This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
DANIEL: Grant is on the road. He was at ATA and he’s working in Michigan today. But this week, we’re going to share two properties that Grant visited earlier this fall and the habitat improvement and hunting plans he created with those landowners.
GRANT: And all a sudden now I will get grasses and forbs that you haven’t seen in 100 years in here.
GRANT: Where do the deer want to be? I mean, they’re going to be here.
GRANT: And that way, they may not get here until dark, but they’re moving through your property in daylight hours.
GRANT: We need a fall cover crop, and that’s where we’re really going to gain ground.
GRANT: Really a simple plan. Now, simple does not mean it’s a light workload. I have laid out a ton of work.
DANIEL: These two properties are in different states and habitat types, but they both offer great hunting strategies and management lessons.
DANIEL: Many of our long-time viewers know that The Proving Grounds is where we work and hunt. They’re here in the Ozark Mountains, and the habitat type is primarily hardwoods, and the terrain is steep and rocky.
DANIEL: We named it The Proving Grounds because we believe if the management techniques and hunting strategies can work here, they can work anywhere.
DANIEL: During the past 17 years, Grant and the GrowingDeer Team have worked hard to increase not only the quality but the quantity of the resources, food, and cover.
DANIEL: We’ve improved both our food plot and native habitat techniques, and the deer and turkey have increased in number and quality.
DANIEL: The GrowingDeer Team enjoys working with other hunters to improve the habitat and hunting opportunities on the properties they hunt.
DANIEL: Recently, Grant and Clay traveled to northern Michigan to assist landowner, Marc, and his wife, Sharon, with their 170-acre farm. Reviewing an onX map of Marc’s property, there were some open areas that were likely used for agriculture, but much of Mark’s property was covered with hardwood timber.
GRANT: The forest around you – and I suspect yours too – just because this predates you all how the forest was managed, has really been mismanaged in this area. It’s been horribly high graded. Very few really good straight trees; they’re gnarly. They’ve taken the best and left the rest.
GRANT: And what we want to do to improve it for wildlife and forest quality is reverse that trend. We’re going to terminate the lower-quality trees, allow a bit more sun to the better-quality trees, and get some forbs on the ground also.
GRANT: And there’s not a lot of really like deep, dark canyons or steepness to the property, but, boy, when I look at like this area right in here, we don’t have a lot of diversity.
GRANT: Deer, turkey are edge animals. You probably hunt by edges. You know, a field is coming in here, or a creek is coming in here. I use food plots even when just – facetiously, I’m not saying we’re doing it, but we put a food plot right here. Well, even if deer aren’t coming to food plots, now they’re going around the edge of that. We now have a bottleneck.
MARC: Oh, sure.
GRANT: We’ve developed a bottleneck.
DANIEL: Hunting contiguous blocks of hardwood timber can be difficult, especially when trying to get a shot opportunity or pattern deer as they will often move willy-nilly through the timber.
DANIEL: The best hunting opportunities and most attractive habitat types for deer and turkey are when there’s food, water, and cover in close proximity. Attractive properties have food-cover-water, food-cover-water, food-cover-water throughout the entire property.
GRANT: People tend to be impatient these days, maybe social media did that, so I want to make sure people understand that habitat work takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
MARC: So we started to figure out pretty quickly that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
MARC: So, we’re getting used to it.
DANIEL: Their primary objective was to see and encounter older bucks. Grant discussed how management of the age structure could help them achieve their goal.
GRANT: Let’s think about this. If you say, “Hey Grant, boy, my goal is a 3-year-old buck.” Well, that’s really a 4-year-old animal, okay. It’s a button buck the first year.
GRANT: Or you might call it a nubbin buck…
GRANT: …or fawn or something like that. And so, you’ve got minimal investment now. People always get so mad and say, “Oh my gosh. My buddy come hunting with me and he shot a button buck.” Well, that’s a minimal investment of six months.
GRANT: You have minimum invested in that critter. Now, a 1 1/2-year-old buck you have 18 months invested. “Well I shot a spike. I thought it was a doe. It was close to dark.” That’s an 18-month investment. That 2-year-old that’s an 8 or 10-point that’s cooking with gas, maybe it’s 110, 120-inch deer. Okay, now you’ve got two and a half years invested. That’s a long time for any of us, two and a half years. Alright.
GRANT: Invested in that animal. And if your goal is three and a half, that’s the most costly deer to make a mistake on because you’re only one year away from your goal. The button buck you’ve only got six months in it. So, it’s reverse of what people think, a lot of people tend to think.
