Category Archives: Wildlife Management
Check out this cool article featuring Patriot LWM Outdoors Director of Product Sales, Adam Korman, also owner of EDEN Habitat Development, the tri-state provider of habitat improvement services for Patriot. Some misquotations but still an interesting article, enjoy!
Wildlife food plots can improve your chances of shooting a quality buck
Sunday, September 18, 2011
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a 2 1/2-acre corner of a Westmoreland County farm last week, signs of deer were everywhere. Trails led from the surrounding woods into a long plot of turnips, winter wheat and oats, planted for the deer. Prints were scattered among the clover and alfalfa, and 6-foot sorghum stalks were brushed aside where the whitetails had passed.
As we walked the field, agronomist Adam Korman’s cell phone beeped. A motion-detector field camera emailed a photo showing real-time evidence of activity on the property — it was us.
Counter-intuitively, perhaps, Korman’s hunting group uses food plots to nourish and attract deer so they can shoot them, reducing the farm’s deer density.
With at least one neighbor keeping hunters out, the deer population on the 118-acre farm had soared and the owner suffered years of substantial crop damage. Korman, 34, of Westview and a private group of hunters were given an exclusive lease to manage the deer herd. They post the perimeter, chase out poachers, plant and maintain wildlife food plots, cull excess does and scrub bucks, and hunt for mature males with the best racks.
Korman said his group spends $500 a year on lime, fertilizer, soil test, seed and fuel for motor vehicles, and each member’s chance of harvesting a quality deer has increased by 60 percent.
Saturday, Korman dished out the dirt on food plots during a workshop at the Pymatuning Waterfowl and Outdoor Expo in Linesville, Crawford County. His company, Eden Habitat Development (www.edenhd.com), works with landowners, municipalities, hunters and wildlife management groups to nourish wildlife including white-tailed deer, grouse, quail and pheasants.
“We work as consultants and do the dirt work, but we found there is a demand for food plot consultants among people who basically want to do the work themselves,” said Korman. “Maybe they have no idea what to do, or what they’re doing isn’t working. We get them to the next step.”
Whether the food plots are planted as long-term habitat improvements, nourishment outposts or wildlife attractants, the ultimate goal is a better hunt. In most cases in Pennsylvania, luring game animals to baiting stations is illegal. But in the regulatory parlance of the Game Commission, attracting animals to food plots is not considered baiting.
“Food plots are considered a normal habitat improvement and are legal as long as they are planted and left standing in a natural condition and not manipulated,” said PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser. “For example, a landowner could plant a corn field or a sunflower field and leave it standing in a natural condition as a wildlife food source, and that would not be considered baiting. However, if the corn or sunflower was manipulated by mowing or chopping to create an unnatural concentration of grain on the ground, it would be considered baiting and illegal.”
Korman said planting wildlife food plots “isn’t an exact science” and more research is necessary. But much is known about enhancing nourishment for wildlife.
Step 1 in initiating a food-plot program is a deer density survey using trail cameras. Compare the deer population to acreage and other conditions to determine the size of the food plot. Situations vary, but when Korman’s group started work on the Westmoreland County land, it held about 35 deer per acre. Density is going down — Korman said they’re working toward a goal of 20 deer per acre.
“On the properties I consult for, I show them the math,” he said. “Say you have 700 acres. You need 5 to 10 percent of that property to be in some kind of field or forest enhancement program. . . . For a farmer trying to take his deer population down, anything would help, but he really needs at least a couple quarter-acre diversionary food plots to make a difference.”
“Diversionary” plots legally attract deer for hunters. Korman recommends planting a variety of choice plants surrounded by tall sorghum — the cover makes skittish deer more comfortable while feeding.
“Without the cover, the deer get in the habit of feeding nocturnally,” he said. “When the deer get used to eating in daylight hidden by the sorghum, it makes it easier when we go hunting. I get about 40 to 50 percent more daylight feeding activity when the deer feel more protected hidden behind the sorghum.”
What to plant?
• Clover provides good nutritional enhancement for deer. “It grows in wet areas and has a really good coverage rate once it’s established,” Korman said. “It provides a lot of protein for big antlers and body weight.”
• Alfalfa is more finicky and harder to grow, requiring more intense pH manipulation. “It’s more work than most guys are willing to put in, but it has a long tap root and is high on calcium and protein.
