Exclusive Interview with Habitat Podcast Hosts – Brian Halbleib & Jared Van Hees

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast


With so much information out there about food plots, it becomes harder now to find which ones are telling the truth. Having been in the habitat improvement and food plot business for a long time, guests and hosts of Habitat Podcast, Brian Halbleib and Jared Van Hees, share with us their knowledge as they break down the essential things you need to know about habitat management and food plotting. Made for the land and wildlife habitat managers and hunters who learn and utilize different types of habitat in their hunting strategy, they then introduce us to their podcast and the many great insights that came out of it. Don’t miss out on this episode as you learn the how-to, when, and where of habitat improvement and food plots.

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Exclusive Interview with Habitat Podcast Hosts – Brian Halbleib & Jared Van Hees

This is one of my last interviews before I start to go hunting. I’ll be in the Elk Camp and I’ll be hunting here in Colorado with a good friend, Mike Reynolds. He’s part of the bunkhouse crew at our farm in Wisconsin. I’m excited for Reynolds, he won his first elk hunt. Be that as it may, I’m excited to have Jared Ven Hees and Brian Halbleib on the show. They created Habitat Podcast. They’ve both been in the habitat improvement food plot business for a long time. They decided to get serious about sharing information about how to do this food plot thing. There’s lots of information out there. Jared and Brian are going to share the how-to, when and where of habitat improvement and food plots. Brian and Jared, welcome to the show.

Thanks, Bruce.

Who wants to start off? Brian, do you want to start off or Jared? Flip a coin and let’s get going.

Bruce, thanks for having us on. I can’t believe you’re going elk hunting, that’s exciting. I’m in Michigan. I own 15 acres where I do all my habitat work along with some friend’s properties. Brian is over in Pennsylvania. He owns land at Ohio. Our seasons have not started yet. The fact that you’re going out hunting already is cool. We’re waiting, it’s almost here.

I did go to Nebraska. I’ve got a nice place to hunt in Nebraska in a river drainage. It was 90 degrees, 90% humidity and a zillion mosquitoes. I will not do that again to my body. I did see two does, I know there are bucks there. I’m not going to ever do that again because somebody said, “You’re going to get a velvet buck.” I go, “I’ll go do that.” Stupid on my part. If you’re somebody that can do that, God bless you. You’re a better man, a better woman than I am. Let’s get into the food plot business. There’s so much information out there. There are many big box companies selling seed and if you read the tag you go, “What is all this stuff? Those are not seed.” Do you want to start off about tags and reading tags and figuring out what the heck is in that bag of seed?

I’ll give you a little bit of a backstory on the podcast. Brian and I, we’ve been following some old forums and posting over habitat work on these old forums like the QDMA forum, etc. There’s a group of people on there and you show off your property, what you’re working on. People would chime in and help. We were also passionate about that. We decided to start a podcast and record a lot of this information that we’re putting out there on these forums.

What we do is we interview experts from across the country. We had Mark Drury from Drury Outdoors, Dan Perez of Whitetail Properties, Aaron Warbritton’s from The Hunting Public. We get these guys to come on and give us their opinions, their knowledge on how they do their habitat work in their food plots. We have a conversation with them and we put it out there for all of our followers to learn from. We know a lot about this stuff, but we are “Not the experts.” We’re trying to give everybody else’s knowledge out to our followers so they can learn. The podcast is doing great and a ton of great reviews, and having a good time doing it.

Leaning into the seed tag question, we partnered with a friend of ours who owns a seed company. There are a ton of seed companies out there. It’s important that you read that tag on the back of the bag or a white tag. Every seed manufacturer is required to put that on there and that tells you exactly what is in that bag. You can tell how much filler is in there, what sort of grasses that may include. Some of them will have rye grass in them, which grows everywhere but deer don’t like it. It may appease the consumer, but you’re not putting the best type of seed out there. Be sure to check your seed tags. Google some stuff that you’re looking at or reach out to one of us and ask us a question. We’d be happy to help you. Make sure you’re not buying the marketing gimmick because some of those other seed companies are quite out there.

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast

One thing I know, and I’d learned about fillers and even coatings, is if you’re drilling it, you need coatings to make it work, but all that adds up to weight. A 25-pound bag of seed, maybe only 60% of that is seed. That’s what I’ve heard. Can you refute that or support that? What do you think?

That goes back to what type of manufacturer or company are you buying from. Some of the throw and grow type stuff will come up and will look good to the hunter. You want to trust somebody who’s been in the business for a long time, who has a good reputation, good germination rate and good blends. Look at the reviews on the products. Call the owner of the company or the representative and ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to do a little vetting before you spend that $40 on a bag of seed.

