This was the fourth national convention I have attended since becoming a member of QDMA. The first one I attended was in '09 in Louisville. I also attended in '10 and '11. The last couple of years I have not made the trip and regretted it each time. Although Athens, GA was quite a trek to make from Indiana, I am glad I made the commitment to go. It was a great time and I learned a lot.
Before getting on with the review, I wanted to outline a couple of items. I was unable to attend on Thursday due to commitments with my full time job. As a result, there were some sessions I missed. I wanted to also point out that I spent a good bit of time talking with Lindsay Thomas, Jr. (@LindsayThomasJr) of QDMA. As some of you know, Lindsay is the Editor of Quality Whitetails Magazine and is the Director of Communications. If my memory is correct, I have talked with Lindsay at each convention and he is one of the most approachable guys I have met. Probably a good trait for a Director of Communications. My talk with Lindsay yesterday was around the positive aspects of the convention, but I also shared some recommended changes from a member's perspective. He shed some light on my questions I presented and the future convention in '15.
So, on with the review. I will outline the positives first detailing as much as needed under each bullet point. Links were also added for convenience.
'14 Convention Positives:
Convention Suggested Improvements:
I feel fortunate to be able to attend a convention that focuses on the hobby I love so much. I look forward to this each year and hope it continues. I do not regret the 9 hour drive, but look forward to only a 3 hour drive to Louisville next year.
Hopefully you have gotten the sense that the positives far out weighed the improvement opportunities. My goal was to share with you my experiences this weekend. I met so many good people at the convention and have new friends that I feel I can call and talk to at any time about QDM. The impact on QDMA with the creation of NDA remains to be seen. I heard comments on both sides with some concerned it will hurt QDMA. Hopefully it will only draw more people to the benefits of QDM and make future conventions even better.
Last year, we discussed the need to created as much "depth of cover" as possible. This concept is rather simple as described by Jeff Sturgis. Simply ensure continuous cover from your main food source to as far as possible in a direction. The direction should include enough cover to stack doe families near the food plot, but also allow bucks room to bed further back. The deeper the depth of cover, the better odds of holding a mature buck on your property. And also the better the odds of getting a shot at the buck as he leaves the bedding area and makes the journey to the plot using a connecting trail.
On our property, it was clear that we needed to extend our depth of cover in a SW direction to the corner of the 63 acres. The only problem was the small food plot I had cleared back in '07 with a bull dozer. Upon discussing with Jim Ward, we decided the best option would be to plant native warm season grasses in this small 1/4 acre plot. Although that isn't much to speak of when compared to other properties that plant acre upon acre of warm season grasses, we decided this would be another piece of the puzzle. As a result, I purchased the seed last year and planted as directed. I used a blend of Cave-N-Rock and Big Blue Stem grasses.
Of course the first year didn't result in any growth, as it takes two seasons for native grasses to mature. So that brings us to today. I think these grasses are doing well as illustrated in the photos below. I'll admit that I am not an expert by any stretch regarding warm season grasses. As a result, these could be nothing but weeds and I wouldn't realize it at this point. I do see some foxtail weeds among the growth, but the grasses planted appear to be doing well. I took one picture of what I think is one of the plants fully headed out. I'll look online when I get time to confirm, but I think this is what we were shooting for when planting last year. Either way, I think this is going to be some thick stuff that will serve as cover for deer, and is especially good fawning cover right now.
If it turns out as planned, we will have successfully extended the depth of cover. The trails completed by Jim Ward this late winter and early spring are exactly the ticket to connecting the SW staging area to the main clover plot. Structure.....that is what we now have. We have the staging area that is designed to pull deer off of the neighboring property that includes a bottom area and a small creek. The neighboring property is a natural travel corridor from South to North. The new staging area has connecting trails that lead to the native grasses and network of beds. Then more connecting trails leading to the Main Clover Plot in the center of the property.
As I type this, I am becoming excited to think about what all of the improvements worked on this year will yield. The work never ends, but it definitely seems to continue to get better and better. Hopefully my luck will continue and I will get my forth mature buck in four straight years.