• Chickory has a long tap root and is considered a valuable draught-resistant element in a wildlife food plot, providing high calcium for better lactation and antler growth.
• Sorghum, or Egyptian wheat, looks like corn and grows as tall, but produces seeds instead of ears. The deer eat the seeds when they fall, and the tall stalks provide cover.
• Winter wheat can be planted in September. Establish the soil pH at 6.5 to 6.8 and till a half inch. Depending upon the amount of rain, winter wheat will sprout in a couple of weeks and remain green through winter.
• Turnips are a high-protein food source that gets better later into the year. “Once you get two or three frosts the sugar level goes up,” Korman said. “When winter hits, they’ll have a source of carbohydrates when they need it most to put on fat to stay warm.”
There’s one turnip caveat: After three years in the same ground, turnips can turn the soil toxic. It’s important to rotate your food plot crop.
What not to plant?
• Corn. “The Game Commission has done necropsies on deer and found they starved to death with bellies filled with corn,” said Korman. “At certain times of the year, deer don’t have the proteins in their stomachs required to process the nutrition in corn. They’re eating, they feel like they’re full, but if they’re eating mostly corn and not other things they starve to death. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s because people put out corn for deer at all times of the year. It’s like you’re eating nothing but Frosted Flakes and wonder why you got diabetes.”
• “Rye, timothy and most grasses are the worst thing to plant for deer,” he said. “Deer don’t have the correct enzymes to break down grasses like cattle do. They eat it, but they get no nutritional value from it.”
John Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming off another record season last year with over 400 deer donated to the program, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development Agricultural Services Division has announced the continuation of the program for the 2011-2012 hunting season. All needed information is on the below flyer, please print this information out and pass it along. We are looking forward to another great season thanks to the help of Montgomery County’s hunters!
Reposted blog from our sister company, Patriot Land & Wildlife Management.
In an effort to better educate our customers and let them see into our world, Patriot LWM will begin to release video blogs outlining projects we have been working on and things on the horizon.
Here is a short clip of a beaver management technique for a property where the owner decided to utilize trapping as a damage mitigation technique. Beaver damage was experienced on many trees in the property’s creek watershed area which allowed waters to rise into the neighboring agricultural fields.
Check out some members of the Patriot LWM Crew as they volunteer their time as part of the Western Chesapeake Watershed Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association. 2 seperate events were mentioned in the June / July 2011 issue of Quality Whitetails, a publication of QDMA. One being the first WCWB Lecture Series and the other being the 2011 Maryland NRA Show, both spreading the message of Quality Deer Management.
Check out this article about warm season food plots from Patriot LWM Outdoors own Joe Brown as seen in the May 2011 issue of Woods and Waters Magazine.
There is a lot of hype about seed in the hunting world today. Attached to this hype are a lot of hunting celebrities claiming to use the “best” or “most potent” seed available. Unfortunately, they seem to change their sponsors and types of seed more than most folks change their underwear.
Recent studies have shown that deer prefer to eat crops from fields that are well taken care of. This includes proper amending of soil and weed control. No matter what seed you’ve decided to use, how much money you’ve spent on seed, or who’s telling you they have a superior product, your efforts will always fall short of their potential unless you have a strong foundation. I believe if we have a greater understanding of the soil we place our seed into, the deficiencies in the soil, and how to amend the soil properly, we will begin to meet and even surpass the goals we set as food-plotters, along with cutting overall costs. We will begin to see an increase in crop yield, have better tasting crops with more natural sugars and proteins, see more water and nutrient retention in the soil, as well as regulating the soil PH. This will lead to better transferring of vitamins, minerals, and other needed nutrition to the animals eating our food plots.
Two of the main ingredients that make up our soil are weathered rock and decaying organisms; both play a huge part in its composition and function. Rocks are weathered both physically and chemically. Blowing sand, water, temperature, and pressure are all a part of the physical weathering process, where the rocks are broken down with no molecular change in the minerals. Chemical weathering however, does change the molecular composition of the minerals. The number one enemy to minerals in soil is a process known as hydrolysis, which is a chemical reaction in which a compound reacts with water to produce other compounds. Rain absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air as it falls, resulting in the production of a weak carbonic acid that is then transferred from the rain to the mineral filled soil. In the past, acids only came in contact with soil from the respiration of CO2 from living organisms. Perhaps ancient statues provide a clearer understanding of the effects of hydrolysis. These statues did not show very much degradation until modern industries began producing large amounts of smoke, resulting in sulfuric and nitric acid in precipitation. Hydrolysis is the reason minerals are so depleted from the soil in many parts of the United States.
