Midwestern hunters wad through fields of native warm season grasses in pursuit of gobblers. Bluestem, Indiangrass, eastern gamagrass and other native warm season grasses provide great nesting, brood rearing and escape cover for wild turkeys. Native warm season grasses are also an essential part of a healthy prairie grassland ecosystem.
Warm Season Grasses VS. Cool Season Grasses
Native warm season grasses grown in thick bunches with an open structure between grasses, which leaves a maze of alleys and paths beneath the grass canopy and allows free movement within the stand. For those reasons NWSG provide prime nesting sites, excellent escape cover and effective brood rearing habitat for a variety of gamebirds and grassland wildlife species.
Cool season grasses such as fescue, Bermuda grass and Bahia grass have a thick mat of ground cover making it almost impossible for any small, newly hatched birds to maneuver through.
Habitat resulting from native warm season grasses is favored by game and nongame birds, small mammals such as rabbits for foraging and escape cover, and larger animals such as deer for bedding and escape cover.
Native warm season grasses may be the foundation of a grass stand, but whether planted by humans or by nature, there are other key players that make it a healthy habitat. Important food sources such as broadleaf forbs, legumes and insects exist within the native warm season grass ecosystem.
The spaces between the clumps of grass are where the bare ground and forbs exist, which allow grassland wildlife to access and forage throughout the stand. Grasslands, and the insects that live there, attract birds from sparrows to wild turkeys. The abundance of food makes for easy pickings, especially for wild turkey poults.
Not to mention, native warm season grasses have deep root systems of 10 feet or more, making them some of the most drought tolerant grasses. And plants with deep roots reduce soil erosion and runoff.
Warm season grasses native to the area easily adapt to the climate and soil and require little to no irrigation or fertilizing once established. What’s more, their stands can last 15 years or longer.
Plant them Properly
The closer the native warm season grasses are to forestlands or shrublands, the better for wild turkeys and all gamebirds. Small stands are the best, about one to five acres. For wild turkey management, it may be good to plant several acres of native grasses around food plots and openings between the managed forests and plots.