Longleaf's Musings


Active Member
I really enjoy everyone's property tour threads and I've always put off starting one of my own. So I'm going to try to do better about upping my game.

I'm like a lot of the rest of the group in that I'm trying to figure out how to balance a lifelong love of the outdoors, with a young family, demanding job and the usual tribulations that keep us on our toes.

Unfortunately I'm not among the "landed gentry" at this point, but that is of no bearing to my interest, or desires. Whether I'll be able to convince my wife to invest in dirt remains to be seen, but until that day I've been able to carve out a niche working with other people's property. It is a risky proposition for obvious reasons. I have lost several tracts of land over the years with some ownership transitions and development, but at the present I am fortunate to have two tracts to work with.

Blue Granite is the name of a farm I lease with a couple other guys in the piedmont region of South Carolina. The name comes from the bedrock in the area. Several outcrops are evident on the property and I'll try to get a few pictures up as some of them have yielded some pretty cool Indian artifacts. 700 acres in total the farm is made up of ~300 acres of plantation loblolly pine, ~300 acres of mixed natural pine, hardwoods and some clearcut. The final ~100 acres is food plots, roads, a duck impoundment, two fish ponds and some misc. barn/pond house areas. The western border of the property is the Little River. A stream that goes from 15 yards wide and ankle deep during most of the year to 200 yards wide and 30-35' deep during the massive flooding we had in 2015.

It is about 35 minutes from my driveway to the front gate. I first visited Blue Granite in January of 2012 and instantly realized there was a tremendous opportunity there. Blue Granite has been my first opportunity to jump head first into habitat management, food plotting etc. and it has been a gradual process. In the early years the land owner was reluctant to permit anything other than planting a few plots. As time has gone on she is gradually warming to some ideas about timber harvest, prescribed fire etc.

Anyway, enough of all the background on Blue Granite for now. The other tract is 20 minutes in the opposite direction from my driveway and is a totally different habitat. I'll get into more detail on that later in the thread.

Here is an overview of Blue Granite showing some the boundaries and road network.



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Early on, planting food plots was the primary focus of my habitat efforts. Blue Granite has about 12 acres of cleared food plots including one large 7 acre field in the SE corner of the property. Those first soil tests I pulled were eye opening to say the least. Only the big field had been limed previously. The other plots tested the way a lot of other piedmont soils around here do. Not exactly going to become the bread basket of the world in this stuff!

So the first order of business was lime. Lots of lime. The lime truck managed to get to all but one plot. The one he couldn't get to is a small 1/4 acre plot that I spread pelleted lime on the following spring.

I had planted plenty of food plots previously, but this was the first time I really had a chance to do it "right" so I spent a good bit of time reading up on the old QDMA forum. That is where I stumbled on the wealth of information from Paul Knox and his Lick Creek rotations. I was convinced he had hit on exactly what I wanted to do. I just needed a way to stretch his rotations across our long growing season here in SC.

I realized that a lot of my old pictures were lost with a computer crash, but this has been one of my many learning experiences. Trying to find what (if anything) can handle our summer heat and drought along with high deer pressure on some of the smaller plots. This was Alyce clover that was broadcast into the LC mix at the beginning of May. I mowed the rye, oats and clover tops down on top of the Alyce in an effort to not till the ground. By mid-August it looked like this. Surprisingly there was a good bit of Alyce present but not treating the grass and fleabane certainly didn't make for a "pretty" plot. IMG_2202 (600x800).jpg
I mentioned that I lease this place with a couple other guys. They are good friends and we have shared a lot of memories over the years. For various reasons none of them are as interested in the habitat side of it as me. One guy has plenty of interest he just directs it towards other land and uses Blue Granite (BG) as an occasional spot to stop in for a hunt while he is traveling the area as a consulting forester. When I asked him about his thoughts on food plots his response was simply..."whatever you decide to do I think you will find clover to be the backbone of a successful food plot program up here."
I couldn't argue with him and despite some pretty rough soil conditions to work with, I have managed to have some success with a few different clover plantings.
Of course there is no magic bullet in any of this. What looks like this at the beginning of April. IMG_1947resize.jpgTurns to this just a month later when the rains are slow to come and the mercury climbs into the mid 90's every day.IMG_2060 (600x800).jpg
As I'm going back through some of the older pictures I am reminded of encounters I've had along the way. I pulled into a plot in the middle of May a few years ago intent on spraying the grain and clover portion of the LC Mix that I wasn't too impressed with how it had done in the sandy ground along the river. While I was taking this picture...IMG_1986 (600x800).jpg

