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Wildlife Openings Make a Difference if Properly Prepared

Do you want to see more wildlife on your property or lease? Then provide quality food and cover.

One effective way to attract and keep turkeys on your land is to construct and maintain wildlife openings, often called food plots. For various reasons, openings are popular with land managers throughout the country.

"Food plots are great, because they improve deer hunting by helping to attract deer to the openings, but more importantly, they provide critical habitats for many species of wildlife," said Bryan Burhans, NWTF Director of Land Management Programs.

Establishing and maintaining wildlife openings, however, can be expensive and requires some knowledge of planting and how to properly use farm equipment. And to make sure you yield the highest results from your wildlife openings, it's essential to prepare the seedbed properly prior to planting.

The size of the seed to be planted and soil moisture conditions are two primary considerations. First, seedbeds for small-seeded varieties, such as clovers, need to be as smooth and clod-free as possible, because small seeds lack the vigor to push through or around large clumps of soil. Large-seed varieties, like peas and corn, do not require as much precaution, because they have the strength to push through tougher soil conditions.

Preparing your seedbed

Soil that is too wet will create a hard and rough seedbed. Certain conditions, however, require tilling when the soil is wet. For example, when heavy weed growth is present, the best way to harrow it under is after a good rain. After the soil has lost some of its moisture, you will need to harrow the field again, to smooth out the soil and complete the planting.

When minimal soil moisture is present, preparing a seedbed will release the moisture needed to germinate the seed. The small-seed varieties should be planted very shallow, while the large-seed varieties need to be planted deeper to reach an adequate soil moisture. Be sure that the seedbed is not too loose, because seed-to-soil contact will be poor and the soil will not hold enough moisture to quickly germinate the seed.

Soil testing

Prior to planting any type of seed, test the soil to determine the amount of lime and fertilizer to apply — the soil test will take the guesswork from lime and fertilizer application and eliminate unnecessary effort and expenditures. Most forest soils are acidic and low in nutrients; therefore, additional lime and fertilizer are often needed to make your plants grow.

Contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office for assistance with soil tests, which are either free or inexpensive.

Fertilizing

Lime and fertilizer should be spread at recommended rates and worked into the soil with a disk or drag. It is best to apply lime and work it into the soil about six months prior to planting, because it takes a substantial amount of time for lime to react with the soil and adjust pH. Fertilizer can be applied either before or after the seedbed has been prepared, but ideally, it should be applied prior to preparation of the seedbed and harrowing fertilizer into the soil.

How to order

More planting information is available through the National Wild Turkey Federation's Project HELP (Habitat Enhancement Land Program). To place an order or receive a free catalog, call 800-THE-NWTF. Get in the Game, the NWTF's guide to attracting wildlife to your land, is now available on CD for $9.99 and is full of tips and tools to help you get the most out of managing your land. You can also visit Turkey Shoppe.

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