Welfare for Winter-Weary Wildlife

Controlled Burns, Planting Food Plots, Pond Conservation Ideas

The Missouri Conservation Department has information on-line and offers workshops to help landowners conduct prescribed burns safely.

“Hey buddy, can you spare me a food plot? I’ll pay you back in the fall.”  You’ll never hear this line, because deer, turkey and bass don’t ask for handouts.  Life can be harsh for the animals that bring hunters, anglers and nature lovers so much pleasure.  After a tough winter, it’s not a bad idea to lend wildlife a helping hand.  Spring is the right time to start.

For instance, it’s the perfect time to plant a food plot and it’s not too late to plant trees that will provide food and shelter for wildlife and control erosion.

If you farm, this might be the year you decide to leave a few rows of grain for quail and turkeys, or increase the width of buffer strips between crops and stream corridors to improve water quality for fish.  If you have warm-season grasses, you can plan now to use grazing and haying techniques that improve yield and wildlife habitat.

Prescribed burning is one way to improve wildlife habitat.

Instead of letting your wood lot become overcrowded with unhealthy trees, you can conduct timber stand improvement, increasing production of acorns and other forest crops needed by deer and turkeys.  While you are at it, you might fell a few trees around the edges, creating critical woody cover for quail, rabbits and other ground-nesting wildlife.

Did you notice dead fish when your lake or pond thawed this spring?  If so, it makes sense to investigate the cause.  Siltation might have reduced water depth to the point where fish have no place to escape winter’s icy grip.  Fish kills also can result if you have too much aquatic vegetation.

While you are thinking about your lake, consider creating underwater habitat by installing fish-attracting structures.  Usually called brush piles or crappie beds, these underwater habitats create places for tiny invertebrates to grow.  This fuels the growth of aquatic insects, shad, minnows and other food items for bluegill, crappie, bass and catfish.  Fish-attracting structures also do what their name implies – attract fish to spots where you can key in on them with pole and line.

A trip to the local farm supply store for food plot seed will pay dividends this fall.

Lack of expertise is what stops most of us from taking these simple measures for better hunting and fishing.  That is why the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has self-help publications and employs private land services biologists.  It’s their job to help landowners achieve their fish and wildlife management goals.

You can get started by visiting http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property and checking out the resources available there.  To identify the private land services biologist for your area, visit http://on.mo.gov/1Uk3E5d, select your county from the drop-down menu under “Who’s My Local Contact” and get started.

Fish and wildlife really will pay you back.  Honest!