Racing the Rain: Spring Habitat Management
With the ending of one season, another begins! After a great year of spring snow goose hunting, we roll right into management…well, on a “normal” year. But from the late February blizzards, to cold rain and even snow into early May, this spring has been anything but typical! There is a great deal to accomplish in the spring, and generally plenty of time to do it. But in a year like this, all the duties get funneled into a small window of time when Mother Nature turns off the faucet for a spell…
After putting a management plan in place, I have a template to follow for off-season needs and new habitat programs. My first concern revolves around water levels on our farms. In areas we are planting ag crops, the water control structures must be opened and the water drained for necessary drying time before planting. In managed moist soil marshes, water drawdowns entail an initial cover, then I start pulling boards to allow a little water to drain every week. In areas with trees in the water, on the other hand, it’s imperative to get the water off quickly in early spring. This safeguards the health of the timber hole trees we love so much during the fall. There are many tasks involved with water management and the beginning of the off-season. In springs with significant flooding, like this one, the timetables get pushed up against each other…and the clock is always ticking.
In terms of habitat management, our corn and sunflowers are the first things we focus on getting in the ground. Normally, we start with this in mid-April. With the flooding this year, we didn’t finally get to turn a wheel on the tractor until mid-May. Given that the area around Habitat Flats is notorious for floods, this does not cause need for alarm; we plan on a mid-May planting season, and consider ourselves fortunate if we get in earlier! When the skies finally cleared this spring, the warm and dry period it brought made for a chaotic week in the fields. Right after we finished corn and sunflowers – while getting ready to plant beans – another big weather system hit. Our area was had 2.5-3″ of rain after the first planting round, which will likely prevent some seed from sprouting. More rain and big flooding is about to hit our farms, and we are prepared for the inevitable. But around these parts…we’re no strangers to replanting!! However, with the death and destruction from tornados across the Midwest that this system produced, it puts it all into perspective. Complaining about replanting some corn is not even worth the breath it takes when so many people lost everything they had.
For me, the beginning of another off-season is a very exciting time. I enjoy providing habitat for waterfowl almost as much as I enjoy hunting them. I truly believe hunters are the best conservationists. The feeling of watching waterfowl and other animals benefit from the things you do for them is extremely rewarding.
As I put in long hours in the tractor this time of year, setting the buffet table for migrating waterfowl, I am all the while dreaming about how many will show up for dinner come Fall! The success of my Fall and Winter seasons are dependent on the sweat equity that is put forth in the off-season. Wishing all of you a wonderful summer, great times spent outdoors and near your favorite fishing hole…and as always, dreams full of GREEN!!!