While fishing is good this month, there is much to do in the fields and woods to get ready for the fall season.
Last month, I wrote about the excellent browse conditions around the state due to the abundant rainfall we had in March and April.
The rains continued across the state in May (the last week of May was very wet), keeping the native growth lush and growing.
I did notice that the hotter temperatures in May zapped the soil moisture fairly quickly following a rain, so it did not last as long as it did in April.
Because of the abundant rainfall, this might be a year to forgo the summer plantings for deer and rely on the groceries being provided by Mother Nature. Doing this would save you some time and money, and perhaps keep you on the water during your weekends rather than being on the tractor.
While clipping on the tractor in my big field, I saw the hogs had visited a couple of water oak trees that produced acorns this past year but had not been eaten during the fall and winter.
Hogs had eaten all around the trees, gleaning the last of the 2014 nuts; just goes to show that the wildlife know where the feed trees are, which is all the more reason to spend time scouting for potential hunting sites during the off season.
Scott Durham, LDWF deer biologist, told me that while collecting deer for their current reproductive study on bottomland sites they found deer still eating striped oak acorns.
Deer and other wildlife greatly benefit from an abundant mast crop. So between the acorns this past winter and the excellent browse this spring and summer, deer growth and antler development should be very good over the summer — and hopefully that will produce a quality crop of bucks for this fall.
There really is not much new when it comes to deer plantings and new forages. The cover of one of the popular deer magazines highlighted a story about new deer forages, but it turned out to be an article about planting corn and soybeans and just leaving them to stand in the patch during the winter for the deer to eat.
The idea was that, since farmers are growing corn and soybeans and harvesting them prior to the deer season, deer hunters who planted corn and soybeans and left them standing would attract the deer that had been using the harvested fields.
A novel idea, but one that is not too practical for the average deer hunter planting small plots that are often eaten up before they produce a crop. And, with all the raccoons and feral hogs in the woods, I am not sure a small patch of corn would have much of a chance.
The clover and chickory I planted last fall were still providing quality forage in my strips in early June.
Peas and beans provide good nutrition for deer during the summer, so these legumes should be the focus of your plantings for deer.
Jointvetch, bundle flower and partridge pea are also good forages to incorporate into deer plantings. I mixed some purple hull peas in my sunflower strips that I planted for doves; deer will eat the peas and sunflowers, the Moreland family will eat some peas and, hopefully, there will be sunflower seeds for a dove hunt.
Jointvetch is fairly easy to grow, and responds well to clipping, just like clover and chickory. I had clipped a site that I usually plant with sunflowers each summer, but the white clover came back so well that I just left it. No need to plow up good forage with the hopes of producing another crop that might or might not happen.
Clover and jointvetch also respond well to reducing the grass competition.
The no-till method of planting is a good technique to help preserve soil moisture, but it is not good for all seeds. Those like peas and beans need to be planted in the soil and not just spread on top like you can do with most grass and clover seed.
In the fall, I will usually clip a site, let it dry and then when the soil moisture is good for plowing, I till it up to make my seedbed.
But for seeds that germinate on top of the soil, one can skip the plowing step, and sow the seed and fertilizer and wait for the rain. Watching the weather and preparing the ground and planting just prior to a rain will make for good germination.
While summer plantings might not be necessary for deer this year, I always recommend planting for turkeys and quail. These upland game birds respond well to habitat plantings, which provide feeding sites for seeds and insects, and — if left over the winter — provide cover as well as food.
If your hog population is low, you might consider planting some chufas for turkeys. Chufa tubers are planted in June; the plant itself looks like a grass and produces more tubers during the growing season that will be available to the birds in the fall and winter.
The chufa patch can be plowed up in early spring to attract turkeys for the hunting season — and it’s a legal crop to hunt over.
Of course, if you have plenty of hogs, you probably do not want to waste the time planting chufas, unless you fence the pigs out.
I had gobblers still strutting in May and got the first photo of a turkey poult on May 5. I got really excited on the 26th when I flushed a hen and a dozen poults in a millet strip I planted just prior to the turkey season. They flew up out of the strip just like a covey of quail, and some of the young ones flew as high as 20 feet into the trees and landed.
When poults can fly their chances of survival greatly increase.
I did find a dead poult at the base of a sawtooth oak; not sure what killed it, but it just goes to show what a tough time turkeys have reaching adulthood. All the more reason to do whatever we can to help them be successful and increase the turkey population.
Spending time reducing the surplus population of predators is another way to pass the time in the fields and woods during the off season.
However, before you strike out, you need to read the hunting regulations for how and when these nuisance animals can be legally taken — which is about as confusing as the regular hunting season rules, and some of them do not make much sense.
Raccoons and opossums are two critters that are over-abundant and can do much damage to nesting turkeys. However, a real dog is needed to take them at night. These animals readily come to hog bait sites, and that offers an excellent time to reduce their numbers — but, again, a dog must be with you to do it at night.
There is really no reason not to allow them to be still-hunted at night; I don’t think landowners and hunters who lease land are going to be shooting their deer during the off season.
Crows can do damage to the landscape and the wildlife. They eat eggs of nesting birds, and will even eat the young birds. They also do much damage to fruit trees (they love our blueberries), eat up planted seed, as well as grain put out for other wildlife, and they can be a health hazard.
Some well-to-do influential crow hunters worked to establish a season on these pests, and now you have to jump through hoops to shoot them during the off season when they are depredating on everything. And a person has to use non-toxic shot, which really does not make sense; you can shoot small game on your land with lead shot, but to take crows on the same property one has to use non-toxic shot.
Pigs and coyotes are other animals that can be taken outside of the regular hunting season, but one must know what is and is not legal before going out.
One of the worst nuisance animal in my opinion is man’s best friend — the old yard dogs that owners allow to roam around during the day. I am all the time getting photos of dogs on my trail cameras, and I have no idea of where they came from or who they belong to.
A study in East Texas years ago found domestic dogs allowed to run around during the day were really creating problems for the deer herd. Free-roaming dogs are a problem that needs to be addressed, but one must use discretion when solving the problem.
We live near Highway 10, and this busy highway with its heavy truck traffic works well in reducing their numbers. No need to poison the hot dogs — just scatter them out along the highway and let the 18-wheelers roll on.
Of course, I am kidding, but these dogs are a problem for landowners and wildlife. However, one is pretty much on his own in trying to solve this problem.
The South Louisiana Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association will be hosting an education seminar concerning white-tailed deer at the LDWF Office on Quail Drive on Aug. 6 in Baton Rouge, so mark your calendars now for it.
Topics will include the latest management and research work being conducted in the state. Look forward to seeing you there.