I really thought I would get an early start on a little dove field this year. All during turkey season, I began to cut down the bermuda grass field in front of my house. When it finally got warm enough to spray, I hit it with Roundup a couple of times and cut it with a chisel plow. I did not, however, anticipate the amount of root mass that balled up in the soil-like shag carpet.
As a result I didn’t get the seed in the ground before our ever-present drought reared its ugly head. I took a chance and planted in the rain this past week. Maybe the sunflowers will be ready in time for dove season and maybe they won’t. We’ll see.
Now that turkey season is over, it’s time to take a turkey inventory. Now that it’s legal, I have put corn back in the feeders and placed cameras in front of them. The idea is to attract as many turkeys as possible and try and figure out if the lack of birds I saw this season was just one of those things or if the birds I saw during turkey season have fallen victim to other factors. I’d like to see a good mix of Toms, hens and poults. The little birds have been absent from my place for quite a few years now.
I believe the coyote factor cannot be underestimated. I know that the studies at the Savannah River Plant are concluding that possibly 80 percent of fawn mortality can be attributed to coyote predation. Surely, it is just as easy for the little wolves to lay in wait for a turkey to pass by a narrow opening and ambush it.
I read somewhere recently that when a turkey hen is wet, she is 10 times more vulnerable to predators than when she is dry and doesn’t give off as much odor. I believe I also read than when she is sitting on a nest and gets wet, she is 100 times more susceptible to predators as she is easier to smell and less likely to abandon her brood when a fox, cat, raccoon or coyote comes calling.
A couple of friends helped me put out some new deer stands a month ago while it was still relatively cool. I find that it is much more pleasant to put out stands or move them in the late winter or spring. First, the disturbance doesn’t really alert the deer as much after the season. Sure, they realize that something is amiss but forget it long before the season comes back in. Even though they initially shy from it, they soon forget the stand as a threat. Also, it is just more pleasant to work in the woods before the ticks, poison ivy and mosquitoes really get going. Also, it is easier to remember exactly where the deer were frequenting and the openings where you saw them before the heavy foliage obscures these trails in the summer.
I’ll let you folks know about how those little sonic rat devices work in a couple of months. I went to hook up a cutter on my tractor the other day and the dang thing wouldn’t start. I opened the console and a family of rats had totally destroyed my wiring harness. That’s going to be expensive. Of course, I ran out and bought every anti-rat thing I could find. I now have mothballs on the engines, those little sticky traps in the consoles, and these electrical buzzing devices under the hoods of my tractors. If it works, I’ll spend the hundreds of dollars necessary to repair the harness. If not, I guess I’ll just have to move the tractors to another location. I’ve been very careful not to put food sources anywhere near the equipment since my last rat vandalism; but apparently they just chew the wiring because it’s a convenient thing to make nests out of.
Speaking of bush hogs, I’ve found that it saves time and a lot of chemicals and fuel to keep the food plots mowed during the summer. By keeping the weeds shorter, it leaves a lot less thatch to deal with in the fall when it’s time to cut, spray and plant. It also is easier to burn low thick stuff than tall thin plants like dog fennel and broom straw.
I’ve given up on planting summer food plots. The sandspurs need constant attention and you just can’t kill them in a growing food plot. I have found that even though our wildlife populations are more stressed in the summer months of the South, a good source of water near natural food sources seems to help and hold them better than just planting cow peas every week or so (which is about how long peas last on my place irregardless of the size of the planting).
I firmly believe that you reap what you sow in life. That can be extended to life among wild creatures. Working the land to benefit them and keeping equipment up in order to do so soaks up much of my free time. Sometimes, as in the case of this year’s turkey season, the results are not very evident. Sometimes, though, when you witness those who are new to hunting or fishing light up with a successful moment, you share in sense of accomplishment.
Even sitting in the truck and seeing a covey of quail feed by where there were none 10 years ago makes it all worthwhile. That’s why we do it. That’s what we can leave behind.
Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat for more than 25 years.