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2/8/16 – Spring wildlife management

Meaghan English – TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Now that deer season is wrapping up in the South, it is time to start thinking about spring planning and other spring activities! Whether you chase the infamous long beard or not, there is always something to be doing during the spring and early summer months. I, personally, cannot wait to start chasing turkeys but I also know that turkeys aren’t the only ones that need to eat in the spring. With that being said, there are three extracurricular activities to do this spring:

  • Late Winter Burns
  • Spring Planting For Turkeys
  • Spring Planting For Deer

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Late Winter Burns

Late winter burns are a key management tool that will benefit both deer and turkeys. A controlled burn allows the land manager to get rid of all the unwanted “clutter” along the forest floor. The fire will burn up all the useless woody vegetation, replacing it with fresh, green forage that is palatable to deer, but most importantly turkeys. The burn replenishes the soil and drives the insect population up, as well as the amount of available forage for turkeys living among the timber. A lot of people ask why they saw so many turkeys in the winter, but they are nowhere to be found during the spring. The answer is quite simple: in the winter, all the useless woody vegetation in the understory is dead and brown, therefore the turkeys can still somewhat see and move around. Come spring time, those plants/trees are starting to green up and in turn, hinder a turkey’s sight as well as its mobility. Controlled burns work best when you work in ½ acre blocks (as to not burn up important brooding habitat) and rotate those blocks on a two to four year cycle. The burns will produce the perfect turkey habitat, as well as deer habitat. The new growth will be at deer’s height by the time fall rolls around, keeping the deer from leaving your property during the spring. Late winter burns kill two birds with one stone, especially if you are a deer and turkey chaser.

Spring Planting For Turkeys

The next important spring activity is planting for turkeys. Some people are not interested in this because it is extra work on food plots, but it is definitely worth it. Many warm season forages are great when it comes to planting for wild turkeys. Chufas are among the most preferred warm season forage. A chufa is a sedge with an underground tuber system, or underground stem system, which makes it a hardy source of vegetation. However, everything with a heartbeat and a mouth loves chufas. It is best to plant chufas in large quantities so that turkeys and hogs and whatever else may pass through does not dig up the plant before it is able to fully germinate. Chufas are also very tough on the soil, therefore it is best to rotate them every two or three years and cover the plot with a clover or other perennial in the winter time. A legume would be best so that it can repair the soil during the winter and replenish all of its nutrients. Even if you do not want to spend the extra money for spring food plots, just disking or burning the food plot will allow native vegetation to poke through and sometimes, that is enough to keep a few birds around through spring.

Spring Planting For Deer

On the other hand, deer don’t just disappear after hunting season. They need loving too! They also need food. Along with turkeys, spring food plots will also keep deer from migrating to another tract of land. Deer, especially does,  need more protein in the spring and early fall than any other time. Food plots can be used to provide the exact nutrition a deer needs during spring months. For example, lactating does require a lot more protein during the spring months than any other month. Legumes, such as cowpeas or clover, are perfect for providing the pregnant and lactating does with this protein. Protein is also very important to newly dropped fawns and they will also benefit from warm season legumes. If managed properly, spring food plots can persist through the spring and summer months and provide the deer with certain nutritional benefits that will keep them on your property, as well as keep the overall herd health from failing. There is a second benefit to spring food plots; hunting for sheds! This is one of my favorite things to do during turkey season. It is much easier to do if you give the deer a reason to stay on your property all year long. Food plots also make the shed finding process much easier. They now have “enclosures” that allow deer to stick their heads through an opening that is surrounded by fencing. The goal is that the deer will snag his antler on the fencing, causing it to fall off right then and there. You may also be able to train your dog to find them for you. I had high hopes for my yellow lab, but I have quickly learned that a deer would have to drop a shed in the living room for him to find it. However, spring food plots are very important to the success of your hunting property!

Turkey season is not the only season that is upon us! Shed season is here, spring planting season is here, and burning season is here! You may not know exactly what you want to plant and that is okay. Mossy Oak Gamekeepers has an awesome planting guide, www.gamekeepersclub.com/images/document/plantingguide.pdf. This guide will help the landowner decide which forage is best for the land. It may be a good time to start soil testing if you haven’t already done so. Auburn University has a great soil lab and will provide a complete diagnostic test of everything present or lacking in the soil. If soil testing isn’t desire, I will spotlight important warm season forages and provide fast facts on each plant, including what kind of soil or soil region they succeed best in.

By: Red Clay

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