Food Plots: Simple Tips To Save Money

flatlander plotToday’s guest blog from our friend and habitat-management specialist Matt “Flatlander” Cheever:

Hey Mike: Here are some quick thoughts on how to save some money on food plots if your budget is strapped, or you don’t have the ability to move large equipment from property to property.

Seed depth is critical for quality deer food plot success. Recently I didn’t have the ability to take all the equipment that I normally would to a property where I planted a plot. I had no way to sufficiently drag in the seed. I wanted just a small amount of topsoil over the brassicas.

Rule of thumb is all seed gets buried at twice the depth of the size of a seed (I.E. if soybean seed is ¼” you want it planted about ½”, and if a brassica seed is .10” you want it at .20”) I know this is pretty precise but it’s a good guideline.

The cheap and easy solution is to ratchet strap a simple wooden pallet behind a quad, and drag the seed bed once the seed has been broadcast. I added a field stone for weight (see picture, inside the red oval); it was perfect to get just a dusting of dirt on top the brassica seed. If I were planting soybeans and wanted to plant them deeper I’d add a concrete block or large chucks of firewood and strap them on. The more weight the deeper it digs/covers. The best part is when you wear down the boards, simply flip the pallet over and use, and then switch it from end for end so you’ll have 4 boards to use that last a long time.

I also don’t always have room or the means to take along a seed drill or large broadcast seeder so I’ve always kept a small hand-crank seeder with me. I usually wear out 2 a year as the small seed binds them up. I also break off a lot of the crank handles. I’ve found a solution from Scott called the Wizz (pictured top right). It’s a battery-operated seeder that has dozens of settings for seed size and can even widen or narrow the pattern. My buddies laughed at me for having a battery-operated seeder until they tried it—they then said it might be the best invention ever. It saves a ton of cranking and broken seeders, and is way more uniform in seed spacing, and that saves money on seed. It might be the best $20 property management tool I’ve purchased. The Wizz packs easily and I get about a season’s worth of planting off just four AA batteries.

I hope these 2 great, cheap and easy fixes help the BIG DEER gang get better deer plots in remote places for less money and effort. Good luck to all this season.–Flatlander

Whitetail Science: How Well Do Deer Hear?

MT buck flop earYears ago as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab, Gino D’Angelo put whitetails in a sound-testing booth and monitored their brainwaves to see how the animals responded to different sounds and frequencies. (Dr. D’Angelo is now is an Assistant Professor of Deer Ecology and Management at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.)

Here are 4 things Dr. D’Angelo and his colleagues found about the whitetail’s sense of hearing:

Deer do not hear that much better than we do! The frequency of sound is measured in hertz. Studies have found that a healthy human can hear from 20 to 20,000 hertz, with our best and most sensitive range from 2,000 to 5,000 hertz. The researchers found that deer hear best at moderate frequencies of 3,000 to 8,000 hertz. To put perspective on it, both our normal speech and most deer vocalizations fall within these frequency ranges. So while deer generally vocalize at lower frequencies than we talk, they hear similarly.

Low-frequency sounds travel farther and can be heard better by deer at greater distances than high-frequency sounds. A good example is a hunter walking in the woods, crunching leaves. Deer can hear that, so go slow and carefully and step as quietly as you can. Human speech is a moderate frequency sound that is well within the peak hearing range of deer. Talk softly and whisper in the woods. As Dr. D’Angelo says, “The deer are listening.”

How deer use their ears makes us think the animals can hear a lot better than we can. Deer ears are like tiny satellite dishes that tip back and forth and roll around to pick up, sort out and lock in on various sounds in the woods. Think about this, because you’ve probably been there. A buck is within 100 yards and hears you bang your bow or gun, or scrape your boots on a metal platform; you watch him work his ears, look your way and start stamping his foot. Wow, those ears are amazing and almost supernatural, you think. But Dr. D’Angelo points out that the animal is simply reacting to a strange and potentially dangerous sound in his environment, in much the same way that we jump and look if we hear a sudden horn or a car backfire nearby.

The sounds and frequencies of grunt calls match well with the whitetail’s hearing. As an off-shoot of this study, the researchers analyzed several brands of grunt calls to see how they aligned with the hearing of deer. All the calls produced similar sounds with the strongest frequency range between 3,000 and 4,000 hertz—well in tune for a doe or buck to hear your grunts.

Dr. D’Angelo points out that while your grunt call sounds true and is well tuned to a deer’s hearing, it is not as loud as you think. So if you’re “calling blind” with no deer in sight, don’t be afraid to grunt loudly, especially during the rut. There’s a good chance that somewhere out there in the woods an old 8-pointer will roll his ears and home in on your stand. Keep grunting and with luck he’ll come.

 

Athens Georgia: Hotbed Of Deer Information and Research

qdma shed tree

You might know that Athens is a vibrant college town, home to the SEC Bulldogs. Did you also know it’s the epicenter of whitetail research and deer-hunting information in America? Last week the BIG DEER TV crew took a road trip to check it out.

