Start Now Creating Wildlife Openings
The presence of high quality wildlife openings can enhance your spring turkey hunting. Hens are attracted to these openings and bring gobblers with them.
As a general rule, you should have three to five acres of wildlife openings for every 100 acres of forest. If your area lacks openings, you may need to create new ones. Conversely, existing openings need to be maintained.
Inventory Existing Openings
Your first step is to inventory existing openings. Aerial photographs, easily obtained at your county highway department or property assessor's office, are indispensable tools for locating existing openings and access points for equipment. Aerial photographs and topographical maps are also handy for locating potential wildlife opening sites.
Take Note of Site Conditions
Not all wildlife opening sites are created equal. Wildlife openings should be established where insect production will be the highest. Look for sites that have good soil moisture and fertility. Sites near streams and wetland areas are excellent as long as they aren't too wet. Openings that become very dry during the early summer, or are low in fertility, usually will not promote succulent grass growth needed to attract an abundance of insects.
Test the Soil
Determine soil pH and fertility by testing the soil. Soil tests are simple and cost just a few dollars. Contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service officer or agricultural extension office for information on soil testing. If you cannot complete soil tests, a good rule of thumb is to add 250 pounds of 5/10-5 fertilizer and one to two tons of lime per acre. Remember, fertilizer is your biggest expense to plant openings. The soil test will not only save you money, you will get optimum growth for your planting.
Determine Opening Size/Shape
Size and distribution of wildlife openings is another important consideration. Opening size should range from one-half acre to 10 acres. Choose an opening shape that maximizes edge effect on the field border. For example, long, linear openings are better than square openings of the same acreage because it creates more edge. Wildlife openings should also be well distributed across the area. Several small wildlife openings well distributed across the property will benefit more turkeys than one large opening.
Remove Dense Cover and Thick Brush
Openings should not be surrounded by dense cover. Make sure roads leading to openings don't have thick brush along their edge. Thick brush will permit predators the opportunity to ambush young turkeys. In addition, create openings adjacent to mature forest with relatively open ground cover.
Use Existing Roads
Utilize existing roads, rights-of-way and existing fields as wildlife openings. These already cleared areas can provide quality, cost effective sites for wildlife openings. Daylighting roads by removing trees along the road's edge to allow more sunlight to reach the ground is usually necessary to enhance plant growth. Rights-of-way that have the necessary site requirements (soil moisture, fertility, etc.)provide the ultimate linear wildlife opening and can be improved by planting legumes. Existing fields can be improved by planting strips of legumes and other beneficial plants along the perimeter. Again, select portions of the field, right-of-way or pipeline that is adjacent to good turkey habitat and that have the proper soil conditions. NOTE: Obtain permission from right-of-way and pipeline owner before establishing opening.