DANIEL: To reach their objective, Grant knew it was best to tour the property and lay eyes on it.
GRANT: Well, what we’ll do is we’ll take this along with us, and we’ll mark some stuff, and then at the end of the day, we’ll huddle back here or wherever is comfortable for you all and a lot of that will change.
MARC: Okay, sounds good. We’ve got to (Inaudible) flexibility, yep. I’m going to put some boots on.
DANIEL: They all got bundled up and hit the woods.
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DANIEL: There were a lot of stems growing in this stand of timber, and that meant that during the growing season, when those trees had a full canopy with leaves on, no sunlight was reaching the ground. And it was obvious there was no quality food or cover for deer at ground level.
GRANT: All these saplings that are growing here, every single one has been browsed on – I want you to notice – every single one. Deer, of course, have bottom incisors but no top incisors, so they tear off. Deer tear. When I look at the end of every one of these, you can see this little white, that’s deer browse. They’re tearing that off there. When I see 100% – I mean, look, you can’t. I challenge you. Look at this. Every one, every single one we see 100%. This is low-quality deer food. It’s been browsed. 100% is consumed; you have more deer than you have food. We talked about that balance earlier.
GRANT: We’ve got to use those ag fields on the back. I mean, I can tell that for sure right now.
DANIEL: Grant recommended that Marc use TSI, timber stand improvement, to terminate the low-quality trees such as the striped maples and sassafras, and then leave the high-quality trees, like white oaks and a few quality red oaks.
DANIEL: Grant shared how the hack-and-squirt method would be an easy way for Marc and Sharon to terminate these hardwoods and create higher quality habitat.
GRANT: I would just take a hatchet and just one side – about a six-inch tree – so one on each side, and about a milliliter of the right herbicide in either side there, in both sides, and what will happen when you do – see how there’s – these crowns aren’t allowed to expand at all?
GRANT: They’re rubbing which knocks bark off and lets the insects and disease in and they’re competing for nutrients, and I want to preserve this big tree and especially the big tree by the blind, so I have to take competition out.
GRANT: And what I’m going to tell you to do – this is going to drive you bonkers – but go ahead and do it anyway. Get you some backpack blowers and cut you – you don’t have enough land that this isn’t a big deal. Get you a five- or ten-acre place and just blow you a line around, which is tough to do with this, but cut through there, whatever, and then you’re going to have to run a fire through here every couple of years.
GRANT: Don’t panic; it’s really safe. We can teach you how to do it. And all of a sudden now, I will get grasses and forbs that you haven’t seen in 100 years in here, literally, and now you’ve got habitat everywhere.
GRANT: It will revert to saplings if you don’t use fire, so do not do this if you’re unwilling to use fire.
GRANT: Because you’ll have a sapling jungle.
MARC: And how often do you do fire?
GRANT: Every two years, every three years.
DANIEL: Having native grasses and forbs growing on the ground, well, that provides great native browse and cover for deer and other critters.
GRANT: This is pretty much their property line. I was sharing with them that, you know, there’s no difference here, right? There’s no attraction. Deer are willy-nilly anywhere. There’s no pattern. But imagine if this is grasses and forbs and better-tasting acorns, and this is unmanaged hardwoods. Where the deer want to be? I mean, they’re going to be here. There’s no comparison.
GRANT: So, here again, we’re talking about high grading. This was obviously a great tree. They took the best and left the rest. There’s another stump. I’ve been seeing stumps all through here. So, we just have to reverse that practice.
DANIEL: Marc had planted several areas with small grains, and this forage had been browsed very low to the ground. Deer still had several months to get through winter to try to find food before the growing season began.
GRANT: So, the pointy stems are where deer have not consumed, or they haven’t consumed in months, and it’s growing back. And all the squared-off stems are where deer have consumed. And here we are in December, and we’ve got, you know, January, February, and March and probably April to go through.
DANIEL: Knowing deer were hungry, a big part of Marc and Sharon’s plan was adding more quality food to their property.
GRANT: Well, we’re going to be on an all soybean program in the summer.
GRANT: All your fields so we can get ahead of the deer.
GRANT: And then we’ll have a good blend, so we’re having – and then you have grain and greens in the same field.
GRANT: You’re probably going to want to expand this field on out in some of these higher ground areas here because, I mean, I need to see standing food year-round, not deer hungry.
