Fall Land Management Tips You Can't Ignore
Managing wildlife habitat often takes a back burner to sitting in a deer stand during the fall, but autumn improvements bring big benefits once spring turkey season rolls around. Break out the chainsaw and roto-tiller and head for your hunting woods with these fall-season wildlife-habitat improvement suggestions from NWTF's conservation biologists.
"Many folks plant food plots only during the late summer in preparation for the fall hunting season, but fall is an important time of year for managing your land." said Bryan Burhans, the National Wild Turkey Federation's director of land management programs. "If you don't work on your land during the fall, you won't be able to maximize the potential of your wildlife habitat."
Below are three fall management musts for those serious about improving the quality of their land. You can learn more about managing your land for wildlife by watching Get in the Game, the NWTF's newest T.V. show, on the Outdoor Channel, Fridays at 9 p.m., Tuesdays at noon and Thursdays at 3 p.m., EST., or by visiting the "Conservation" section of the NWTF website.
Plant Cool Plants
Fall is a great time (and in parts of the deep south, the only time) for planting cool-season plants like clover, winter peas and wheat. These plants need cooler weather to take hold; they will whither and could die if planted during warmer summer weather. Cool-season plants grow actively in the fall, winter and spring and provide a food source for wildlife during these seasons. Clover planted during the fall also makes great spring habitat for insects, high protein food that composes 90 percent of a young turkey's diet.
Burn Baby Burn
Late fall brings the best weather for prescribed burning. The season's low humidity, cooler temperatures, more predictable winds and other atmospheric conditions give managers greater control over these burns.
Prescribed burns clear away the brushy understory common to most unmanaged forests and allow more light to stimulate the growth of wildlife-friendly grasses and forbs that can't tolerate shade. Opening the understory also makes it easier for turkeys and other wildlife to keep an eye out for predators. An added benefit: the ashes left by fire release nutrients into the soil that fertilizes spring growth.
Always check with your local fire department and state forest commission before attempting a burn. If you are not experienced at prescribed burning, contact a professional to assist you. Your forest commission will point you in the right direction.
Lime Now for Spring
Soil chemistry may be the most important factor governing the productivity of your land, but many soils are too acidic for wildlife friendly plants. Spreading lime raises the soil pH, but it takes time for the lime to adjust this chemistry. Most plants need a neutral (or slightly basic) soil chemistry (a PH value between 5-7) to absorb nutrients efficiently (visit Land Management Tips to read up on soil PH). You should spread lime in the fall to allow it enough time to cause a pH change so that when spring rolls around your plants will be ready to grow.
If you don't already have one, buy a pH testing kit (you can buy them from NWTF's Project HELP catalog here).