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Diversify your habitat


Food plots are just the start


April 01, 2011
Attracting wildlife to your property is not that difficult. It's like growing a garden. You usually enjoy a good variety of vegetables. Grow your wildlife by offering a simple variety.

Most landowners generally would like to see more wildlife on their property. Many only look at one or two types of cover or only one type of food plot. Warm season grasses are very popular today for the deer enthusiast trying to create bedding cover. Deer experts agree that offering a wide variety of food, water and cover will have a greater impact.

Likewise attracting other species of wildlife is just as enjoyable. The tall sorghum variety I plant offers all kinds of birds (game species as well as songbirds) both food and cover in one. While sitting on a deer stand the flurry of feeding activity and general behavior helps pass the time. The interaction of the different species always leaves my outdoor experience a little bit more enriched.

DiversifyYourHabitat
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Another method to diversify your habitat is creating structure. You can easily engineer greater diversity and improved food supplies by incorporating man-made edges.

Backyard wildlife enthusiasts have begun planting different varieties next to their gardens and have learned there are many added benefits. Wildflowers are very hearty and grow in poor soil. Some grow as tall as 6' (or more). The variety of butterflies or bees results in an increase in pollination. So not ONLY is the colorful show in mid-summer great - but the garden produces an increase in harvest.

For those that are unaware, bee populations are suffering due to what has been termed "bee colony collapse." Both large and small fruit producers are also getting on the wildflower band wagon. One local grower explained to me that since planting his half acre wildflower stand he has noticed his native bumblebee population has grown significantly. He hails from Traverse City and knows his orchard science.

Wildflowers are the first plants to emerge in early spring. Deer are the first in line to capture the uptake in trace minerals. These plants absorb from the soil to make ready for their eventual blossom. Insects are also attracted. Adult birds and the young of the year totally depend on insects to survive the weather difficulties that often cause early mortality. Again, the goal, food and cover, either next to or within the same planting.

Another method to diversify your habitat is creating structure. You can easily engineer greater diversity and improved food supplies by incorporating man-made edge. Edge management can take many forms. I like to re-create "fencerows" and "hedgerows." I've spent many years (20+) watching upland bird populations sink to dismal levels. Loss of hayfields have all been regarded as detrimental causes. To offset this you can build your own travel corridors and plant berry producing shrubs or fruit trees within those lanes.

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Sometimes when clearing unwanted species or to propagate more diverse shrub growth, I utilize the cut bolts to construct a makeshift fence. The method I like the best is the type of A-Frame fencing typically seen on western ranches. My farmer friends' barns always have old twine lying around. I recycle this by using it to lash together the cross section pieces of the fence. The natural vegetation will rapidly use this as a trellis.

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