Sometimes it’s a heck a lot more than that. If somebody wanted to get in touch with you and say, “Can I talk to you?” Do they do it on social media? Do they call you, email you? How do they do that?

The easiest way to get ahold of both Brian and me, we’re both on our Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, under Habitat Podcast. Feel free to shoot us a message, post something up on there. We watch it all the time. We have never ignored anybody. We have always responded to anybody that reaches out. Even if we don’t know the answer, we’ll get you in touch with the right people who do, just in case our answers weren’t sufficient enough. Anybody who wants to reach out, feel free. Also, go to our website at HabitatPodcast.com, submit an email on there. A lot of people seem to be doing Facebook, most of us are on Facebook a lot each day. That’s where we’re probably getting most of our contact.

I got a 40 and I’m not going to put in Iowa where it’s got good dirt. At some place that’s got marginal dirt, what do I do? How do I figure out how much food plots can I put in? Am I going to put kill plots? Am I going to on the logging road, put some cover and sprout up on that? What am I going to do?

What I would start with is a plan. That’s where it seems to be a lot of our newer followers and even Brian and I, back when we started, how do you know where to put the food plot? How do you know where to improve the timber or where to plant, where to access, where to hang your stands? There is a science to all of this and you don’t want to spook deer every time you walk onto your property. You have to set it up the right way so you’re not wasting your time cutting down trees that don’t need to be cut.

We always recommend you start with a plan. We have started offering a consultation where we will help landowners with their plans. There are tons of people out there that also do this. That’s what I would start with. Plan out on how your property lays out, the wind directions, the deer movement you’ve seen maybe in the past couple of years and what your goals are. All of that comes into account before you even go out there and start turning the dirt.

After your plan is done, part of that plan would be wind direction and access. If you put a food plot right in the dead center of your property, when you walk to that food plot, your predominant wind blows your scent right towards it. Every time you exit this property, you might have 1 or 2 hunts on that, that’s going to be nocturnal after that. There’s a lot that comes into play here before you get out there and starting with a good plan is what we would recommend.

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I called a consultant on architecture or an architect. The keyword is plank and somebody said, “I got this open space here. I’m going to put it here.” They don’t realize that they’re going to screw up their hunting, because the way the land goes, thermals go, the prevailing winds go, a lot of different reasons. All of a sudden, the deer quickly pattern them and wherever the stand is, they screwed the field. What’s your thoughts on that?

You shouldn’t start anywhere you want. Just because you have an open area does not mean that the food plot needs to go. Maybe the easiest to throw it there, if you can’t access it, you can get into your stand or blind. If you can’t get out without anybody or anything knowing or getting them out of there on your wind direction, then you’re not doing yourself any good.

That comes into figuring out on Google Earth, onX, whatever your app of favor is, the best access and exit points of your stand, where your actual stand is. Some stands are in the perfect place for only one direction of wind. If you hunt at any other time, you’re just spooking yourself. That’s what I’ve learned way over the years and talking to hundreds of people. You’ve got to pay attention to that, it’s not convenience. Deer don’t care if it’s convenient for you to park your truck, walked on the lane, and get in your stand. You kill the deer there every once in a while, but you’re missing the best year on your property. That’s my two cents.

The plan is the most important because it can be a complete opposite situation too like where you don’t own the property. Let’s say you’re leasing your farm and the farmer says, “I don’t want you doing any changes to X, Y and Z, but there’s an old grown-up field over there. I don’t care what you do with that.” You might be in a situation where you’re stuck with what the farmer allows you to use and you’re going to have to build around that. Once you get your habitat improvements in the spots that he allows you to, build your access, build your stand sites off of all that.

How do I do that? I go to work. 99% of every single follower on my show were all workers. We show up and we get a paycheck and take care of our bills and our family. We indulge ourselves in our passion for hunting whitetails. There isn’t a lot of money to go out and, “I need this tractor or the ATV.” There are many products out there, farm equipment. What do I do if I’m on a limited budget? I still want to put in a couple of 20×20 kill plots. I want to see the road going into the old logging road that’s going through my property or an old access road or railroad or something that has an opening that I know the grass will grow or something will grow there. How do I do that?

The number one tool for habitat managers has been for years and continues to be a chainsaw. Which most people own if they have a small piece of property or access to the property, a lot of people already have the chainsaw. Not everybody is going to be fortunate to find an opening in the property. If I could only have one tool to manage a property for deer, it would definitely be a chainsaw. What do you want to do with that? You can create bedding, the clearings and the openings for future food plots.

A lot of people get in a situation where they have a mature stand and the timber. They go in and hang a tree stand and say, “I don’t see many deer in here.” Trees are too big. The canopy is shading off the ground and there’s nothing for the deer to eat or bed in there. People talk about deer living from 4 feet and below, and that’s true. Even if you can’t have it all, short habitat, early successional growth, you at least have to be able to create some edge cover and something for them to transition to and from.

