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GRANT: Matt and Adam tend to get a fever this time of year; it’s called turkey hunting fever. So, they’ve been out doing some pre-season scouting.
ADAM: (Whispering) It’s a great time of year to get out in the woods and scout for birds. Of course, they’re still flocked up so they’re pretty vocal. You can at least locate the birds; know kind of the general area they are hanging out in; know that in a month, though, when season opens up, they’re gonna be busted up. They’re gonna be spread out, but they’re still gonna be around this area. They’re not gonna travel too far off. We know there’s three longbeards here. So, we’ll be back in a month.
GRANT: Owl hooting is a great way to locate turkeys and locating toms is a big part of pre-season scouting.
GRANT: We already know areas toms are strutting, based on Reconyx pictures and videos. Our pre-season scouting trips help us identify where they’re roosting so we can set up for that bird while he’s still on the limb.
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GRANT: While turkey hunting, you don’t always have time to make sure you’re set up in the right area, especially for those off the roost hunts where you’re going in before dark. This is different from deer hunting where stands are usually set weeks or even months in advance.
GRANT: Even when you set up close to the roost, doesn’t mean turkeys are gonna come within shotgun range.
GRANT: So, how do you help ‘em close the distance? Well, a great tool is decoys.
GRANT: Different setups are usually best served by different decoy presentations. Sometimes I want to use a hen; sometimes I want to use a jake if there’s a really dominant bird gobbling out there and I went to bring him in for the challenge.
GRANT: That’s why I started using Montana decoys years ago. They’re totally collapsible so I can carry hens, strutters, jakes all in my turkey vest and use all of ‘em for the appropriate setup for each situation and do it on the fly.
GRANT: Spring is also a great time of year to start thinking about those deer setups. You may recall, we’ve been working on improving a staging area.
ADAM: I was standing in almost this same spot four months ago, and if you remember right, it looked a little bit different than it does today.
ADAM: This is an area that we’re converting to a transition clover food plot. It was covered in saplings and trees. And with a little bit of work, we removed all those, treated the stumps. So we’re back today to start step two.
ADAM: So, first step for us today, fire up the backpack blower, remove any leaves and sticks that are still in the area.
GRANT: Removing the debris exposed a lot of fescue and other weeds growing in the area. So, the next step is terminating that fescue so our seeds won’t have any competition with those weedy species.
ADAM: Mixing up our herbicide here. We’re using a generic Roundup or glyphosate. We’re following all label recommendations. Wearing our PPE – our personal protection equipment – got gloves on, long sleeves, safety glasses and we’re set to kill some weeds.
ADAM: Our main goal through this phase of the project is preparing the seed bed. We removed all the saplings and trees early on. Now we’ve removed the leaves and the sticks – exposing the soil. Now, our next step is removing the competition.
ADAM: We’re using a contact herbicide, so any weed that it comes in contact with in the area – it’s gonna kill it. That’s why it’s important that we removed these leaves and sticks – the weeds that were hiding underneath ‘em are now exposed and will come in contact with the herbicide.
GRANT: Some folks question whether it’s safe to use any herbicide. We’re using glyphosate, which only works on the growing or vascular parts of plants. It’s neutralized so when it touches the ground, it has no soil activity.
ADAM: The reason we’ve waited four months between step one and step two of this project is we’re allowing spring green up to happen. A lot of the weeds that have been living in this area are already emerging through the soil so we can come through with the herbicide – kill them off removing the competition. We’ve already removed the leaves and the sticks. So now it’s just the bare dirt providing a perfect seed bed for the clover.
GRANT: Once the fescue and other weeds have died, it’ll be time to fertilize and plant.
ADAM: Well, as of today, phase two – preparing the seed bed – is complete. The next time we’re back, we’ll be preparing for phase three which is planting the cover.
GRANT: This staging area project is developing nicely. Staging areas make great stand locations and we’re all excited to hunt here this fall.
GRANT: Our goal for using prescribed fire in bedding areas is to increase the amount of native grasses and forbs while limiting the amount of stump sprouts in the area. Given these goals, we need a different technique than when we burned the duff out of a mature timber stand.
ADAM: I think everybody’s working.
ADAM: It’s already 33, so it’s gonna rip. You guys ready?
ADAM: Since we’re burning the bedding areas that are mostly grass, it shouldn’t take us long. We’re gonna try and get the fire as hot as we can. Send in head fires. Gonna have some tall flame heights and hopefully kill some stump sprouts.
ADAM: The first thing we do when we burn our bedding areas is strip out the timber around the unit. This will prevent any jumps or damage to the tree.
UNKNOWN: Take the big trail just to the south of us.
GRANT: The topography here in the Ozark Mountains is very steep. So, when we’re burning side slopes, we typically make a fire break along the top of the ridge, set a slow backing fire that comes down the ridge several yards – 20, 30, 40 yards, depending on the steepness of the slope. Once we have that area blacked out, we can then go to the bottom of the ridge and set a head fire. A head fire develops more heat and does a better job of achieving our objectives.
ADAM: We’ve let the fire back down through the woods. It’s just to the top of the bedding area now. You can see there’s a lot of these small cedars back behind me, some stump sprouts. So, we’re gonna loop down and start sending head fires up through the bedding area. Hopefully, we’ll kill some of these trees.
ADAM: You better get out of there.
GRANT: A head fire simply means the fire is moving up a slope or with the wind. That’s obviously allowing the heat to rise or be pushed ahead of the fire – heating up and drying out the fuel before the fire gets there. It ignites quicker and burns hotter than a backing fire which doesn’t preheat the fuel.
UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) I think we’re fine.
ADAM: Sounds good.
UNKNOWN: Copy that.
GRANT: This is why we don’t use head fires in standing or mature timber. The head fire has a taller flame height and would do a lot more damage to the trees we wish to protect in that situation.
ADAM: If she can just rock – get a good head, head fire going up through those saplings – we’ll most likely kill ‘em – top kill ‘em at least. Get some grass growing back this summer. Come back in a year or two and let it rip again and hopefully we can knock it way back. Pretty good burning conditions right now. I don’t even know what the humidity is. I’m guessing it’s in the 20s some.
ADAM: If there’s fuel, it’s cooking. It’s hard to kill cedars like that with fire, though. It’s like a stinking pine tree. There’s nothing at the bottom to burn.
GRANT: We burned this bedding area a couple of weeks ago with a strong head fire – a fire moving uphill. And our goal was, with that strong head fire, to set back stump sprouts and encourage more beneficial vegetative growth. Even though the temperatures have been fairly cool, you see a good carpet of vegetation coming in. I’m really liking what I’m seeing. A lot of wild strawberry and other annual and perennial plants that are very beneficial to wildlife.
GRANT: Once the temperatures warm a little bit and we get some spring rains, native grass will really come in thick. This will be an ideal fawning area and nesting area for turkeys.
GRANT: Even though it was an intense head fire, there’s still a lot of duff left on the ground. You don’t see any sign of erosion. This is a perfect case of good habitat management.
GRANT: It’s easy to forget that all the plants that were here before the fire had a large, fibrous root system. And that below the ground root system is what’s really holding the soil in place until new vegetation sprouts and covers the land. This vegetation will develop throughout the summer and be an ideal bedding area come this winter.
GRANT: Spring is a busy and exciting time here at The Proving Grounds. We’ll continue several habitat projects, but we’re gonna take some days off to chase turkeys.
GRANT: Whether you’re hunting or simply taking a walk outside, I hope you take time this week to enjoy Creation. But most importantly, slow down every day and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
ADAM: (Whispering) Did he gobble in the middle of it? Man. There he goes.