For this reason I am a strong proponent of mineral sites and using products that help correct the effects of things like hydrolysis. No matter what crops you plant, they are only transfer agents. If the soil does not contain the proper minerals and the ability to create proteins, the animals will never see the full results of your planting. It trophy whitetail growth is what you’re after and you don’t plan on using available products to offer minerals to animals and repair depleted soils, the process will be much longer. If the proper components are not available in the soil, the animal will not get them through the crops it is eating, resulting in things like antler restrictions, and age structure being closer to the top of your management plan. That is, if they aren’t already up there.
There are five factors in soil formation that are very important in making quality food plot decisions.
The first of these factors is parent materials. What major rock (limestone, sand, granite, etc…) eroded to form your soils? This is key information in finding out what your soils already contain and what they lack. Take sand for instance. The soils on our farm are made mostly of sand, which means we will experience more leeching than others. Because of this, we have to try and stay away from plots on grades that will increase leeching. We must also work on restoring the organic materials in the soil profile; this will be a tremendous help in water and nutrient retention.
The second factor is climate. Rainfall and temperature are factors that not only help in soil development, but can also either aid you in your planting, or fight against your efforts. For example, Excessive amounts of rainfall on a farm with sandy soil equals more fertilizer needed later in the year. Also, choosing plants with deep taproots like alfalfa or chicory would be a must.
The third factor is the living organisms in and around the soil. All organisms, plants and animals, large and small are a huge part in soil formation and conservation. They impact soil fertility and both water and nutrient retention, as well as regulation the soils PH. This is often a highly overlooked subject in food plot programs.
Topography is the fourth factor in soil formation. Soil is a natural feature of your landscape. Your landscape dictates how quickly your soils were formed, as well as what materials are in them. Knowing this will help you choose a great food plot location. Take the ever famous creek bottom for instance. Sediment carried from water, as well as more plant life decaying in the soil leads to nutrients. The creek bottom is at the receiving end of sandy soil and hillside run offs, creating a place with more abundant and succulent plant growth.
The fifth and final factor in soil formation is time. How old is your dirt? Over here in the north east, we have some of the oldest mountain ranges and soils in the United States. The longer the soil has been around, the longer the other factors have been influencing soil formation. Younger geological areas have the most abundant, weather able materials that hold and slowly release nutrients to plant life; older areas will be much more depleted and must be amended.
It is important for us to take a closer look at our soil horizon (soil layers) and see what we are dealing with, and along with our soil tests, use this knowledge to manipulate dirt to produce better and longer. My hopes are to help us to understand that our foundation is not the seed or the make of our tractor, but the very dirt we stand and work on. As we gain this knowledge and put it into practice we will see quality results from our food plots that we would not have seen otherwise. This in turn, shows up in body weight, antler growth, and overall health of deer. Think of it as putting your food plots on a well-designed health program.
*This entry is a repost from the Patriot Land & Wildlife Blog*
Maryland is home to a rich variety of waterfowl species. We’ve all seen Canada geese honking their way from pond to field. Some of them endure the winter migration, and some of them are year-round residents who call Maryland home. Ever seen a wood duck? Well, much is the same with wood ducks, arguably the most beautiful duck native to North America.Wood ducks nest in tree cavities near water and utilize wetlands as their home to raise their young. Unfortunately, as urban sprawl occurs, more and more of these wetlands are being destroyed, limiting the wood duck’s habitat and success in Maryland. Don’t lose faith. A lot is being done to bring the population back to where it once existed. You can become part of the effort too, and it doesn’t take much.