First stop, headquarters of the Quality Deer Management Association. I stepped in the front door and naturally checked out the shed tree in the corner. It’s built with an antler from every state and province where whitetail deer are found. Impressive, and they tell me it weighs more than a ton.

qdma brian

I sat down for a lengthy talk with Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA and one of the top deer biologists in the country. This man knows the state of the whitetail across North America in 2018.

Brian explained that after several tough years, notably 2011-2014 when winters were harsh in some regions and big outbreaks of Hemorrhagic Disease killed numbers of deer in other areas, things are looking up. Deer herds are generally doing well, and prospects for the 2018 season are good.

But all is not rosy. Brian pointed to some major issues issues on the horizon.

First, and the elephant in the room, is Chronic Wasting Disease.

cwd map 24 states

CWD, first documented in deer in Colorado in 1967, has now been confirmed in 24 states, 3 Canadian provinces and 2 foreign countries. CWD is found only in hoofed animals such as deer, elk, and moose. The disease affects an animal’s nervous system. Infected deer lose weight, wander aimlessly, salivate and eventually die. It is always fatal.

CWD is affecting the core of why we hunt—to bring home the venison. While no cases of CWD in humans have been confirmed, there is fear that could change. In a Canadian study three of five primates contracted the disease after eating meat from CWD-infected animals.

Brian’s advice: If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, DO NOT eat the meat until you have it tested and confirmed CWD-free.

Second big issue: Decline of hunters across North America.

Recent surveys reveal that only 5% of Americans age 16 and up hunt today. That’s half of what it was 50 years ago. The number of licensed hunters, by far most of them deer hunters, dropped from 14.2 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016. Most disturbing, the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decades.

Fewer hunters buying licenses and guns and ammunition equals less dollars for state wildlife conservation departments. If we do not stop this negative trend, the consequences will be severe. There are already reports that dollars for CWD research are drying up, and that’s the last thing we need.

Brian Murphy said QDMA is making a big push to continue youth hunter recruitment, and also to bring in more adults, 20-, 30- and 40-something men and women who might well want to to hunt deer, but who were never exposed to hunting as kids.

dr miller deer lab

Next, I drove across town to check out the Deer Lab at the University of Georgia. This is one cool place. Under the tutelage of Dr. Karl Miller for the past 30 years, the Deer Lab has grown from one small pen to an impressive collection of buildings and enclosures where landmark whitetail research is ongoing.

Dr. Miller gave us the tour, where we observed and filmed collared does and fawns and  bucks in velvet. We checked out rooms where deer are exposed to lights and monitors to check their vision. Dr. Gino D’Angelo explained studies he has conducted on how deer hear, and GPS-collar projects that track deer movements.

To a whitetail junkie like you and me, all kids of fascinating stuff.

Set your DVR and watch this episode of BIG DEER TV Wednesday, August 29 at 7:30 PM on Sportsman Channel.

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Grilled Venison Beer Brats

IMG_1050Perfect for a summer Friday or Saturday night:

–Shoot deer in fall. Gut deer. Transport some meat to processor and have brats made. (These jalapeno cheese brats came from a  buck I shot in Montana, though a deer you shoot and gut anywhere will do.)

–Simmer brats in 50/50 mixture of water and beer for 20 minutes. Do not boil brats, just a low, slow simmer, rolling brats occasionally.

–As brats simmer, sip remainder of leftover over beer. Heat gas grill and chill at least one more beer.

–After 20 minutes, remove brats from stove and drain water/beer mix. Reduce grill to medium-low. Add brats and grill, covered, for 6-8 minutes, until charred slightly.

–Remove from grill, serve with mustard on a paper plate, add a side veggie (optional) and enjoy (no bun, low-carb here).

–Crack second beer. The best brats you will ever eat pair perfectly with your favorite brew.

3 Top Summer Spots For Trail Cameras

Image-1

I’ve had several Spartan cameras out for a while, but now in July is when I start my recon in earnest. Velvet antlers are up and growing full bore; when you get an image of a buck with potential, you’ll know it and can start tracking and patterning his movements.

One: Last week we set 2 cameras on 2 one-acre clover plots hidden back in the woods. We set 3 more cams near larger food plots, but not aiming out into the fields. Rather, we pointed these cams 20 to 30 yards back in the thickets that rim the edges, on well-used deer trails. Secluded, thick pockets and bottlenecks like this are where you’re apt of get close images of a big velvet buck working the area.

Two: We put a camera on a muddy creek crossing a quarter-mile from a clover plot, and another on the edge of a beaver pond where we’ve photographed good bucks before. As summer deepens, bucks spend time hanging out in low-lying areas near water where it’s cool and shady.

Three: On one Virginia farm we hunt, there are 2 cornfields with a 40-yard-wide row of trees splitting and separating the fields. Within that row of trees is a flat, grassy gap where the farmer drives his tractor between the fields. On an old gate post in the gap is our top spot to set a camera now, while the corn is still tall and uncut.

Over the years, a camera on the gate post has been the most productive for catching bucks on natural summer movement (photo below). If you have a similar gap like this where you hunt, go set a camera there now before the crops are cut and the deer movement patterns change.

Va  9 point at round tower gap