A chainsaw, some safety glasses, some gloves and chaps, be safe out there. What’s the first thing I’d do? Everybody talks about hinge cutting. I have seen people overdo hinge cutting. It’s like, “You did what?” In my opinion, they don’t even have a place to hang a tree stand anymore. That’s not funny though, that’s true.

I’ve heard of it happening, for sure. Anything in habitat management can be overdone. That’s where your plan comes into place. You want to be thinking about where you want the deer, where you want the bedding areas and where you want to have the clearings for the food plots, before you go in there and start getting willy-nilly with the chainsaw.

That gets back to digital scouting and walking the ground and that type of thing, plus getting advice from somebody else. Everybody’s got great ideas, some are bad. I know one piece of ground, they did some hinge cutting but they did it on the wrong side of the ridge. The deer didn’t like that side, they like the other side. They’ve put the bedding cover where the deer weren’t going to go to. You have to become a student, that’s the biggest thing. What I like with what you guys are doing at Habitat Podcast is you’re helping people be student because nobody knows everything about this game.

I’m good friends with Dan Infalt and he’d learned something new every time he goes into those forums. He thinks he’s got it figured out, then a buck will turn him inside out and go, “Oops.” That’s happened to everybody. We get so familiar with our own property. I challenge other people to go on a piece of property you’ve never been in and figure it out and take a mature deer. I’m not saying a Booner buck, just a mature deer. That could be a 130 or it could be a 150 or it could be bigger. Maybe, the property only has possibly Pope and Young deer, which is nothing wrong with a Pope and Young buck. You have to figure that out too. How do I figure out what I’ve got on my property before I start spending a lot of time and investing money into food plots and doing this and doing that and doing the hinge cutting stuff? How do I know what I got on my property as inventory?

People want to get in there and go crazy because it’s exciting. When you get your first piece of property or if you get your first lease, you want to get in there and start putting in food plots and hanging tree stands and doing everything you can to make the property great. Everything that we do, we’re doing it for the future. Whether it’s three months from now for a soybean field or three years from now with the chestnut tree or apple tree. You have to think about that long-term investment that you’re making.

People are doing things too quick, putting the bedding areas on the wrong ridge. Slowing down a little bit. It’s tough for all of us with this instant gratification world that we’re living in, that we’re used to doing everything and having everything immediately. You got to stop, back up a little bit, go back to your plan and watch the deer. Sometimes we recommend people when they buy a piece of property, don’t do anything to it for the first year. Watch and see where the deer like to be. I like to use the turkey hunting analogy. It’s a lot easier to hunt them where they want to be than to try to pull them somewhere where they don’t want to be.

The other thing I’ve heard is don’t hunt in your first-year property, just go and observe. Set up an observation stand in different areas and observe what’s happening. Hunt all the places but then figure out with trail cameras, what’s my inventory? What are they using for a whole year? Are they just here when they’re fawning? Are they just hear when they’re rutting? They use this as a bedding area and they go to the neighbors and eat for their groceries. This is the only waterhole around for a mile, this is where they come once a day at noontime and all the rest of the time, they’re invisible.

We’re in such a rush, “I got this piece of property. The guy showed me some pictures of these great deer. I’m going to go hunt it.” You don’t know anything about your property. You just made an investment. Learn your property and then be smart enough to get some help and get some eyes on it and figure out, “How can I make this a long-term property so your kids can hunt it and then your kids’ kids can hunt it.

That’s probably the reason that I do this, Bruce. For anybody who is getting into the habitat world or property improvement and to recap on a couple of things we covered there, I always use observation. I put trail cameras out, hunt it, screw up a couple of times, learn a few things and it’s okay. The habitat work is never-ending. It’s not, “I’m going to put in food plots this year and I’m done.” I have apple trees that are finally producing apples from when I bought that place a few years ago. There’s a never-ending process here and you always have to be thinking about the future while you’re doing this.

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Another thing that we covered is our mistakes. If you go in there and you hinge cut some trees on the wrong side of the ridge, you learned a few things there. That can be fixed. Hinge cutting trees on the back of your property, you want to watch what you’re doing, you can clear those out. What you have done at that point is introduced sunlight to the forest floor, which is going to create native sprouts which the deer love. In terms of hinge cutting or creating bedding, you don’t just want to go through your whole property and hinge cut everything. It can be too much. Everything can be overdone.

Deer like diversities. If you have open woods, we call it the park light effect. It’s like a park in New York City. You can see all the way across big trees, no cover, it’s a park. If you go and hinge cut everything, then you’ve created the opposite extreme and you didn’t do yourself a ton of good. You went from one extreme to the other. It’s better to have bedding pockets or hinge cut pockets or timber stand where you removed all the trees. Learn to have pockets throughout that property versus one extreme to the other.

Create some diversity, have a little bit of everything, that’s what deer like. If you can do that, you’re going to make mistakes, but you can learn from them. This is a year after year thing, it doesn’t end. Keep observing, keep going through and see what your deer do. You might not make any changes for the first year in your property, I did that. I learned how the deer travel through my property and I enhanced it the way they were already traveling. The flip side of that is, you’re going to create enough habitat improvements to where you’re going to start steering and directing deer. You put bedding over here and feed over here, you can change their pattern as well. You can sit back and observe a lot but at the same time, you get to work. We can help and our podcast is full of information for anybody learning.

I got this 40, when do I do what? When do I hinge cut? When do I put my first food plot in? When do I put my kill plots in? What about my soil test? Do I have to do that every year? What about fertilizer? How do you schedule all that out?

If you have a wife and young kids, it can be tough. It’s a year-round project except for when you’re hunting, is probably when we take some of the time off. Work can still be done then. We’re fans of hinge cutting, but it has to be done right and it has to be done in moderation and only where it should be applied, it’s not for everybody. Removing all the trees and opening up the forest floor to the sun is just as good.

There are different applications for different properties, not one property is the same. You want to do that type of work usually during the winter or early spring. That way, the leaves are off the trees, you can see how much cover you’re creating for that following fall. When the leaves fall off, that’s a cover you have during hunting season. If you cut a bunch of trees out with the leaves on them, that’s one thing, but when the leaves are gone, then you know how much cover you have. We only do it in the winter or the spring. We had done it in other times of the year too, depending on what the need is.

Springtime comes along, you can frost seed some food plots and start doing some food plot prep throughout the spring and summer. Whether it’s planning spring plots, whether it’s fertilizing, whether it’s liming your plots, it could be brush hogging or not. We tend to have two food plot seasons of spring planting and fall planting. Brian can shed a lot of light on the spring planting. I prefer to stick to fall planting. Brian does both. There are good times to plant, good times to hinge cut. It all depends on where you’re at, what’s your weather is like and what your goals are.

If you want to go out there and put a nice plot and put your son or daughter to shoot their first doe or buck come gun season, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to create a property that will hold a pressured buck, in the state like Michigan or Pennsylvania, where Brian and I live, that’s a different thing. It’s on what your goals are and it all comes back to that plan. This is all we talk about, this is all we think about, this is all we do and it’s a four-year-long process. For this conversation’s sake, what we do for fall food plots, we would spray some herbicide in July, we would plant in August. We’d do some maintenance in September for a September, October opening bow season.

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast

Brian, talk to me about the fall plots and the winter plots. Hunting season end, but the deer still need to be fed and you want to keep the deer in your neighborhood. The best way to do that is either have thermal cover or food for them. Talk to me about that.

The diversity is super important. A lot of your winter feeding plots are going to start way back in the spring, depending on what you want to do. If you want to have standing corn in December and January for your deer, you’re going to have to make plans to do your soil tests in late winter, early spring. Get your corn seed or your soybean seed, because that’s another crop that you have to plant in the late spring and early summer, you’ll have standing soybeans for the winter. That all comes into play. There are ways around that like in the situation now, where if you bought a piece of property and you wanted to get something in for the deer for the fall, there’s faster annuals that’ll grow like turnips and radishes. Even the cereal grains are fast, like cereal rye, not rye grass, that’s important to always remember, cereal rye, winter wheat and oats.

You can plant rye oats and winter wheat and have food plot in a week. They’d come up that fast. It depends on your goals and what you want to do. Standing corn and beans are dynamite. If you’d like to hunt the late season, there are lots of people that say, “I’m not sitting out there when it’s 30 below. I’m not waiting for deer then.” You might not want to waste your time because it can get expensive with fertilizer and the upkeep of trying to get tall corn and big ears growing for you. It all comes down to what your goals are and what you want to have in what time of year.

I want to make sure that I’m keeping whatever I have in my neighborhood. I know deer move along quite a bit during the rut, bucks are going to go wherever. I’ve been in enough places and seen bucks taken and the guy says, “I’ve never seen that buck.” The farmer or whatever or the guy who I’m hunting with says, “He’s never been on our trail camera. I have no idea where that deer came from.” They’ll find out after it posted on social media or something, “That buck was over in the next county.” We go, “What?” They do that, they’re breeding machines and some like to travel. I live in Colorado and we have a farm in Wisconsin that I’ve been hunting for a long time. Eddie plants his crops and then he leaves whatever we want him to leave as food plots. We’ve got crops available food almost year round for the deer, which is good, but everybody doesn’t have that ability.

The thing is you’re in competition. That’s the thing that habitat improvement does because you’re in competition with the neighbor. You might be friends with them, went to high school with them and work together with them, you’re still in competition with them. If you have the right key ingredients, then you’re going to have the deer. For the most part, your own. What’s your thoughts on that, Brian?

Jared and I, I’m sure after talking to you at the ATA and getting to know you, we all love to see people take big bucks and we all enjoy sharing everything. We’re going to get a little bit selfish. We want to keep those deer on our properties when we can. You also brought up a good point about having the farmer leaving a crop for you That’s another great option for somebody that maybe not have the equipment or the know-how. There are ways you can do crop sharing or leasing out your property to the neighbor the farms for a living and make an arrangement with them and leave some food. You can have a food plot without even having to put anything into it.

The best way to do that is to approach them and say, “What’s your bushel yield? What are you going to get off an acre?” Whatever it works out to and he’ll say, “Why do you want to do that?” I said, “I want to buy it, but I want to leave a stand and feed the deer, so I can shoot the deer. I can get the deer off your field.” They have too many deer. They’ll do that if you do it right, it’s got to be a decision to say, “Whatever your yield is, I’ll pay you right now. We’ll contract out for many roads or many not acres.” You don’t need that much. You need five roads in the middle of a ten-acre field and the deer are going to come off the edge. They’re going to be in the open and you can get at them. That’s if you’re rifle muzzle hunting or shotgun hunting.

If you’re deer hunting, then you want to leave the leftover. He doesn’t take the three rows closest to the cover. He’ll sneak in and then you got to figure out where to put your stand. Either way, you have food plots and it cost you his yield. He’s not going to give it to you, but say, “I’ll pay you whatever it’s going.” He’ll go, “Yeah.” That’s the same thing he’s going to get at the co-op. He’s already got his sunk cost, he’s already figured that out and he goes, “It’d be so much.” Do the math and he’ll say, “It’s $500.” You go, “Here’s $500” or whatever it is. You’d be surprised, some guys say, “That’s a good idea. I just never did that.” All of a sudden, they’re standing corn or beans up. It works, plus the alfalfa that dies, they don’t get the third cut on it, deer still eat that.

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A lot of people would think maybe at first, if the farmer is asking for $500 to leave some rows of corn or whatever, it might seem like a lot. If you were to go out and purchase your own equipment, maintain it, buy the seeds and put the time in. If you have an arrangement like that you could keep doing year after year, you might be better further ahead by going that route instead of trying to do it yourself.

You’d help the farmer. You’d say, “What can I do to help you?” There’s a zillion things you can do with farmers and to say, “Here’s what I can do. We’re contracting out for crops, what else can I do for you?” It’s getting harder to find a place to hunt. If you haven’t figured that out, know that it’s getting harder. I don’t care if you’re in the West where access has become one problem. It’s getting a harder place to hunt. You’ve got to be a good neighbor and you got to figure out, “How can I make it economically feasible to work with this farmer and have him do all the work?” He’s coming out of it good. I’m coming out of it way ahead because I invested some money, but no time and equipment. I don’t have all that, plus I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. That’s the other thing I want you guys to talk about and why Habitat Podcast exists. I got to raise my hand, we had some logging trails and we’ll do a throw and grow. That didn’t work out well.

In terms of starting out and trying to get your first food plot in, you don’t need too much equipment. We started doing some stuff, you count on Mother Nature like you do with every food plot. I planted a food plot with a sprayer. You spray and kill the vegetation that’s there. Depending on what type of seed, the clover or a brassica or a small seed. I walked over the food plot right before a good rain. I broad casted that seed into the dead grass and walked away.

That’s all I did, I sprayed, came back when it was dead before the rain and see it. That’s it. You’re talking about minimal equipment, a sprayer and a seeder. I had a darn good food plot. That’s as easy as it gets right there. You’re not disturbing the soil, you’re not turning up the seed bank and introducing any noxious weeds that could be dormant. You’re providing food with minimal equipment. With your throw and grow story, it all depends on what’s in that bag and how much sunlight it’s getting. You can add any lime or fertilizer. There are all things that you can do to help increase the success rate of your food plot.

I’m still trying to figure it out, because we do have a canopy and I didn’t kill it, which we should have done. I should have killed it first. Some of these rocky soils, all types of different soil and the best soil is where the canopies over. I should have gone in there and mowed and then killed it. There were grasses growing in there and then putting in better seed in there to help them grow. We’ll work on it, but the problem is its 1,100 miles from where I am. I’m talking about the farm in Wisconsin. Nobody else wants to do it. They did log it and that helped them initially. We put some waterholes in there, there’s enhancements they could do to grow some good crops on that ridge and they haven’t done it.

Next time we go in there, give us a call. Send us a few pictures of what you’re working with. Even trying to broad cast some seed into a layer grass that’s alive. Different grasses that are out there can out-compete a lot of stuff. With all this rain we had, you want to get somebody started on something and get Brian talking about the grasses he had.

Everybody had water.

It’s where you get all this extra weed and grass grow. To your point about not having an open canopy, certain seeds selections grow better in shade, or maybe 2 or 4 hours of light per day. Certain seeds are harder on that stuff and certain ones we would recommend that you would find in a situation like that. There’s a lot of different ways you can go about it, but there are certain things to know when it comes to a situation as you mentioned.

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast

I bring that up on myself, but you have to figure it out before you go, “Let’s buy some seeds and spend a couple of hundred bucks for bags.” We have a couple of miles of trail and old logging roads. We did the best we could. I said, “We’ll do this and do that,” and it didn’t work. Instead of going through my pain that it didn’t work, I go, “What do I need to do? How do I need to do this?” I at least have something starting to grow. Once you get something starting to grow, then the deer go, “There’s food over here. It could be clover.” They go, “There’s something to munch on,” and then food, cover and water. If deer have those three things, they’re going to be there if you have deer.

If you plant things in the correct succession and the correct mixture, you can have rye grain or an oat shoot up in the fall. You plant your clover at the same time. Your clover is going to be a small and trying to germinate and get established that fall. The oats and rye are going to be what’s called a cover crop or a nurse crop and help cover-up that clover and you’re going to be busy around the rye and it’s where your clover gets established. Come spring, your clover’s going to take off and because it was protected, it was able to get established. By having your clover in the spring and those logging roads, you won’t have all the other grasses and the weed growth, because your clover will be the first thing to turn green in the spring. There are certain ways that we can get around a lot of this stuff, it just takes some time to learn it and do a little research and figure it out.

Where the native grasses are covering the roads, they’re grasses and they’re not forbs at all, they’re not browse. I’m calling it grasses, the deer walk through it. What I want to do is kill all that and the owner said, “You can do whatever you want on those roads. I don’t care.” I got the project, but it’s a matter of spending time and doing that to kill that down. If I do that this fall and kill it all, then it’ll be next spring that I need to go in there and recede. Right or wrong?

There are several ways you can go about that. If you’re having trouble with too much grass, you don’t want to throw your seed into thick stand in the grass because it’s not going to have any chance. What we would recommend, depending on the situation, get it sprayed. You can even spray it with a nonselective herbicide. What that means is a spray that you use that’ll kill everything whether it’s a grass, broadleaf weed, it doesn’t discriminate it, it’ll kill everything that you spray it on. The fancy name is round-up and the generic name is glyphosate.

They’ve been in the news, haven’t they?

Yeah, it’s hard like a lot of things now to separate the facts from fiction. I would caution people to do their research and not have any knee jerk reactions because there have been herbicides around for a long time that farmers have been using. We’ve been eating their food for a hundred years and used the right way and most things are safe.

I hunt in a 100-year farm, it’s been in the family a hundred years and they’re still alive. Lester is not alive because he was almost 100, but his wife is and Eddie in his 50s. I’ve been hunting for years and it hasn’t hurt me.

What you’d want to do on a situation like you’re talking about is get that grass killed. You can even spray and then broad cast your clovers and your cereal grains, the cereal rye, the oats, the winter wheat and make sure those roads are getting enough sunlight. The clovers and the cereal grains only need a few hours, but you don’t want to throw it in a place that’s shaded all day. They’ll germinate as the herbicide is killing the grass. If it’s a heavy thick stand of grass, kill it first, spray it first, wait a couple of weeks, and then come back with your clovers and your cereal grains.

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I can do all this before it freezes or the snow comes?

Yes. Like the cereal rye, it has the lowest germination point of all the cereal grains. It’s down towards 40 degrees. As long as you’re getting 40-degree temperatures, you can still put that rye out.

I’m building a plan as we’re talking, the more we’re talking I go, “I could do this.” I was going to mow at first but why mow it when you can sit in the back of the pickup or side by side and spray it.

It all depends on how often you’re there.

I’m going to be in Wisconsin for a month.

What date are you getting there?

23rd, 24th of October.

You’re going to be arriving at the end of October. That’s starting to get as far north as you are there, you’re starting to get close to the point where the rye might germinate, but you’re not going to see a whole lot.

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast

I can kill the grass, though.

You can kill the grass and you could seed it, as long as the birds and the turkeys and the other critters don’t eat it all. That will be like nature does in the fall. All the grasses and the weeds that are growing have seed heads. That will all fall to the ground and then the freeze-thaw cycle in the spring will plant those and nature will do what it’ll do.

If I kill in the fall, then it’ll be dead.

What you could do is spray it with round-up or glyphosate this fall and kill the cool-season grasses, which are still going to be chunking along. Those are the ones you want to get rid of anyways. You can spray those this fall, then in the spring while there’s snow on the ground mid-March, late March, we do what we call frost seeding. You would go in there and you would throw clover and chicory on top of the snow, on top of those roads. You’ve already killed everything under there.

As that snow melts and the frost is out in the morning, it melts off during the day. The ground expands when it freezes and contracts when it thaws every day. What that does as the snow melts is it brings your seed down into that soil that you’ve already prepped, you’ve already killed. What that is going to do is plant the clover and chicory for you. You can throw it out when there’s snow. You could throw it on when the snow is gone.

This might be a great situation for where you’re at, Bruce, you can spray it this fall and throw it on in the spring or maybe somebody else can. That way, by the time early spring comes around you’re going to have clover and chicory germinating embryo with no competition. There are a lot of ways to skin the cat, and it all depends on your situation, how often you can be there, what tools you have, what time of the year. There are a lot of ways you can do this, but that’s probably a good one.

We got 40 acres on a ridge, which we timbered and the trails go all the way through that then we got another cutoff trail that’s well shaded. If I can put food in there and then there’s another road that comes off there. I’ve got a couple of miles of road. The last couple of years, I haven’t done any work there but this time, I’m going to take the chainsaw. There’s one circular road that I’ve got a stand up in there and I need to clean that up, then I want to put kill plots in there. I’ll spray it and kill it all, then come back in the spring and then do the other stuff. That’s a plan.

I’ll tell you what, Bruce, I can hear your gears turning. I can tell you got the habitat bug already. I can hear you planning.

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2016, I was hunting sheep. Everything that I have had gone into sheep hunting. In 2017, I was rolled by truck and almost killed myself, so I didn’t hunt. In 2018, I was recovering. Finally, I’m back to where I need to be, my blood pressure is 110 over 70 or something. I’m in good shape. It’s not like, “I don’t think I could do that.” I’m going to do it. I’m wanting to do it. I talked to the farmer who I knew his dad. He said, “You can do anything you want within reason, just ask me first.” I’m extremely fortunate to have that relationship.

Talking about that, I know we’ve been talking a lot. That relationship started in 1966 and I’m still hunting the same farm in Wisconsin since 1966. That’s a long-term. We killed bucks back in 1966. That’s where I killed my first buck. I was within ten feet of a ten pointer and I had already killed his brother a couple of years back. I didn’t want to put him on the wall so I let him walk. I killed a lot of does. I shoot does every year and that’s easy. My best buck was a 130-ish, 140-ish. There are big deer. We get them on the trail cameras and we have a sanctuary right across the street. They go to the sanctuary, sleep, come on the farm and eat, then go back and forth. It’s interesting, but there’s always deer.

It sounds like a good setup.

It is, plus we have a river bottom on the other side of the ridge. We got a sanctuary that people can hunt. The homeowners hate it because all the deer lay in their yards and eat their plants. They won’t hunt them. We grow big deer, there’s no question about it. The big deer know what the heck’s going on. It’s interesting. We’re seeing more big deer. We’ve got one 150 already in the trail camera. He’s way outside his ears, a gorgeous buck. I don’t know if they got them open weekend. I didn’t hear. He’ll be there. I’m already in Wisconsin. I haven’t even elk hunted yet.

That’s easy to do, for sure.

Think about it. Some people go, “You’ll go elk hunting.” I go, “Yeah, I’m going to go elk hunting.” I’ll probably kill an elk. I’m more than 50% sure, I will kill at least a cow. Talking to you guys, I’m back on the farm, “If I do this, I do that.” What a business. It’s so much fun, it is.

That’s important for your readers to remember and anybody that’s getting into this habitat game is to keep it fun. It can get stressful, it can wear you down, you can get frustrated, fighting the grasses or having a tough year with a lot of rain or some drought. At the end of the day, you have to remember, think towards the future, have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re not doing this to grow crops for a living, thank goodness.

Most of us would fail, I would. I’d be out of business.

We’d be starving for sure.

Farming isn’t easy.

You got that right.

Many people think they can do it and some guys do a great job at it. There are some great companies out there that support the people. You two guys with Habitat Podcast are part of that. It goes back to the seed tag. I remember a company out in Nebraska. The guy said, “You got to learn how to read a tag first.” Everything you see in tag doesn’t mean there’s active seed in there, active ingredients that are going to grow. You got to learn how to do that. Big box stores only want your money. He worked it down and I wish I could work the formula and he said, “For this bag of seed, you’re paying over $6 to $7 a pound for seed. It’s like, “Really?” He said, “Yeah, because all this other stuff is nothing. It’s not going to do anything.”

That’s good advice to always remember that because the big buck on the front doesn’t tell the story of what the tag’s going to tell you.

You have to read the tag and fortunately for us all, the law requires they have to put the ingredients. If we didn’t have to do that, you’d be buying sawdust, in my opinion. Send your hate mail to WhitetailRendezvous@Gmail.com and I won’t respond.

You got to read that seed tag, once you get that make sure you do a soil test. You’ve killed off some of the competition. If you don’t spend the money and try to do it right, that way you’re not getting discouraged. It’s a never-ending work in progress. Some years are easier than others and some years are tougher than others. Although it keeps us coming back, if it was easy, we wouldn’t talk about doing it.

It makes us 365 days a year hunters and with Whitetail Rendezvous, I live deer hunting and I like to do all types of hunting, don’t get me wrong. I love nothing more than sitting on my stand. Maybe I will get back in the trees, I don’t know. In the last couple of years, I didn’t hunt. I did sit on the ground and still had some action. There’s something about being in deer woods that it’s great. When you grow the deer, you’re growing deer and year after year you see them grow up, like the ten-pointer I didn’t want to kill him because he was the same as his brother and I already had his brother on the wall. You pass a deer and all of a sudden you go, “That was cool. You’re spending time with the deer.”

You learn more about deer when you pass them and observe them or watch their actions, where they’re coming from, where they’re going, what they’re eating, and what they’re browsing on, their body language. You can learn a lot more about it when you pass them.

This has been so much fun. Let’s not let years go by before we do this again. I’ve got to call it into this dialogue, this conversation. We’ve been talking with Habitat Podcasts. Jared and Brian, tell them how to reach you guys, where to listen to the podcast and where to find you on social media.

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management Podcast

We are at HabitatPodcast.com, short and sweet. All of our episodes are on there, you can get links to any of our social media in there. We’re also on Facebook, Habitat Podcast, Instagram @HabitatPodcast, and YouTube, The Habitat Podcast. Feel free to reach out to us and pictures of the food plots you’re doing this fall. Your readers, feel free to send us questions or any of the projects you’re working on or some of the deer you harvest. We love this stuff. We love talking about it and we love doing it. We’re going to keep going. We are already starting the podcast. We keep hammering hard. We’re hearing good things and it’s driving us to go further. We appreciate you having us on here, Bruce.

You’re welcome Jared. Brian, any final thoughts?

A quick comment back to the checking the seed tag. Make sure that you’re taking the time to get together with a great seed producer or a seed company. We were bias, we like Killer Food Plots. Not only does Nick put together a great product. He has to have a seed tag on there, which we’ll show you, there’s no fillers. He also goes one step further and gives you the instructions on how much fertilizer to put down, how much lime to put down if you don’t have time for a soil test. I want to remind your readers to pay attention to details like that. If you’re going to spend the time and the money, make sure you do it right, don’t cut any corners. Have some with it and send us pictures and some messages and we’ll help you out.

Nick Percy’s a heck of a guy and he runs a great company. Killer Food Plots, check them out. There are other great companies out there that are doing the same thing as Nick is. Find somebody that you can work with and trust and go to work. The habitat part is the future of your deer herd. If you’re not investing in your deer herd, if you go into your land and not invest in anything, you’re missing more than half the hunt. Anybody can go on a piece of property and shoot a deer, but if you can grow deer, you can enhance the environment for the birds, the squirrels, the turkeys and all the other critters. In my thought, you’re being a conservationist and a steward of the land. That’s my final thought.

Thanks for having us.

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About Brian Halbleib

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management PodcastCo-Host of the Habitat Podcast. Born, raised and still in Pennsylvania. Lifelong outdoorsman brought up in the rich hunting and fishing traditions of Pennsylvania. Served as writer and editor for several outdoor publications, media director for the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania and even founded and published The Bowyer’s Journal magazine.

Currently the co-host of the Habitat Podcast. Own and manage 40 acres in NE Ohio and love hunting there and my home state. USAF veteran. Husband and father of two girls and one Labrador retriever.

About Jared Van Hees

WTR Halbleib | Habitat Management PodcastCo-Host the Habitat Podcast With 17+ years of hunting experience under my belt, almost 5 years of hunting guide experience, 5 years of professional film and photography experience as well as numerous companies that I have worked with in the hunting industry, I am ready for what’s next on this amazing journey!

Ready for a lifetime filled with memories, amazing views and the great outdoors with a bow in hand!