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Summer Wildlife Management Checklist

By: Kent Kammermeyer

About six years ago, forage specialist Roy Deason and I hatched up an idea to publish a 3-year calendar with a month-by-month checklist of wildlife management activities. This publication was called the Wild Game Pocket Planner. It would easily fit in your back pocket, the dash of a pickup truck, or any other nook and cranny. The first one began in 1998 and was a joint venture between Pennington Seed Company and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division and the second one was continued exclusively by Pennington, expiring in 2002. They were handed out for free by the thousands until they disappeared. I would venture to say that all players would agree that this Pocket Planner has been one of the most popular, informative, timely, handy, and exclusive publications ever produced.

This article is based on that publication and will outline an activities checklist for June, July, and August. So, you folks thought you were going to take off the whole summer from anything to do with deer or wildlife? Wrong! The list is longer than you think and will keep you busy for most of the summer if you should decide to take this assignment. Besides, even though it’s work, most of it is fun, too.

Why do we need to do this kind of stuff in the summer? For deer, native woodland vegetation is “hardening off” after a spring growth spurt. Plants are in more of a reproductive mode going to seed or fruit which often won’t be available until fall. As a consequence, both protein and digestibility of vegetation are on a downward spiral all summer long, while cellulose and lignin rise. A vigorously growing leaf which measured 13 percent protein and 60 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN) in May, could easily slide to nine percent protein and 50 percent TDN. These are below optimum levels for antler growth, doe lactation, and fawn growth. So, while late winter is the primary stress period for deer and other wildlife in most of the country, late summer comes in a close second and must be addressed by serious wildlife managers. Here is the summer monthly checklist calendar.

(All numbers in parentheses are pounds per acre broadcast).

  • Plant warm season food plots for deer and turkey.

    Of course, this depends on what you did or did not get done in April or May. If you are running a little behind, then the following is still appropriate for June.

A. Grain sorghum (7) with aeschynomene (jointvetch) (15)
B. Alyce clover (10) with aeschynomene (15)
C. Grain sorghum (7) with corn (5)
D. Grain sorghum (7) with iron clay peas (25)
E. Grain sorghum (7) with Lablab (10)
F. Chufa (50)
G. Swedes (a long season turnip) (2)
H. Browntop millet (25) with cowpeas (25)
or iron clay peas (25)

The basic premise of the above mixes goes back to the time-tested practice of mixing grasses (corn, sorghum, millet) which are heavy nitrogen users with legumes (aeschynomene, alyce clover, peas, beans, Lablab) which are nitrogen producers. The legumes are very compatible with the grasses as long as the taller grasses are not planted so thick they shade out the companion legumes.

If possible, use bird resistant grain sorghum varieties to help keep migrating flocks of blackbirds from wiping you out in August and September. Do not worry about the deer and turkeys not eating the seed head, which has increased tannic acid to make it bird resistant. As the seed head stands in the fall weather it gradually looses some of its acidity and becomes more palatable. Another note before we move on, if you have a high deer population and small fields — less than two acres — ditch the peas, beans, and Lablab because they will surely be overgrazed and killed rather quickly by the deer.

  • Plant warm season food plots for quail or turkey.

A. All of the above except Swedes.
B. Browntop millet (30)
C. Egyptian wheat (10)
D. Grain sorghum (10)
E. Corn (5-10)
F. Soybeans (60) (in large fields)

  • Plant dove fields.

A. Browntop millet (25)
B. Dove proso millet (25)
C. Grain sorghum (10) (yellow or white endosperm)
D. Black oil sunflower (25) (Perdovik)
5. Striped sunflower (40)

  • Plant for ducks.

1. Corn (5-10) on prepared seedbed
2. Grain sorghum (10) on prepared seedbed
3. Rice (25) on wet mud or water less than
six inches deep (Bengal).

  • Mow perennial food plots as needed for weed control or turkey brood rearing.

Young turkey broods prefer short fields, and older broods prefer taller fields for foraging. Mowing encourages renewed vigorous growth which produces high insect populations. When mowing for turkeys, start in the center of the field and mow concentrically outward toward the edge. This will help protect any late nesters and beneficial insects that form a large part of turkey poult diets.

  • Get soil tests for fall food plots.

Of course, this does not apply to anything that has been recently planted and fertilized unless you are pretty sure that the pH is low and you don’t need fertilizer recommendations. Contact the local county extension agent for soil test bags and instructions.

  • Apply lime according to soil tests.
    (If you got your stuff done in June).
  • Go fishing, take a break!
  • Take a vacation with family (grab those brownie points and kitchen passes with spouse).
  • If you really want to and you are way up North, plant Brassicas.
  • Plant cool season food plots for deer and turkey (except in the Deep South).

    (All numbers in parentheses are pounds per acre, broadcast).

A. Ladino clover (5), red clover (8), and wheat (50)
or oats (50).
B. Ladino clover (8), perennial ryegrass (20)
or timothy (5) (all except in the Deep South).
C. Crimson clover (15), hairy vetch (15), wheat (50)
(in southern half of U.S.)
D. Arrowleaf clover (10), crimson clover (15), oats (30),
wheat (30) (in southern half of U.S.)
E. Birdsfoot trefoil (10) (in northern half of U.S.)
F. Brassicas (4-6) (rape, kale, or turnips)
G. Chicory (10)
We do not recommend planting oats in the North in the fall. Even when fall-planted in the South, select cold hardy varieties. Also, see your local agricultural extension agent for clover varieties best adapted to your area.

  • Plant Japanese millet in drawn down-duck swamps.

A. Japanese millet (30) on freshly drained wet mud flats.
This is appropriate in early August in the lower two-thirds of the U.S. Japanese millet has a 45-day seed maturity. Restore water level in October.

  • Mow perennial food plots as needed for weed control and new growth renewal
  • Mow reseeding annual food plots as needed for seed-to-soil contact that will facilitate germination of new stand (Crimson clover, red clover, arrowleaf clover, ryegrass, or even oats).
  • Mow, rake, and bale dove fields.
  • Begin mowing strips in dove fields two to four weeks prior to opening day.
  • Mow additional strips weekly. Lightly disc previously mowed strips to expose bare ground.
  • Prepare soil for September plantings, which will be virtually the same as those recommended for August.
  • Freshen existing mineral licks.

Put 25 pounds of pure loose-bagged salt in each hole. This can be done in July or August. Make sure this is legal in your state. Studies have shown that salt (NaCl) leaches downward in the soil much faster than calcium or phosphorus, which should still be available on the surface of the lick from your previous mineral application back in March or April. Fresh salt will encourage deer to uptake more calcium and phosphorus.

A sneak peak at September shows more of the same plus fertilizing Japanese honeysuckle with 150 pounds per acre of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0). Also, fertilize and lime perennial food plots for deer and turkey.

Finally, if you do all of this, you will be “up to your ears” in deer, turkey, and small game within a couple of years. Consequently, you will have to pay even closer attention to your doe harvest and not let your deer population get out of hand. Food plots described in this article not only attract deer, they grow deer — bigger deer with better antlers. Good luck with your deer management program for the summer of 2003 and beyond.

Kent Kammermeyer is a senior wildlife biologist for the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. Kent received a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Connecticut and an M.S. in Wildlife Biology from The University of Georgia. Kent was named “Wildlife Biologist of the Year” in 2000 by the Directors of the Southeastern Assoc. of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.