DANIEL: Once they finished the tour, they returned to the house, pulled up the onX map, and Grant began laying out the habitat work for Marc and Sharon.
GRANT: That’s 3.9 acres right there, 4.5, 5 acres there.
GRANT: It’s creating a food plot that’s something like – we’re going to bottleneck this down for another little pinch point right in here. They’re coming in here. They’re bottlenecking here.
GRANT: Travel corridor is coming through here. So, now we’re more towards that food- cover, food-cover, food-cover.
DANIEL: Historically, deer had been very difficult to pattern on this property, especially when there was a large acorn crop. However, by improving the habitat and creating quality food plots with hunting in mind, Grant was able to create bottlenecks and travel corridors, which will make this an incredible hunting property even during the years there’s acorns.
GRANT: We’ll send you this map. We won’t get it fine-tuned tonight.
MARC: Sure, understood.
GRANT: But we’ll get this, and then you can give that to the logger…
GRANT: …and there’s coordinates on here, so he knows exactly where to go.
MARC: Oh, okay. He can go right to where he’s going to be.
GRANT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GRANT: Your plan is relatively simple, but there’s a lot of work to it.
DANIEL: With this plan, there’s a mosaic of food and cover throughout the entire property, and this is much more productive and allows deer to express more of their potential.
DANIEL: This gives Marc and Sharon more hunting options and makes it easier for finding and pattering those older bucks.
GRANT: All right.
MARC: It’s been a great day.
GRANT: Thank you for the opportunity.
MARC: It was a pleasure meeting you. Appreciate you coming by.
GRANT: No, I enjoyed your company. (Inaudible)
DANIEL: We look forward to hearing updates from Marc and Sharon, and I suspect they’ll be sharing many great hunts and memories on their property.
DANIEL: Grant also traveled to Oklahoma earlier this fall to assist landowner, Mr. Rogers.
DANIEL: David’s property is located southeast of Oklahoma City. It’s hilly, mostly covered with oaks, and the soil is extremely sandy. As it is, it’s not great habitat for deer.
DANIEL: After talking with David, Grant learned his primary goal was to improve the native habitat and to harvest older and larger deer.
GRANT: You’ve got, you know, it’s got quite a bit of topography, so thermals and what-not are going to be an issue. Obviously, got water. There’s no big food sources here. I’m great on this size property, especially with this border, to have my food centrally located. I don’t want to put all the food right here because, within a few hundred yards, you’re on a neighbor’s property.
GRANT: But in here and then let them go back out and bed, come in, go back out and bed, come in, go back out and bed, come in. And that way they may not get here until dark, but they’re moving through your property in daylight hours. So, we’ve got to be careful how we strategically design where food, cover, water is on this – obviously, water is over here but on this property.
DANIEL: Based on conversations and looking at the onX map, we believed David’s property had a lot of potential.
GRANT: So, what I need to do, what I need to do first, then is just hop in a buggy, truck, you know, walk, I don’t care what we do, and let’s just see the majority of these trails and roads. There’s a lot through here. Any questions from you all before we get started?
DAVID: No, let’s go.
GRANT: Every smilax is browsed.
GRANT: It’s highly erodible. The timber has been high graded.
GRANT: There’s been oil activity on here, I think, probably for decades.
GRANT: But there’s a lot of deer so our first project is obviously here and the bigger areas that we’ve toured we want to get forage growing. There’s clearly more deer than food now looking at the native browse, clearly, unequivocally, no argument. So, my first priority is food plots.
DANIEL: Quality food was limited on this property, and Grant saw many smilax or catbriers that had been severely browsed.
DANIEL: There were several pre-established openings throughout the property, and Grant recommended that these areas be planted with forage soybeans during the summer and the Fall Buffalo Blend during the cool season.
GRANT: This needs organic matter. There’s almost no organic matter in this sandy soil. We have to have organic matter to hold water which is going – you know, Oklahoma summers – it’s going to be a big thing.
GRANT: So, what we want to do is spray this next spring as soon as your air temperatures get to 60 degrees or so, we want to spray this, and then burn it, and then drill Roundup Ready beans in here.
GRANT: There’s a huge weed seed base here and for the first few years, we’re going to have to control weeds, then we’ll be able to switch to a different system. But it’s critical that we drill in pretty early in the fall. We need a fall cover crop, and that’s where we’re really going to gain ground.
DANIEL: Areas that are already cleared are much easier to convert into food plots than to bring in equipment and clear out an area in the timber.
