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Seedbed Prep Vital to Wildlife Opening Success

While good roost areas and water are important for a wild turkey's survival, so are permanent openings in the forest. Openings provide areas of food and cover for adult birds, as well as excellent bugging areas for poults during the spring and early summer. But these areas must be maintained to provide maximum benefits and that starts with planting a quality seed mixture.

The Turkey Gold and the Southeast Spring Strut and Rut mixes, available through the National Wild Turkey Federation, is an excellent choice for planting openings during the spring. This annual mix grows quickly to provide food and cover throughout the summer, fall and early winter. This mix should be planted in the spring or early summer from March 1 through June 30. This mix will grow well throughout the U.S.

"One step often skipped by first-time planters, which is the most critical, is preparing the soil properly," said Andy Adams, NWTF wildlife biologist. "It is best to have the soil tested, then apply lime and fertilizer according to the recommendations."

Soil testing, in the long run, will save you time and money. The test is simple and inexpensive. Soil sample kits from your county Extension office or the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office are usually available for about $5.

The soil sampling process itself is simple. To collect samples, follow these steps:

  1. Take your samples in the fall.

  2. Fill out the sheet that comes with the kit.

  3. Take a sample of the soil at plow depth, or at least six inches. You want to take at least five samples of soil for each five acres of field.

  4. Mix the five samples together and let them dry before mailing.

  5. Place one cup of dry soil in the provided container or a one-pint plastic bag.

  6. Label the bag with your name and number that references the field you took the sample from.

  7. Record the sample location on an aerial photo or sketch of the farm, and keep for your reference. (NWTF's CD-ROM, Get in the Game, has a great mapping program you can use to do this.)

  8. Make sure the soil information sheet is placed in a separate first-class envelope attached to the sample. You should ship the sample per instructions from your county agent.

Avoid sampling areas near fences, eroded knolls, lime, sludge or manure piles, dead furrows or back furrows, animal droppings, low spots and rows where fertilizer has been banded. In general, do not sample any area of a field that varies widely from the rest of the field in color, fertility, slope, texture (sandy, clayey, etc.), drainage or productivity. Sample the atypical area separately if it is large enough to receive lime or fertilizer treatments differing from the rest of the field.

In the absence of a soil test, apply 1,000 pounds of lime and 100 pounds of 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 fertilizer per acre. Using the proper amounts of lime and fertilizer will maximize plant growth.

Planting your opening

The seedbed should be prepared by plowing and disking. The seed should be broadcast at 25 to 35 pounds per acre and covered to 1/8 inch using a drag or disk. For best results, lightly compact the soil using a roller or drag. Mixtures like the NWTF's Southeast Strut and Rut mix is an annual one, so you need to replant them each spring.

How to order

A wealth of 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 or click here. Get in the Game, the NWTF's guide to attracting wildlife to your land, is now available on CD-ROM for $9.99 and is full of tips and tools to help you get the most out of managing your land.


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