Never too early to prepare for deer season

By Brian Albert Bloom/The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON — With deer season behind us, many outdoorsmen are looking ahead and focused on getting their boats ready for warmer days on the water catching bass and crappie. But some say now is a great time to get some things done in preparation for next deer season.

“We are getting into the prime burning time of the year,” said Bob Griffin, a certified wildlife biologist. “If they have pine stands, they may want to do some prescribed burning.”

Griffin said that burning helps rid property of the less desirable plants and opens up the understory. By removing some of the ground litter, burning stimulates new growth.

“The growth that comes back is highly nutritious and palatable,” said Griffin.

While most hunters tend to think of food plot planting as a fall job for hunting over during the season, Griffin says summer plots are very important.

“They tend to forget that late summer is a real stress period for deer in the Southeast,” said Griffin. “We’re fixing to have a green-up and that is great for them, but in the hot, dry months, it is gone.”

Griffin said soybeans are at the top of the list for warm weather plantings, but also said cow peas work well, too. One of his methods includes planting a mix of sunflowers and cow peas, which will vine up the flower stalks.

Before starting to disc the winter plots under, take a look at them. Griffin said that if the plot is still producing, particularly if there is a clover component, hunters should avoid “cleaning the plate.”

“There is no reason to plow up a perfectly good plot,” he said.

Bronson Strickland, Extension Wildlife Specialist with Mississippi State University, said now is the time to get soil samples tested for fall plots.

“Spring is a good time to address low pH by adding lime,” said Strickland. “This gives it more time to get into the soil.”

Strickland said a proper pH level enhances forage growth.

“The more we grow, the more deer can eat.”

In order to maintain lush growth, Strickland said a soil test should be done about every two years.

For hunters planning to add more plots in the coming season, Strickland recommends clearing and discing now. He said this allows debris to decompose before planting and provides healthier growth.

Food plots for supplemental feeding aren’t the only ones that could use some help.

“There some natural food plots,” said Griffin. “Dewberries, greenbriar and honeysuckle — these are three of your staples.”

Griffin said hunters should take advantage of these natural browses and give them a taste of 13-13-13 fertilizer.

Habitat management for wildlife goes beyond fertilizer and green fields.

Strickland said this time of year is when hunters need to get serious about trapping hogs. Until spring brings new growth, food sources are at their lowest point and hogs are competing with whitetails and other native wildlife for the remainder. Strickland said that shortage makes hogs respond to baited traps better than other times of the year.