Deer, turkey seasons over, but management work continues

Red snapper rise to chum and make catching a breeze in South Timbalier 100 field.

When the hunting seasons end, many hunters leave the fields and woods, and never look back until next fall rolls around. For them it’s off to the lakes and rivers, baseball fields, NASCAR tracks or whatever gets them excited now. There are too many fish to fry to be worrying about deer and turkey. They will worry about them when fall rolls around.

This is unfortunate because the spring and summer months are very active times for deer and turkey. What happens during these months can spell success or failure for hunters next season. Good habitat management work now can certainly increase the chances for success next fall and spring.

Turkeys are nesting and eggs will soon be hatching. Does are pregnant and, in the early-rut areas, will be birthing fawns in May and June. Bucks have shed their antlers, and by May the new antler growth for next year is under way. Those feral hogs that everyone is talking about are rooting up habitat and producing more hogs.

It is definitely an active time in the fields and woods, and while the fish may be biting, a little management work during the next five months can pay big dividends next season.

In the fields and food patches, the winter grasses are making seed heads. Crimson clover has flowered and produced seed, and the white clover is also flowering. The arrowleaf clover that I mixed in with my fall seed mix is being heavily eaten by deer and, unfortunately, feral hogs.

I noticed heavy browsing in a patch at Camp David during the turkey season, so I set up a camera one evening. The next morning, I had a photo of a big pregnant doe. Two days later I got photos of several hogs stomping and feeding through the patch. I thought the sign I was seeing was a little too much for one doe. I have seen hogs before feeding on cowpea plants, browsing plants just like deer.

Control of feral hogs is a big topic these days at most wildlife seminars, and controlling feral hogs is a year-round activity. I will start baiting again in May with plans to try and shoot them at night using a shotgun and buckshot, which does not require a permit from LDWF.

The clover in the patches will provide the bucks with some high-quality protein while they are growing their new sets of antlers. Now would be a good time to do some summer patches and provide the bucks with some extra nutrition.

Legumes such as peas, beans, partridge pea and Illinois bundle flower are good forages to try. Perhaps mix the seed with sorghum, sunflower or millet that will be beneficial to turkey and quail. Deer will eat sunflowers, and if you didn’t reduce your herd as needed last fall, your patches may get eaten up without doing you any good. The hogs that you should be doing something about may also cause you problems unless you are working on reducing their numbers.

Now would be the time to do a spring browse survey and look at your native browse and utilization. Information from the survey could answer some questions regarding your growth and development trends produced from the data you collected from harvested deer.

You did collect harvest data last year, right? If you didn’t then there is no way you are managing your deer herd. If you have some sort of buck-harvest program using antler restrictions and you don’t collect harvest data, you are just wasting time and money. How can you make decisions regarding what to shoot or not shoot if you know nothing about your growth and development trends?

Now is the time to either establish mineral sites or recharge your old sites. While deer get most of their minerals from the food they eat, providing minerals at various locations across the landscape does attract deer and, over time, perhaps does some good.

Mineral sites are great locations to set up trail cameras and monitor the deer herd. Don’t just use salt; use a mix that has good calcium and phosphorus and different trace minerals. Does need sodium for milk production and will be regular visitors to the sites. After the fawns are born and begin moving around, they will visit the sites with the does. From what I have observed, buck visits are sporadic. Photos from trail cameras will provide some useful documentation regarding fawn/doe ratios and body and antler growth.

Turkeys respond positively to habitat work, especially work that helps increase productivity. A hen may lay a dozen eggs, but if she successfully produces two to three poults, LDWF considers this good production. Hens use wildlife patches prior to, during and after nesting. They will eat the clover plants and the seeds produced by the winter grasses along with insects associated with the patch.

Poults are primarily insect eaters, but if the field is too thick for them to walk in and catch bugs, they are in trouble. Now would be a good time to clip some strips and perhaps do some fallow disking and give them open areas where the hen can take them to feed. Any help you can give the turkeys to boost the number of poults per hen will pay off big dividends in future years. As Yogi Berra might say, if you want a lot of turkeys you have to have a lot of turkeys.

Now would also be the time to do some timber logging on your land; thinning plantations or making small clear cuts will provide forage and cover during the late summer and into fall. It will also provide some good hunting opportunities.

About David Moreland 240 Articles
David Moreland is a retired wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in rural East Feliciana Parish.

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