DANIEL: The soil on the property is very sandy and easily erodes, so it was best that Mr. Rogers either use a broadcast spreader or a no-till drill to plant seed.
GRANT: I’m down probably 2 ½, 3-inches right now, I’m still sugar sand.
DAVID: Yeah, it sank the tractor.
GRANT: No, there’s clay right there.
DANIEL: Grant shared that by using the Buffalo System, Mr. Rogers could keep the soil covered, provide quality forage for wildlife throughout the entire year, and, over time, his soil would improve.
GRANT: And so, we’re going to take these areas – some of them are pretty sandy – and I want you to literally take a shovel out, and if you, you know, you just sink it boom and a foot deep, it’s nothing but sugar sand, we just need to let that be native vegetation. Two or three inches, four inches at the most, deep of sand, we’ll work with. We will improve it over time.
GRANT: My second priority would be timber stand improvement, and when we look at pretty large areas here there’s no sun hitting the forest floor. And we drove by this. We’ve been riding this for hours — no quality browse, no quality forage. I’m not seeing any partridge pea or any really good native legumes or anything like that. They will grow here, and I’m sure the seed bank is still here, but they’ve got to have sun and fire, probably some fire but, certainly, sun to get going.
DANIEL: In the areas that were open, and sunlight was allowed to reach the ground, there were many grasses and forbs, and this indicated there was a large seed bank in the soil of native species.
DANIEL: If the timber was allowed to be opened up and that sunlight hit the ground, there would be great habitat on Mr. Rogers’ property. Grant recommended that Mr. Rogers use TSI to open up his timber, allow sunlight to hit the ground, and there would be a flush of native grasses and forbs, creating great food and cover for wildlife.
DANIEL: Once the canopy had opened up, and there were native grasses and forbs underneath, Grant recommended that prescribed fire be used to manage this habitat.
GRANT: This would be amazing – this needs a fire really bad. This habitat, of course, has adapted to fire through, you know, X-hundred years.
GRANT: Fortunately, your property has – and I think, again, from past oil work – just an amazing network of roads. Some have grown over; some are still awesome.
DANIEL: Grant believed the best burn plan was to simply take a blower, blow the roads, and start lighting on the high elevation areas and let that fire creep down the hill and to the road. This would allow David to burn effectively and safely small units of his property at a time, and by doing this, he would promote a mosaic of habitat of native grasses and forbs.
DANIEL: The oaks that are left standing after the TSI is complete, well they’re going to have less competition. They’re going to receive more water, nutrients, and sunlight. They’re going to produce more and better-tasting acorns. These can make for great hunting locations. Hunters can easily identify the oaks that deer will be feeding there.
GRANT: Burning road to road, as an easy example, you got this great one right here. It’s not that many acres, but it’s an easy burn. So, there’s one right in the center of your property that you can start with, and then if we just look like, you know, go here. Go here when you get a little bit more skilled or cut this one down; you got this road right here. Here’s a nice little triangle you can burn real easy. You got burn, after burn, after burn unit, with a few hours of tractor time on the roads, you’re ready to burn.
DANIEL: The neighborhood around David’s property is also low-quality habitat. As David works to improve his habitat, it’ll become much more attractive for deer and turkey in that area.
GRANT: That’s kind of my priority, and it’s really a simple plan. Now, simple does not mean it’s a light workload. I have laid out a ton of work, a pile of work.
DANIEL: You may recall that several weeks ago, we shared a buck that had a broadhead in its spine. Well, this buck was harvested by Mr. Rogers’ father on the property. We suspect there’s going to be many more great bucks taken at Mr. Rogers’ Oklahoma farm.
DANIEL: Even though these two properties had different habitats, we were able to identify resources that could be improved to offer wildlife better habitat than the surrounding properties. Not only did we create better habitat, but we created better hunting opportunities.
DANIEL: There’s now bottlenecks, travel corridors, and food-cover, food-cover patterns throughout the landscape. These two properties will hunt much better in future years.
DANIEL: The GrowingDeer Team is going to be traveling to other properties throughout this spring, and we’ll be sharing updates on our social media pages.
DANIEL: If you enjoy learning about habitat work or want to improve the hunting opportunities where you hunt, we encourage you to subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter and share a link with your friends.
DANIEL: Whether you’re improving habitat, looking for sheds or just taking a walk, I hope you slow down this week and enjoy Creation, but more importantly, I hope you slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you and the purpose that He has for your life.
DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.