The dream of owning private hunting ground is getting harder to realize, given the costs and growing scarcity. Headhunters T.V. co-host Randy Birdsong and a small group of other hunters, however, made that dream a reality when they purchased a large property in southern Missouri.
In the southeast portion of Missouri, big deer are not as common as in other parts of the Midwest, such as northern Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas. Since purchasing the Missouri land three years ago, Birdsong and the other landowners have become determined to beat the odds by dedicating hours of work to their piece of property called ‘The Raven.’
“Our goal from the beginning was to turn The Raven into one of the premier whitetail properties in southern Missouri,” said Birdsong. He explained that they have been able to restructure its entirety into hunting grounds that will grow big mature deer. Over the past two years, their efforts have begun to pay off, with some incredible deer being harvested and the potential even looking better.
To document their work on The Raven and help educate other hunters on how to build and manage whitetail property, Birdsong helped develop The Raven Project, a video series available on Waypoint TV. The action-packed episodes feature everything from land development, deer camp life, hunting lifestyles, and of course, the hunts themselves.
One of the most significant transformations The Raven Project has made is significantly increasing the number of food sources. “When we purchased The Raven, one hundred percent of the land was standing timber,” said Birdsong. “The deer had no food except for the yearly acorn crop and natural browse. One of our biggest goals from the beginning was to get as much food available as possible, because food is everything.” He later stated that in the first three years of The Raven, they created approximately eighteen different food plots, equaling nearly sixty acres in food.
The amount of work required is unimaginable when raw timber land is turned into available areas for crops and food plots. After clearing the ground, they built up the soil and packed it with the extra nutrition needed to establish lush food plots. Although Birdsong admits all their plots are imperfect, the majority have gone from rough timber to lush, green food sources that allow deer to maintain better health, and bucks to grow larger antlers.
One of the most rewarding food source establishments that Birdsong’s crew created is the clover program. “We try to establish our clover plots during the fall; by the following spring, they will be where they need to be,” explained Birdsong. Some of their clover plots are now two or three years old
As many hunters are busy during the spring with turkey hunting and everyday life tasks, they often fail to maintain their clover plots. Birdsong said that during the spring of the year, extra moisture and the lack of hunters spraying herbicides can create weeds and undergrowth, taking over their clover plots. If not maintained, some clover plots need to be replanted yearly. This past spring, Birdsong began in mid-April by mowing down his clover plots and taking care of weeds before the growth boost kicked-in. The lusher clover, the more it naturally chokes out the weeds.
Birdsong explained that it benefits deer when clover plots flourish in the spring. When bucks lose body mass and strength due to the rut in November and the natural effects of surviving the winter, having lush green clover available provides the boost needed to regain their body composition. The more high-protein food available, such as clover, the quicker the bucks' recovery time, often resulting in better health and more antler growth the following year. Birdsong said that a quality food source such as clover also provides does with the extra nutrients needed before birthing fawns.
As for the future of The Raven, Birdsong said that everything has been established; now it is time for fine-tuning, such as keeping their clover plots in the best shape possible. Over the past year, Birdsong and his team have significantly impacted the quality of bucks on The Raven.
“During the first and second year of The Raven, we knew we wouldn’t see much impact, but in years three and four, with more nutrients available, the age structure and buck to doe ratios have improved,” said Birdsong.
Even though Birdsong and his friends have harvested tremendous mature bucks, especially for southern Missouri, he is confident that this coming year will be the best.