Pineywoods Wildlife Management
In many forested areas, plant diversity is decreased due to the lack of openings. The creation and management of openings comprised of native vegetation can improve the availability of food plants for wildlife. In addition to benefiting deer and game birds, openings also benefit other seed and insect-eating songbirds. Openings can be managed to provide an abundance of forbs and insects. Openings require periodic maintenance to control encroachment of woody vegetation, to maintain plant diversity, and to provide interspersed bare ground that is important for ground foraging birds such as quail. These conditions result from properly managed habitat "disturbance" or manipulation, such as periodic discing.
Late fall and winter discing will promote germination of both cool and warm season forbs, particularly on sandy loam and loamy sand soils. This process promotes seed germination by increasing the amount of sunlight, and by putting the seeds in contact with bare ground and moisture. The timing and amount of spring rainfall will have an impact on the quantity, quality, and types of native plant, which result from discing. Although not required, soil testing and appropriate fertilization of disced areas will improve germination and seed production.
In addition to the establishment and maintenance of native openings, supplemental forages (food plots) can be managed to improve diversity and production. Planted food plots can provide a highly nutritious food source that can be beneficial to wildlife during periods of stress. Food plots should not be considered a substitute for good management. They should be considered as "supplements" to the native habitat, not as a "cure-all" for low quality or poorly managed habitats. Wildlife species have prospered in the absence of food plots. Properly managed food plots can provide positive benefits, but they are not essential if proper habitat management practices are implemented. Food plots and native openings often increase visibility and can facilitate the adequate harvest of does in habitats with low visibility.
Since late summer and late winter are often stressful periods of the year for wildlife, both warm season and cool season food plots can be established.
During the dry summer months, as plant growth slows, the nutrient levels in native vegetation are much lower than when the plants are actively growing during the spring. Warm season plantings include cowpeas, alyceclover and American jointvetch. While alyceclover, jointvetch, and cowpeas are annuals, the jointvetch will reseed if it is allowed to produce seed and then mowed in the fall.
In order to insure proper growth, all warm season plantings should be planted on bottomland sites (if possible) where soil moisture will be sufficient during the summer to insure proper growth.
Cool season plantings include combinations of elbon rye, clovers, rye grass, and wheat. Cereal grains such as rye and wheat will benefit quail, turkeys, and songbirds in the spring. The clover will provide good bug production areas for insect eating birds in late spring. A variety of clovers should be planted and can include varieties such as Arrowleaf, Crimson or Subterranean.
To minimize the distance that wildlife must travel, openings should be distributed across the property as much as possible. It is always best to establish a variety of plantings to provide more diversity and to insure against the failure of one type of planting. It is essential that food plots are properly fertilized and limed in order to receive the maximum benefit. Each food plot should have a soil test in order to determine the correct lime and fertilizer rates.