Wood ducks suffered a serious decline in the late 19th century for a variety of reasons, including habitat loss and market hunting for their meat and plumage. Because of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, market hunting was ended and measures were enacted to protect remaining habitat. Wood duck populations began to rebound in the 1920s, and the development of the artificial nesting box and its implementation by Federal and State governments and local wildlife enthusiasts in the 1930s began providing an additional boost to wood duck production. The hope was that the ducks would utilize the “cavity” characteristic of the boxes to nest. The ducks did, and they made an astounding comeback. Nesting sites are only half the battle, though. Woods ducks also require wetland habitat that provides them with shelter, food, and protection from predators. If you have a wooded stream or pond on your property or if you live along a Chesapeake Bay shore with woods nearby (which is alot of you!), you may be able to attract wood ducks simply by constructing a nest box.
Building a wood duck box is simple, inexpensive, and there are plenty of plans you can find online that detail designs, placement, etc. Do your homework.
The Maryland Wood Duck Initiative, an all-volunteer effort, aims “to enhance Maryland’s wood duck population and to generate a greater appreciation of the wetland habitats in which they live by advocating and demonstrating the merits of a “best practices” approach in managed nest programs.” State agencies like the Department of Natural Resources, conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited, and companies like Patriot LWM are other important resources for anything wood duck related and are more than happy to provide you with information and help develop your wood duck plan.
So, now for some more timely information. What are wood ducks doing right now in Maryland? Wood ducks nest from April to June, so right now is a great time to get your nesting boxes built, or cleaned out if you already have boxes (if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of being cooped up in the house and are itching for a reason to get outside and do something). Add a few inches of wood shavings (don’t use sawdust because it can suffocate the ducklings) for nesting material, attach the boxes to poles (don’t forget the predator guards!), and place them around forested areas near the water for when they arrive. You’ve now become a part of the effort! The rest is up to the ducks.
A few professional tips:
- Females often search for a nesting site early in the mornings; therefore try to face the opening of the box towards the east so the opening is more visible from morning rays of sunlight.
- Try to avoid facing the opening towards the prevailing wind for the area as this will cause undo stress on the nesting birds.
- Limit the amount of underbrush under the boxes to reduce predator access to the poles.
If a wood duck finds your box suitable for laying eggs, in about 1 month 9-12 eggs will hatch and, within 24 hours, the ducklings will use their sharp claws to climb to the nest box entrance and fall to the ground or water. Once on the ground, the female will lead the ducklings to the nearest body of water (they won’t come back to the nest, don’t take it personally). Wood duck young can fly in about 60 days from hatching; meanwhile, their mother looks after them and protects them from harm*courtesy of Maryland DNR*. It’s always a good idea to check your nesting boxes once during the nesting season to clean them out and add new nesting material. Besides doing some housekeeping, a visit during the nesting season will show if your nesting boxes have been productive and improve the odds of the box being used again during the season.
So there you have it. You made an effort and it didn’t take much, did it? Enjoy the feeling that comes from conservation, and share it with a child – they are our future conservationists. And every time you catch a glimpse of a wood duck’s beautiful iridescent plumage or hear their unmistakable “ooo-eeekk” squeal echo through the woods or across the water, consider it a “Thanks.”
*This entry is a repost from the Patriot Land & Wildlife Blog*
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has confirmed that a White-tailed Deer harvested in Maryland has tested positive in laboratory testing for Chronic Wasting Disease. A hunter in Allegany County reported taking the deer on November 27, 2010 in Green Ridge State Forest. Maryland is now one of 20 other states and Canadian provinces with CWD documented in deer, elk or moose.
Many details of the disease are unknown, but below our some links and a great video from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on CWD.
*This entry is a repost from the Patriot Land & Wildlife Blog*
On the last day of January, as another Maryland hunting season came to a close, being a passionate wildlife manager I found myself anxiously awaiting the final test of Patriot LWM management strategies. Thorough analysis of hunter harvest records and observation logs is what drives our measure of success or failure, and what guides our management objectives for the following year. Although hunters under Patriot management must log harvests into our online database within 24 hours, the laundry list of other tasks to accomplish during the season does not afford us the opportunity to really look deeply into the numbers.
Observations logs completed by hunters after each hunt include information like:
- Location Hunted
- Weather Conditions
- Number and Sex of Deer Seen (Does, Bucks, Yearlings, Unknowns)
- Predators Seen
- Other comments
Harvest data collected by hunters includes information like:
- Sex of the animal (Doe, Buck, Button Buck)
- Approximate Age (Utilizing Tooth Wear and Replacement)
- Approximate Weight
- Presence and number of any fetus’(Generally appear later in the season)
- Presence of Milk (Does)
- Antler Measurements (Bucks)
Each aspect of the biological data collected could be a blog entry in and of itself (hint: each may very well be in the future) used to discuss the importance of the measurement and what it is telling the wildlife manager. For the purpose of this blog entry, I only wish to present the case study of the Patriot Land and Wildlife 2010-2011 management season and allow readers to begin to see how the data collection relates to measures of a management program.
Patriot LWM Hunter Management
Patriot LWM organizes, qualifies and provides oversight for a volunteer hunting group known as the Patriot Whitetail Removal Team (PWRT) for use with large or small scale management efforts on properties that demand both discretion and production.
Patriot LWM also provides hunter management for our recreational leasing and property management clients to insure their wildlife management programs are carried out in conjunction with the recreational enjoyment of the land.
Patriot utilizes the principles of Quality Deer Management to educate it’s hunters in deer biology and administer harvest quotas and techniques to be carried out by both sets of hunters.
Brief Analysis and Discussion
The total management area for Patriot LWM was 5000 acres. PWRT and Lease Members harvested a total of 345 deer on that acreage.
The PWRT accounted for 220 of those 345 deer. 96% of the total harvest were does (females), 3% were button bucks (.5 year old males) and less than 1% of the total harvest were Bucks. Of the 7 button bucks killed, many were the result of late season body size increases which made them mistakenly targeted for harvest as does. Of the 2 bucks that were harvested, one was a 3.5 year old buck with only ¼” small velvet nubs where antlers should have grown, again causing this buck to be targeted as a doe. The other was a 4.5 year old mature buck with an antler score of 149 total inches, 7th largest crossbow harvest in Maryland ever, obviously meeting our ideal harvest standards.
PWRT members averaged 1 deer harvest for every 2.5 hours spent in the treestand which is a testimate to both their hunting ability as well as their maximization of the effort vs. result equation (the manner in which effort is applied has a direct correlation to the result realized). Most female deer possess reproductive potential by 1.5 years of age, with older deer accounting for the highest reproductive potential, often bearing twins and in some cases triplets.
Therefore the targeting of this upper age structure in a population will further expand on this effort vs. result scenario. Harvesting 3 deer of lower reproductive potential is not as effective as harvesting 3 deer with a high reproductive potential, although the exact same amount of effort is expended in both cases. 62% of the 220 deer harvested by PWRT were 2.5 years old or older, 23 % were 1.5 years old and only 15% of the total harvest were less than 1.5 years of age.
According to the Maryland Annual Deer Report, during the 2009-2010 season, 66% of the total state hunter harvest were antlerless (deer without antlers) and 34% were antlered bucks. When you factor in the total number of button bucks (male antlerless) that were recorded during this time, the actual female deer harvest is 52%, with males making up the other 48%. These numbers are a far cry from the above 96% needed to realize a population reduction as is recommended by many State wildlife managers.
Although not quite as precise, a similar situation unfolded on recreational leases under Patriot LWM oversight. Lease members accounted for 125 total deer harvested, 89% were does, 8% bucks and 3% were button bucks. Of the 10 bucks killed, 4 were harvested due to the fact they had been severely wounded on adjacent properties and needed to be put down out of proper ethics. 3 bucks were harvested by youth hunters (16 years or under) and 3 were harvested as meeting the mature buck requirements.
Measuring the reproductive potential of a population is an inexact science; many factors weigh into the debate including herd health, climate, weather conditions, predators etc. For demonstration purposes we will only make a few assumptions so that readers can better visualize how specific harvest requirements weigh in to the effort vs. result we talked about. If we assume that based on our age structure, some deer would have had triplets, some twins, others 1 or none at all, the following are an example as if the reproductive aged does would have had twins. The combined harvest of these 345 deer, plus their reproductive potential which was not realized accounts for up to 989 deer that will not be there in the spring of 2011 to feast on agricultural crops, landscapes or ground nesting bird habitat. An adult deer consumes on average 1.5 tons of forage a year, so 345 deer harvested immediately results in 517.5 tons saved and up to 1483.5 tons saved for 2011.
In later blog entries we will take a look at specific results as they relate to agricultural yield data and economic relationships to effective deer management, stay tuned!