It's prime time to start planning for future hunts

Friday, July 26, 2002

As summer slides into August, we still have weeks of heat and humidity ahead of us. Even though it is hot now, it's time to look ahead and plan more than just this year's hunts. That great fall weather and all the outdoor activities that go with it are just around the corner.

This is time for gathering gear, regular sessions on the bow, contacting hunting buddies and taking care of those managed hunt applications. The smart hunter does more than put a new string on the bow and clear shooting lanes around a few stands. Many of the land management practices you can do to enhance wildlife habitat can be completed in the fall, but planning ahead helps finish fall wildfire management items with less worry and cost. This leaves more time to enjoy the cooler weather and the outdoors with your family.

Keep it flexible

I recommend a flexible approach to managing your resources. Get information on wildlife management and talk to the professionals in your area to help identify local conservation concerns. Take a look at your property and ask yourself if there are any of these items needing attention. Erosion, unhealthy forests and some unwanted plant species such as Kudzu are all examples of poor influences on your land and property values. Any of these concerns should be your first priority.

Next identify your goals for your property. Ask yourself questions. Do I want to increase my deer numbers? Would I like to jump a couple more rabbits this winter? Or do I simply want to see a healthy forest? Is it time to convert that old pasture into something a little more friendly for wildlife? Conservation officials can help you determine goals.

The best way to avoid being overwhelmed by the wide variety of advice and literature is to simply decide which practices you have an interest in and make a list of those practices needing completed in the spring, those in the fall and those that could be done year-round. Before every fall and spring check the list and ask yourself if there is anything you need to complete.

Fall plantings in wildlife openings can create habitat and provide food. A mix that does well through the fall and winter is a simple blend of clover, orchard grass and winter wheat. This can be hand broadcast directly over a lightly disked field. Drag the field after broadcasting to help cover the seed. A good time to apply this mix is the middle of September through early October. The cooler weather is a good time to take a soil test and apply fertilizer and lime.

Do you have an old field? They make great homes for all kinds of wildlife by providing food and a place to escape weather and predators.

Late September and early October is the time to mow your fire lines for a spring field burn. Avoid the temptation to mow down any other tall weeds and thick areas. The weeds and brush are vital to wildlife.

Ground disturbance on these old fields is essential to produce the conditions under which small animals thrive. The best way to do this is disking. Disking helps fulfill almost every life requirement of quail. It is useful for establishing food strips, creating borders around fields, installing fire lines or simply setting back older vegetation and renewing a set of different species. Light disking thins the vegetation and encourages many plants beneficial to wildlife.

Old fields should be broken up by disking in strips. Strips should be 20 to 30 feet wide and placed at intervals of several hundred feet. Each fall disc about one third of the total field along the hill contours.

Avoid disking where problem species such as Johnson Brass and Cocklebur might occur.

Need for trees

Would you like to plant trees? Successful spring tree and shrub plantings start in the fall. Mow or spray 5-foot strips in the area where you will plant if there is thick vegetation or thick grass. This will help the seedlings next spring by reducing the competition with the plants already growing on the area. Choose what species you would like to plant and make your tree order in the fall.

This helps the nursery you choose to deliver the kind of trees you wish to plant. Fall is nice weather to cut firewood. You can improve your wood lot by cutting the poorer growing trees. This allows healthier trees to grow better and faster by providing more sunlight, nutrients and water. The regrowth of young sprouts in the new open area will provide food and cover for the wildlife. Cut in one place for a while then move and work on another area for a time. This spreads out this newly created habitat across your forest. With little effort you can overseed your woods roads, pastures and power line easements with clover.

Remember, summer is time to plan more than just this autumn's hunts.

Information is online at www.conservation.state.mo.us/landown, or contact your local conservation offices at 290-5730.

David Hasenbeck is the MDC private lands conservationist for Wayne, Iron and Reynolds counties.

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