. I’m gonna be short, too. And 4-4.

RANDY: 175 and 2/8.

GRANT: That’s a great deer.

GRANT: What was even better, is when we looked at the trail camera pictures of that buck, it appeared he was relatively young, three, maybe four years of age. Imagine, if you’ve got a three year old growing 170” what the potential of the property could be.

RANDY: There’s a lot of heavy traffic through here.

GRANT: Sure. Sure. You know, down in there, that, in-right, especially, right in there. That wind’s gonna swirl. Tough for a bow hunter to be there ‘cause you just can’t hardly be there and the deer there at the same time, but somewhere up like this, where the winds cutting across, especially on the right wind direction, I re-I like what I’m seeing here. Especially, if, in a little later season, if we left some standing beans here, I can see this being an awesome, awesome stand right here. Yeah, I’d hunt here in a heartbeat, if I had standing food out here, for sure.

GRANT: We don’t often think of agricultural areas as being limited in food supply, but combines are so efficient anymore, and most farmers are literally farming fence row to fence row, that by October 15th or so, there’s not much food left in the neighborhood.

GRANT: Yeah, they didn’t miss a pod anywhere, did they?

GRANT: They have more deer than you have food. So the two options are for them to express their full health, you know most fawns, biggest antler growth, is either reduce the number of deer, or increase the amount of food left, and of course, I’m a hunter. I like seeing deer, so I always like increasing the food and maybe reducing deer a little bit, not reducing deer herd drastically. So we’ll give you some options in the plan, but I think we’re gonna need to leave another acre or two of beans, if we can.

GRANT: Lots of turkey sign.

GRANT: The river had came up, frozen solid, left sheets of ice up in the trees. When the river dropped, most of the ice went down, but not all of it. I’ve never seen anything like this, in all my years of working in the woods.

GRANT: We’re going to suggest some changes in hunting strategy. Wherever Randy’s hunting, getting out some valleys so the winds not swirling so much, using travel corridors between bedding areas and known feeding areas and leaving food standing after surrounding farms have harvested all their crops.

GRANT: Unquestionably, it’s been a very tough winter, and harsh conditions on deer; deep snow in a lot of areas. As we mentioned earlier, combines are efficient; not much grain left out there. Our wood lots are declining in quality in a lot of places, and not a lot of native browse left for deer and other creatures to use during these stressful conditions, but when deer go without food for extended periods of time, they may die, or certainly enter spring in very low quality. When they enter spring way down here, they spend those first few months of green up just restoring their own health versus having healthy fawns or producing antlers. No doubt about it, deer in poor quality habitat are gonna suffer more than normal this year.

GRANT: I wouldn’t suggest going out right now and starting a supplemental feeding program. If the deer are not used to consuming that feed, and you go out right now and pour some corn, or other feed, on the ground, they could literally die with a full belly. Deer have a lot of bacteria in their gut and that’s what they use to actually digest what they ingest. Those bacteria populations really get decreased when they haven’t eaten anything on weeks on end. Now, they’re gonna eat the food you put out, just like my kids going to a fudge plate, but they don’t have enough bacteria to digest it, or properly digest it, and you could literally cause death. The best thing you can do right now is either not feed or start very slowly with a high quality feed, not just pure corn. And then this summer, work on improving your habitat for the next winter. Winter conditions are so harsh, we didn’t dare try to go down the mountain on the ice, underneath the snow we have right now, and film at our normal barn wall. We’re filming up here by the highway because there’s not many cars going by, given the snow. Imagine how tough those conditions are on the deer herd, frozen ice, can’t get to the food. But all the native habitat, and burning, and prescribed fire we’ve done in the past is carrying our deer herd in relatively good shape.

GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy Creation and inspect the habitat where your deer live, but most importantly, take time and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching