Dr. Grant Woods has a simple name for the Missouri property he purchased several years ago. "I call it'The Proving Grounds,'" he says. "I know that whatever I can accomplish here will work anywhere, because I started from almost nothing." Woods isn't exaggerating; shortly after buying 1,500 acres in the Ozarks, he walked his land thoroughly. He counted 11 deer tracks and saw one whitetail." It was worse than public hunting land," he recalls. "Neighbors were grazing their cattle there, I had to destroy meth labs and the timber was nearly useless to wildlife. The place had just been used and abused."
Never one to shirk from a challenge, Woods rolled up his sleeves and set to work. "One of the most basic needs was to simply create more habitat," he says. "The property was filled with cedar 'glades'. These undesirable trees—which offer no food or browse and consume tons of water—take over when an area is overgrazed and not exposed to fire. So we cut down close to 500 acres of cedars with chainsaws, pushed them into piles and burned them. It was hot, exhausting work, but these areas have now grown native grasses that are prime bedding for whitetails, and nesting cover for turkeys, quail and songbirds."
And Woods' chainsaw work didn't end with the cedars. "We have an extensive Timber Stand Improvement [TSI] project that's ongoing; we've battled locust trees and other undesirable species that have no benefit to wildlife." Naturally, working on TSI and other projects requires a Side x Side designed to get the job done, and the Polaris® RANGER XP® 800 is the ideal vehicle. The generous cargo box (36.5"L x 54"W x 11.5"H)* can store necessary tools and gear, and the bench seat can carry up to two passengers in total comfort.
Naturally, creating food plots was an integral part of Woods' management plans, but again he faced a daunting challenge. "There is no topsoil here," he chuckles. "And I'm not exaggerating. You cannot take a soil sample because you'll find rock literally inches deep. I had no idea how I was going to plant anything until I talked to Gaylen Kropf, who told me about humifed compost, which is like the compost you read about, but with good bacteria in it. I now haul that in by the truckload and spread it on the areas where I want food plots. I've been amazed by the results—I'm growing 195 bushels of corn and 70 bushels of soybeans on top of rocks. that's saying something on ground so thin you can't use cultivating equipment."
Woods has devoted lots of time and expense to create a road/trail system that allows access to his food plots and hunting areas. "There are some severe hills here," he says. "So much so that when I hire someone to bring in lime or fertilizer, there are simply places that they will not go."
Of course, Polaris® owners would recognize such trails as the perfect place to run their new RANGER XP® 800. The 760cc EFI engine is capable of handling the toughest terrain, and 12 inches of ground clearance and an independent rear suspension with 9 inches of travel insures a smooth, comfortable ride.
"Working on this place—where I also live—is a year–round commitment that I both love and take seriously," Woods says. "I have more food plots planned, more cedars to burn and more TSI work to do. And there are additional trails to be made, as well as wildlife ponds and a host of other projects. But seeing the improvements here has been gratifying. The wild turkey numbers are better than I could have imagined, and there are bobwhite quail now that were not here before. And, of course, the deer."
Oh, yes, the deer. Woods' work on marginal ground has turned a wasteland into paradise. "There has never been a Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett buck registered in this county, and we have bucks living here now that would make both books," he says. Our trail camera surveys last fall indicated 79 bucks that call this place home, 15 of them pretty big. This farm has taught me many things, but one of the most important is: If you build habitat, you can make a major difference in both the amount and quality of deer that live here."
*Models approved for sale in California are limited to 600lbs. cargo box capacity (rear–payload capacity per CARB classification), and 1,100lbs. total vehicle payload.
The Polaris Sportsman® 850 XP
Sportsman XP Facts:
- 850 SOHC Twin EFI Engine
- Available Electronic Power Steering
- Legendary Smooth Rolled Independent Rear Suspension (IRS)
- Superior Ergonomics
The Polaris RANGER 800 XP®
Ranger 800 XP Facts:
- New! 800 Twin EFI Engine
- Available Electric Power Steering
- Dual A-Arm Front Suspension
- Legendary Smooth Independent Rear Suspension (IRS)
Deer Management Archive
- How to Judge a Trophy Buck's Potential
- Kick-Starting Your Management Plan
- Mapping Your Whitetail Hunting Paradise
- Conduct a Herd Monitoring Profile
Deer Population by State
Weekly QDM Tips
Prep for Winter: One quality many properties lack is an absence of prime winter cover for deer. Plant conifer (evergreen) trees like pine, spruce and fir to provide the thermal cover whitetails love during the cold months. State game agencies usually sell seedlings of such wildlife-friendly trees for a very nominal cost, and they can usually be ordered in bulk quantities.