I realized my lab was chasing a hen turkey. It took a second by I quickly realized the hen was acting injured and doing her best to keep the dog's attention. I called my dog back and put her in the truck. I figured there had to be poults somewhere close by and within a few minutes I found this doing exactly as moma had instructed...be quiet and don't move no matter what.
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I wish my kids listened this well!
The irony of the situation was I was disappointed in this plot and planning to spray in preparation for planting chufa. I have no idea what became of this little one and I'm sure if it survived it would have enjoyed some chufas in this very spot, but I was reminded that my timeframe and opinion of habitat is not the most important opinion.
Speaking of kids - I have to say that one of the reasons I have developed such an affinity for this place is because of the hours I have spent introducing my two boys to the outdoors here. There have been a lot of firsts, and I hope a lot more yet to come.
Owen's first buck - 1/1/15. He was 8 in this picture and the boy has had a fire in the belly since day one for the woods and water. He shot this deer at 10:20 AM coming across a saddle. We had been in the stand since first light with the Little Buddy heater running wide open. I had told him if he could hang tough long enough I was pretty sure we'd see deer. He hung in there and fortunately this buck kept me from having to eat my words that day.

We spent the night in the barn the night before Youth Day of turkey season a few months later. We roosted a couple birds, sat around the fire and read a little out of the Tenth Legion and then tucked in for a restless few hours. It took a little while but he finally got the full show when a pair of 2 year olds came in strutting and gobbling at 20 yards.

He is about to put me in the poor house with his taxidermy bill though. A few weeks ago he killed this buck. This made the 3rd year in a row he killed a good buck on the last day of the season. We were watching 3 other small bucks and he was visibly disappointed none were "shooters". Suddenly this one stepped out of the cutover and I gave him the green light. 17 3/4" spread, 180#. My guess is this one will age at 4.5 based on what I've seen with other bucks from BG. I sent the incisors off and should get a report in a month or so. They aren't midwest giants by any means, but its about making the most of what you have.
This one is the one I worry about. He's 4 years younger than his brother and he's wide open. He doesn't do anything that he isn't laughing and having a blast. This was his first time going deer hunting. I shot a doe that evening and let him put the coup de gras on it with the Red Ryder. He was the big man of the house for weeks!

I got him out of school early one day after taking his brother turkey hunting all season and stuck him right on top of a bream bed. Many worms gave their life that afternoon.
A 5 gallon bucket with some bream beats a television set any day!

I'm pretty sure it doesn't get any more fun than making memories like these!
Back to the habitat discussion though. This is an example of the pines. These are ~30 year old loblolly pines. They have been thinned twice but other than that no other management.

This is one of the top things I want to see change. The problem is the mid-story has filled in so thick that very little sunlight makes it to the ground. If it did make it to the ground there is no way for forbs and grasses to germinate through that duff layer. This is what happens in the southeast when fire is excluded from piney woods.


This is a picture of the average condition of the pine canopy. It's not too bad even though a light thinning wouldn't hurt, but of course what sunlight gets through this doesn't get through the mid story.

Compare that to the pines on the other tract I help manage where we burn on a 2-4 year rotation.


Not exactly an apples to apples comparison because of site index, soil conditions etc. but not out of the realm of possibility for BG.

