Chilton Fall Landowner Tour provides insight

Published 3:01 pm Monday, October 9, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton Fall Landowner Tour gave residents tips and tricks foe forest and wildlife management while touring the L.C. “Foots” Parnell property.

The event was hosted by the Chilton County Natural Resources Council.

Alabama Cooperative Extension agent Chris Jaworowski spoke on developing a good food plot for attracting wildlife.

“Food plots should be an integral part of any habitat management plan for your property, but they should not take the place of a sound habitat management plan,” Jaworowski said.

He said properly managing the natural habitat will provide the most nutrients for deer. Ways to manage the natural habitat include thinning timber and prescribed burn of underbrush.

“Food plots can be a very important way to provide for our deer or turkey or quail nutritional needs throughout the year,” Jaworowski said.

The prospective site should be in a dry area (but not too dry) and away from property boundary lines.  Jaworowski said wildlife is most prevalent “on the edges of two different habitat types, we need to include that in our habitat management plan.” Having a food plot on the line of adjacent land draws hunters to the area. He said landowners should look for a location that is already clear, in order to decrease the cost of clearing it.

Planning each phase is crucial.

Removing existing vegetation with equipment or herbicide is the first step.

“It is much better to prepare that plot for planting rather than trying to do it all in the same day,” Jaworowski said.

The ideal size for a food plot is an acre. However, it is better to have multiple smaller food plots throughout a property, than to have one big one. Ideally, a landowner would have “one food plot for each 100 acres of forest or 5 percent of your total forest land of your property,” Jaworowski said.

He emphasized the importance of having the soil tested before planting. Auburn University provides soil tests for $7.

Using a planting guide is also beneficial.

Jaworowski said going to the same food plot too frequently can keep deer from coming to it because they learn the hunter’s pattern.

Prescribed burns are an important safety element to managing forestland by eliminating undergrowth. The practice also keeps smaller plants from taking nutrient in the soil that the trees need.

John Pirtle described the benefits during the tour.

He said wildfires get out of control faster in areas where prescribed burns are not used.

It is important to have a schedule and have each area burned once every three years.

“Your property will recover from fire,” Pirtle said.

He said deer like to eat plants that are a year old, so burning keeps things young and tasty for the deer.

Pirtle said it was important to have a knowledgeable and experienced burn crew. He said a good time to burn an area the first time is in January, because it will not kill the root system and will keep the heat from damaging taller trees. Removing trees to thin the forest before a prescribed burn was also recommended.

“After you have burned it in the winter a few times, you are starting to open it up to where the heat can escape,” Pirtle said.

Burn time then switches to spring or summer.