CALICO ROCK (AGFC) –
Spring is, by far, my favorite time of year. Flowers are blooming, bees
are buzzing, and turkeys are strutting in every field. Arkansas weather
is beautiful and everyone wants to get outdoors. For those managing
open land for wildlife, spring is prime time to sit back and enjoy the
fruits of your labor.
as it may be to hop on the tractor and enjoy the warm country air while
mowing your fields, spring can be a sensitive time for wildlife. As
early as April 1, turkeys are beginning to nest and the first fawns will
be born a few weeks later. This period of reproduction lasts through
Aug. 1, when the last of the newly born bobwhite quail begin to fly.
activities such as bush hogging, disking, and haying can destroy nests
and injure young wildlife from April 1 through Aug. 1. If fields must
be worked during this time, they should be mowed from the center outward
to allow wildlife to escape. Chains mounted on the bucket of a tractor
also give wildlife an early warning and greatly reduce tragic mishaps.
disking in August will avoid unnecessary disturbance to young wildlife
and greatly improve habitat quality. Work during this period can
encourage growth of native wildflowers – forbs like black-eyed Susan,
partridge pea, butterfly milkweed and Illinois Bundleflower – that
provide food for bobwhite quail and other upland birds. Be sure to leave
at least 3 to 4 areas the size of a truck for every acre of field to
grow into brush to provide cover for small game. Longer strips will
provide even more cover. Blackberries in these small thickets can also
attract deer in early bow season. Thickets can be carefully managed and
should be mowed before taken over by saplings. A few mast-producing
trees such as oaks, black cherry, mulberry and persimmon that sprout
naturally can be left in the field to produce food and attract wildlife.
Avoid mowing after Sept. 1 to allow enough re-growth to provide winter
species in fields can be controlled by spot-spraying with herbicide even
during the nesting season with little disturbance to wildlife.
Spot-spraying has been shown more effective in controlling trees than
mowing in scientific studies. This work can be done with a tractor or
ATV mounted sprayer that consumes less fuel than a bush hog and uses
little herbicide. Be sure to properly identify the plants you want to
control and select the best herbicide to do the job. Arkansas Game and
Fish Commission private lands biologists can help with this task and may
be able to lend herbicide sprayers.
outside of the April to August period by itself rarely provides wildlife
benefits. Mowing, when used to prepare areas for disking to create
early successional vegetation without planting, planting food plots or
conducting prescribed burning can be beneficial based on the site
As busy as
our lives can be, we sometimes assume we must do something to get
something in return. However, the best thing we can do for upland
wildlife is to park the bush hog and other implements from April 1
through Aug. 1 to avoid disturbing young and reproducing wildlife. So,
spend this spring relaxing and enjoying the wildlife on your property
and allow your favorite critters time to do the same.
information on establishing and maintaining land for wildlife habitat
improvement and programs to help, contact an AGFC private lands
biologist at: Fort Smith, 877-478-1043; Harrison, 870-741-8600 ext. 114;
Hope, 877-777-5580; Calico Rock, 877-297-4331; Little Rock,
877-470-3650; Brinkley, 877-734-4581; Jonesboro, 877-972-5438 and
By Clint Johnson, AGFC Private Lands Biologist, Central Arkansas Area