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>>DANIEL: [Whispering] That’s Lopper!

>>DANIEL: Here at The Proving Grounds acorn production seems very spotty. Of course, we suspected white oaks weren’t gonna make many acorns this year because we had a late, hard freeze last spring.

>>DANIEL: Red oak acorn production seems to be down a bit too because we also had a late freeze during the spring of 2020.

>>DANIEL: With not as many acorns on the ground this time of year, critters are pouring into our food plots.

>>DANIEL: In many of our plots, we still have standing Summer Release. Now, we broadcast or drilled into the plot the Fall Release, but that Summer Release still has standing milo. That milo produced grain and that grain is a great source of carbohydrates, which deer are seeking this time of year.

>>DANIEL: Acorns are carbohydrates. There aren’t many acorns, so deer are feeding on milo.

>>DANIEL: We’re seeing a lot of deer activity around our larger plots, but hidey hole plots are key to getting deer within range and punching tags.

>>DANIEL: I wanted to take time today to share how we manage and effectively hunt near hidey hole food plots.

>>DANIEL: A great example of a hidey hole food plot here at The Proving Grounds is a plot we call Hightop.

>>DANIEL: The Hightop hidey hole is a small plot on top of a ridge surrounded by a lot of timber.

>>DANIEL: You may remember that a few years ago during an early November morning, Grant and I were sitting in a stand overlooking the Hightop food plot.

>>DANIEL: Just as the sun was coming over the mountain, we spotted a buck we call Tall Eight step into the plot and begin feeding.

>>DANIEL: We were still in that pre-rut phase, and Tall Eight, he wasn’t on that food/cover pattern, but that little hidey hole food plot was just the ticket to get Tall Eight to swing up that ridge, stop, grab a few bites to eat, and offer Grant a shot opportunity.

>>DANIEL: Hightop is a proven location for tagging venison, but we wanted to make it even better.

>>DANIEL: So, during the winter of 2019, we brought in a crew and started improving the native habitat. The crew brought in chainsaws, and we started felling every eastern red cedar around Hightop.

>>DANIEL: Now, I’ll mention we didn’t remove the cedars right behind the stand or in front of the stand that we have at Hightop. We wanted to leave those as kind of a screen or a backdrop, that way we’ve got a little cover when we’re hunting the Hightop hidey hole.

>>DANIEL: Once the cedars were on the ground – the crew had removed the logs they were taking to the sawmill – we just let them lay. We’re gonna let them dry, that way we can use prescribed fire to consume most of the cedar skeletons and encourage native grasses and forbs to grow in the area.

>>DANIEL: Depending on the conditions, we typically like cedars to dry for about two years before using prescribed fire. And that means here in just a few months later this winter, we’ll be using fire in the Hightop area. But in the meantime, during these past couple years, the felled cedars have provided great cover for turkeys and deer.

>>DANIEL: Right now, the hunting at the Hightop hidey hole is probably the best it’s ever been, and that’s because there’s a small, attractive food source in the middle of a lot of quality cover.

>>DANIEL: Deer that feel safe are more comfortable traveling during daylight hours, and that’s the benefit of a hidey hole. If you’ve got a small, attractive food source with cover all around, well, that deer, he’s gonna feel very secure because he’s never a bound or two away from cover.

>>DANIEL: As I mentioned before, the Release Process – or always having something growing and palatable for deer – that’s still our plan in a hidey hole food plot.

>>DANIEL: We started preparing Hightop last spring when we went in with the Summer Release, broadcast at about a hundred pounds per acre right before a rain. Sure enough, that rain hit; we had good germination, and deer started feeding in the hidey hole plot.

>>DANIEL: During the summer, deer began to become conditioned to feeding in this area. We still had that standing milo, that source of grain. We came in during late September right before a rain and broadcast the Fall Release Blend™. Now, we had that standing grain and greens coming up beneath.

>>DANIEL: This is why we love planting a diversity of species, even in our hidey hole plots. We get the best of both worlds – grains and greens.

>>DANIEL: Something’s gonna be palatable early, mid, and late season, and if you can combine those and overlap them and never clean the table, well, your hidey hole plot is very attractive, and you can hunt it many more weeks out of the season.

>>DANIEL: Typically, during the pre-rut, bucks are starting to look for those first receptive does, and they’ll run the ridge that Hightop sits on. They’ll swing by Hightop, grab a few bites to eat because they need calories as they’re on their feet more looking for receptive does.

>>DANIEL: As bucks are moving, they’re checking scrapes. Scrapes are communication hubs. Both bucks and does of all age classes use scrapes. They receive and deposit scent. It’s a great communication hub.

>>DANIEL: If you can find a scrape or a rub line right there on a hidey hole food plot, you know deer are cutting through there. You need to get a camera up and monitor that area or get in there and hunt.

>>DANIEL: Sure enough, that’s what we saw at Hightop. We saw an active scrape, put up a Reconyx, and sure enough there were a lot of bucks using the area.

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>>DANIEL: If you can find and effectively hunt a limited resource like a hidey hole in the middle of a big block of timber or cover like Hightop, pair it with a hot scrape, man, you’ve got a bottleneck. You’ve got a scrape; you got a travel corridor, food source, cover right there. That’s a bottleneck pinching deer down to that location. When the conditions are right, you need to be hunting near that area.

>>DANIEL: We’ve got a stand located on the west side of Hightop, and with a northeast, east, or southeast wind, we can park the truck several hundred yards away and walk down an interior road and slip right into the stand on the west side, not alerting deer further down the ridge that we suspect will come from the eastern half of Hightop.

>>DANIEL: Hidey holes are easy to create and maintain. Maybe you already have an area to open, and you need to terminate the weeds, drop a match, start broadcasting.

>>DANIEL: Or maybe you just use a couple handsaws, fell a few trees, get enough sunlight down to the ground to grow your food plot. It’s fairly easy, but before you start creating a hidey hole, you need to consider how to approach, hunt, and exit without alerting deer.

>>DANIEL: Having a hidey hole or two with an effective hunting strategy, that’s gonna result in more venison. With all the buck activity around Hightop hidey hole, I was very excited because on the afternoon of October 19th, we had a good southeast wind, and Carter and I planned to hunt the Hightop food plot. I’ll be sharing that entire hunt with you soon.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Down! He’s down!

>>DANIEL: Whether you’re out chasing a big buck or a nanny doe or maybe you’re in the kitchen cutting up venison, I hope you take time today to enjoy Creation. But more importantly, slow down, listen to what the Creator is saying to you and the purpose He has for your life.

>>DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.