By Bob Humphrey
For a hard-core hunter, the lull between the spring and fall hunting seasons can seem like an eternity. There’s plenty you can do not only to fill those hours but also to improve conditions for both game species and non-game wildlife alike. Here are a few ideas.
Spring turkey season is over, in some cases long over. Though your work is done, the birds’ has just begun. In fact, the next few weeks are critical in the life cycle of a young turkey. Many states use volunteers to conduct summer brood surveys, where you drive a specified route and count how many hens and poults you see. This information can be invaluable to state wildlife managers, and with short money and increased staffing cuts, the help is greatly appreciated.
Food plots aren’t just for deer. Turkeys use plots established for deer, and deer use plots established for turkeys. Both love clover. Even a small plot can provide food and cover for the turkeys — and a potential strutting ground for Ol Tom next spring.
The National Wild Turkey Federation’s Project H.E.L.P. (Habitat Enhancement Land Program) offers a range of habitat enhancement products including seed mixes, land management manuals and helpful videos. You can find a ton of useful information on managing habitat for turkeys by visiting their website at www.nwtf.com
Most of us don’t have the land or the wherewithal to build an impoundment. That doesn’t mean we can’t help to improve waterfowl habitat and production.
One of the easiest, and most rewarding ways is making artificial nest structures. Nesting season is over for this year, but this is a good time to build and erect houses and platforms just the same. The weather is nice and you’ve got the time. Put it off until next spring and you’ll probably forget about it until it’s too late.
Probably the most popular and recognizable structures are wood duck nest boxes. You can get a set of plans and instructions from the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/woodduck/wdnbox.htm
You can also build duck and goose nest platforms with plans from http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wildlife/ndblinds/mallard.htm or http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/wmh/13_2_12.pdf
Last but certainly not least, you can support organizations like Ducks Unlimited that work extensively to protect and enhance large and important waterfowl nesting, stopover and wintering habitat. DU is also a great resource for all kinds of additional waterfowl related information.
Check them out at www.ducks.org
Quail numbers are down throughout much of their range in the southeast, west and midwest so they need all the help they can get. There are many steps a landowner can take to improve habitat, some consisting of little more than modifying existing mowing or timber management cycles, or putting out shelters or “gallinaceous guzzler” watering devices.
Quail unlimited offers several resources including “Habitat Management for Bobwhites: a Basic Guide for the Land Manager” available on their website: www.qu.org
Grouse and Woodcock
Most of the improvements for grouse and woodcock involve managing habitat, particularly stands of aspen and alder, and establishing and maintaining areas of younger-aged and disturbed habitat. And much of the work can be done with little more than a chain saw. Tons of resources exist on specific habitat management practices, but a good place to start is with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s best Management Practices http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/grousbmp.pdf and the Ruffed Grouse Society’s website: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org