It's a process though. I have made a lot of headway with the landowner since the beginning. I finally met with her forester 2 weeks ago to lay out some burn areas.
Well Longleaf, I can already tell this should be another great tour to tag along on. You are blesses to have access to that amount of property! Great job getting the boys into the outdoors...the smiles on their faces say it all. PS, not bad bucks at all in my book.
So when you start working with a piece of land it seems like the more you do the more there is to do. I have to make lists each year of what I want to do. No list ever gets completed and most lists get reworked a time or two during the year.

One of the things I noticed about the big field was how open the woods were all around and especially directly across from the main entry point to the field. I have posted a little about my frustrations with trying to screen it but one thing I finally did check off the list was some edge feathering along a 200 yard stretch of the field.

This was a before. A turkey or deer could be 50-75 yards back in the woods and still see everything going on across the field.


This is 2 years after. The main thing I learned is I can be a lot more aggressive in cutting. It seemed at the time like I had done a lit, but I realize now it could stand a lot more.



Alright. That's it for tonight. More to come.

I have had a dozen DPs and a dozen MB 550s sitting in the box for 3 years and this year I am finally getting around to giving it a try. This morning my two trigger men were excited to get up and go check the traps after a few close calls yesterday. Fortunately we had one taker on the coon traps but still getting duped by the coyotes.
Well, I bet the smile on your face is as big as the boys'. Good for you getting them involved in nature, and Dad. Right after his first child was born my son sent me a letter of appreciation to Dad. He thanked me for introducing him to the outdoors, backyards and baseball fields. Keep 'em active!
The more pressing goal though is to get started on the burning at the second tract of land I am working with. Rainbow Plantation is very different habitat. Much of the area is in longleaf pines that have historically been managed with a focus on quail.

This afternoon I started working on some firebreaks in some of the heavier rough in anticipation of burning over the next few weeks.


Dang, you guys are killing me with all these land tours. I can't keep up with them all. Excellent tour here and love seeing the kids out enjoying our sport. Hoping one day you have your own but looks like you are doing a great job on this lease.
Thanks for sharing
Lakngulf that is good stuff about the thank you letter. I tell you though, I owe them a huge thanks as well for letting me share the things I've come to love with them.

It is like getting to go back and relive my childhood all over again. Of course there are some of "those" days as well, when they make you pull your hair out!

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Settin' The Woods on Fire!

I have to admit it is hard not to enjoy letting your inner pyro out.

We burned about 20 acres of the wooliest rough today. Fuel moisture and relative humidity were on the upper end of the prescription but given the rough it provided a little extra safety margin.




Fairly happy with the end result.

This is really what you want to see on the base of hardwood saplings after the fire. The rupture comes from the rapid heating of the stem and the moisture within. This sweetgum has gone on to the great cutover in the sky! The roots though...well we can always hope!


With only a few more wooly areas to tackle we can then look forward to a little easier conditions in the coming weeks.

I don't mind burning some of my stuff but as a firefighter I hate this time of year.Call after call of fighting wildland fire started by people that think they have it figured out
I don't mind burning some of my stuff but as a firefighter I hate this time of year.Call after call of fighting wildland fire started by people that think they have it figured out

Yeah I'm sure you do end up seeing all sorts of crazy stuff.

It is a great tool, but it is definitely one that can get somebody hurt very quickly or cause a lot of damage.

While the flames are obviously dangerous, the smoke is what ends up worrying me more. In fact I just got back from one last patrol to make sure I didn't have smoke laying down on the road somewhere.
Thanks for sharing! It's awesome to see your kids so excited! I'm hoping to get my son out turkey hunting this spring. He will be 6 in May. I'm going to try to get him comfortable with a crossbow, but even if he's not the shooter I hope he'll go with me.

My daughter is 2 and both of them love fishing. I just hope they enjoy hunting as much .

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