Thanks to my son, Luke, today for helping me walk the property. We tied down some licking branches in the SW staging area, pulled camera cards, and even found time to shoot our bows after hanging a new bag target at the property. Luke will by 9 in one month and seems to continue to grow in so many ways. I think he is learning to love the property and is hanging more and more with me each day out there. I love to just walk with him and listen to him talk as he observes nature and asks questions. Precious times......I don't take these for granted!
The last couple of days have been extremely interesting and busy at the property. Instead of writing a few different stories, I thought I'd string them all together as quickly as possible. Hopefully this doesn't drag on too long for you. I think you will like it.
Friday evening after work, I decided that it was time to mow the clover, alfalfa, and chickory plots. The East Plots looked great. We are starting to get some grasses and weeds growing again in spots so it might be time to spray in a couple of weeks. I took some photos of the growth and also the trail camera captured the progress as I was mowing. As you can see with the photos below, we have had great growth and the tonnage provided to the herd is evident.
The utilization cage is clearly showing how much the deer are using the plots. The trail camera card pulled today confirmed that we have deer in this field constantly. I was amazed to see one particular plant at 32" tall within the cage. When we have a normal height of about 18", it is plain to see that the deer are the main reason it is a consistent height across the field. Unfortunately, I broke the wheel bracket on the back of the brush hog / mower. I have a new one on order, but had to finish mowing at a taller height than I would have liked in the Main Plot Sections.
The Main Plots were full of rag weed. I was surprised to see that much and the height of the rag weed. This told me that I can't have 2-3 weeks between visits to the plots. I have been busy and took some time off for a vacation. Hopefully the mowing will help control the weeds and give the clover and chickory some opportunity to grow. I guess I should have planted in the fall with winter wheat versus frost seeding. I was mistaken to think I could plant and have all of the plots in good standing. This shouldn't have been news to me.
Saturday included the goal of getting a new stand set in place. My three youngest kids (Emily, Kara, and Luke) accompanied me to the property so we could work on the set for the SW Staging Area. The chickory stand in that area cleared by only a leaf blower and some basic fertilizer has exceeded my expectations. The deer are in this constantly just like the clover and alfalfa plots.
When I finally got the stand in the tree, I began to clear shooting lanes. The kids were standing about 10 yards from the base of the tree. All of the sudden, we heard something running and before we knew it a fawn came screaming right past the base of the tree and within 10' of the kids. We were definitely being noisy so I'm not sure if this fawn was just feeling his or her oats or if it was being chased by a predator that gave up the chase before running past us. Either way, I have never seen anything like this and laughed as one of my kids screamed out loud when the fawn streaked by in a flat out run. After pulling the camera card, I believe this is a single fawn that visits the staging area off and on throughout each day. You can bet the mother was close by and she simply avoided us because of the noise. See the photo below.
Upon finishing the stand, we started working on the ground to clear the shooting lanes trying to find a balance between the lanes and preventing being sky-lined. I noticed Basswood trees everywhere in this area, with some even rubbed in past years. I was standing there with the Hooyman Saw in my hand and wondered if I could create a mock rub with this saw. This may not be a new idea out there, but it was for me. I was shocked as this wasn't difficult to do using the saw. As shown in the video, simply grab the handle and the end of the saw blade and rake it up and down using the teeth of the blade. I was thrilled how real this mock rub turned out. Obviously this isn't the time of year for rubs, but I can see making these in September and October. I am also planning on trying some of the Smokey's Preorbital Gland lure on the rubs to make it even more real to the bucks in the woods. I'm going to create these completely around the stand where it will visually attract bucks passing through. Given the topography, new staging area created, forage available, and the screening cover, I feel this area is going to be extremely hot this fall.
The countdown is on....only three months until opening day. See the Indiana Deer Season countdown clock at the bottom of this page and the others for the website. Also, we have started a Twitter account. Please follow us on Twitter by clicking on the button at the top right corner of the site.
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.