To have an abundant and healthy wildlife population three things are essential-food, water and cover. The quality of each of these elements contributes directly to size, numbers and range for many species of wildlife. And although Mother Nature does a great job supplying these needs, there are ways to improve wildlife habitat that will benefit everything from songbirds to trophy whitetail deer.
Over the past few years rural land has rapidly decreased in size in many states, yet many sportsmen have seen an increase in numbers of trophy whitetail taken by bow, muzzleloader and gun. While part of this success is linked to restrictions on the number of antlered bucks that may be harvested per hunter, there is another card being played, now more than ever before. It is called wildlife management.
Previously seen only on huge ranches of one thousand acres or more, managing property for wildlife is now being performed on tracts of just a few acres. One may ask, “How can these small tracts make a substantial difference to wildlife?” The answer is in the numbers.
Sportsmen across America spend millions of dollars each year planting seed, trees and shrubs for wildlife enhancement. Ray Scott of Alabama founded “The Whitetail Institute” in 1988 and opened the eyes of many hunters to the benefits of planting ladino clover in an effort to support higher numbers and better quality of whitetail deer. It was soon recognized that turkey and other non-game species benefited as well. Scott marketed his blend of clover seed under the name “Imperial Whitetail Clover” and to this day it remains one of the top choices for wildlife food plots. Clover is a perennial plant (thriving for two or more years) and grows best when planted in early fall. Spring and early summer is the favored time to plant annuals (plants that live for one season).
Companies such as The Whitetail Institute and Texas based Tecomate Seed Company offer warm season seeds supplying much higher protein than found in native plants. While natural browse may offer protein at levels of approximately 10%, warm season plantings such as lablab and iron-clay peas offer as much as 20-30% protein. Also, native browse will produce roughly 100 pounds per acre while a properly prepared food plot can produce 10,000 pounds of forage per acre.
Randy enjoys putting on a pair of Wrangler Upland pants, then beating the brush looking for sheds. Planting warm season food plots help provide nutrition, cover and bedding grounds for small game, turkeys and big bucks. They are also great places to look for sheds come spring.
Sportsmen can choose between several warm season plantings that benefit wildlife and may be purchased by the bag or by the pound at local feed and seed stores. One favorite that is easily found, produces high protein and is relatively inexpensive is soybeans. Average cost is approximately $15.00 per bushel (60 pounds) and it is a good idea to plant at least two bushels per acre to prevent overgrazing during early growth. A great wildlife mixture readily made is 60 pounds soybeans, 2 pounds browntop millet (or sorghum), 4 pounds sunflower seed and 4 pounds lablab per acre. When mature, this mixture will attract everything from songbirds and doves to turkey and deer. The soil must be thoroughly disked and clean of grass with seed covered at a depth of 1/2 inch. Utilizing a soil test to determine lime and fertilizer needs will enhance production. If no soil test is available, utilize 200-250 pounds of 17-17-17 fertilizer per acre.
Many organizations are dedicated to wildlife conservation and several offer discounted seed prices to members. The National Wild Turkey Federation has distributed over 25 million pounds of corn, soybeans, milo, wheat and sunflowers to its members through the Conservation Seed Program. Local chapters receive the seed for the cost of shipping and handling. For info call 1-800-The-NWTF or on the web go to www.nwtf.org.
Late May through June is the time of year that whitetail does give birth-often to twins, bucks are growing new antlers and young turkeys hatch and begin searching for grasshoppers. Planting warm season annuals along side perennials such as clover is like opening a no charge 24- hour buffet.
When the hot days of summer come, just look for a large shade tree a couple hundred yards back, then bring out the lawn chair and a quality pair of binoculars. Those dog days of summer can be spent enjoying the fruits of your labor while watching wildlife party ’till the sun goes down.
For more on wildlife resource management be sure and catch The Management Advantage each month right here on bowhunting.net.