Much national attention by the Obama administration has been focused on the health and future welfare of wildlife animals and birds by wildlife management conservationists and hunters who want to preserve a valuable American resource: the population of wild animals and wild game. The increased planting of inedible crops like cotton and tobacco has reduced wildlife food supplies because of the forest depletion that favors clearing land to plant commercial crops.. Urban expansion has rapidly reduced forests where wildlife food once grew, and very efficient grain harvesting has left only a little corn or wheat in fields for wildlife food browsing.
Until recent years, the feeding of wild game animals and wildlife game birds was done by either letting the animals feed on the native plants and flora or by supplementing the food supply by planting strips of land with food plots of various annual grains each year. Some wildlife management academics suggested planting small fruit trees, berry plants, grape vines, and perennials to avoid the expensive problem of replanting annuals every year. These suggestions worked sometimes, except for the glaring fact that planting small oak trees often required 10 years or more of first growing to produce the first wildlife food supply of acorns. Many small trees died the first year, because of the small root systems, and the stress of transplanting into a hostile neglected environment.
The United States government passed a law, the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, to protect wildlife resources that collected an excise tax of 11% of the cost to buy any firearms, guns, or ammunition. This 11% excise tax was sent to the Department of Natural Resources of each State to protect the wildlife habitat and food plots. Over two billion dollars of funding to preserve wildlife habitat has continuously financed wildlife welfare since 1937.
Animals and birds can only live, if their energy levels are met to grow, to escape predators, to reproduce, to survive long migrations, or to survive severe winter temperatures. Wildlife animals and birds must have shelter to protect them from bad weather or to hide them from predators. A dense foliage and vegetation are the most common shelter retreats, but some animals burrow into holes in trees, logs, and in the ground or under logs or rock piles.
Serious competition to wildlife for food and habitat can only lead to overcrowding that weakens a wildlife resistance to disease and wild predators. Wildlife cannot survive unless sufficient water, food, shelter, and space is available. Migratory animals move from one place to another in search of food, a better climate, or other environmental factors. Winter food shortage is the most important limiting factor for many of the wildlife species. Wildlife food plots of nut trees and fruit trees are termed, “hard mast.” The fruit trees include apple, persimmon, crabapple, and then the pear trees, plum trees, and quince are secondary attractants. The hard nut trees include pecan trees, the chinquapin, and walnut tree. The oak trees acorns, the beech nut tree and hickory nuts are hard mast that last into the winter months as excellent food plot feed. Wildlife browsing for food is termed “soft mast,” include fruits and berry food from dogwood, viburnum, and mulberry trees The elderberry bush, blueberry plants, muscadine grape vines are often best planted along fence lines on the dense edge of woods. To establish deer food plots, wildlife shrubs, trees, and blackberry or dewberry vines are best planted along bushy pond edges, or near plots of thick grass.
Burning off pine forests helps to provide high-quality forage and cover s protection for deer herd management. Native plants will regrow to establish natural food plots for wildlife nourishment and health. Pine trees, hardwood trees such as beech and oak trees provide excellent nesting sites. Plants, vines, and bushes offer natural feeding plots for birds and wildlife that browse and eat the foliage, bark, shoots, new buds, leaves, twigs, fruit, grapes, seed, acorns, flowers, and berries.
Hunting plantation wildlife food managers often plant and grow a combination of species to supply the best food plots for wildlife all during the year rather than only during the hunting season. Wildlife food plots are planted and grown in strips of annual grains such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and millet,
Corn seed is planted in food plots to attract deer, turkey, and squirrels. Raccoon, pheasant, and quail also will seek our fresh or dried corn seed. Soybeans are game food for turkey, deer, and quail. Wheat will attract Canada geese, doves, and turkey. Alfalfa attracts only deer; and sorghum plants offer limited shelter and food for deer, pheasant, and duck. Sunflower seed are good food plots for deer, dove, and songbirds. Clover attracts only deer. Buckwheat grain is good game food for duck, turkey, waterfowl, pheasant, quail, and deer. Millet is an attractive food plot grain for waterfowl and dove. Annual rye is an excellent food plot grain for deer, Canada geese, and turkey. These wildlife food plots are best established near pine forests, pond edges, or near river bottom land where hardwood shade trees such as oak and beech nut trees grow.
These annual grain food plots are considered short term food sources for game birds, because the grain does not return to grow next year, and the process can be expensive and challenging to wildlife management farms and plantations. Some management for food plot growers prefer to plant seed of perennials, but often these efforts are complicated and only last a few years. Other management for establishing food plots prefer to plant small immature trees of fruit trees, grape vines, shrubs and also for oak (acorn) trees of various sizes, but often fruiting is delayed for years unless larger mature trees are planted.
Many managers of food plots plant tiny oak trees or shrubs, but most oak trees require ten or more years to produce an acorn, even though more expensive, larger nursery grown trees produce fruit and acorns fast. Large crabapple, quince, mulberry, persimmon trees or blueberry bushes and muscadine grapevines will produce food for wild game animals and game birds after the first year, but small trees have small roots and tend to require many years for wildlife feeding purposes, and most small trees that are planted will die the first year.
Berry bushes such as blueberry, blackberry and raspberry produce food early, and the thorny blackberry and raspberry bushes offer shelter and protection to game birds such as quail and pheasant. Chicasaw plum trees are a native plant to America and offer food quickly for wildlife and birds in the Spring, along with mulberry tree berries that ripen during turkey season. The late fall production of wildlife food is very desirable because the food is ripe and attractive when most hunting seasons begin. Nut trees such as hickory, walnut and pecan attract squirrels and game birds. Chinquapin nuts attract animals and game birds.
Wild game such as deer and bear can't resist the aroma of ripening fruit in the fall, such as persimmon, apple, crabapple, pear and quince. Wildlife species have a sense of smell much more intense than humans, and some unethical hunters use picked apple or other fruit to spread the fruit scent on the ground near a deer stand, but this is illegal, just like baiting a dove field with cracked corn. It is advisable to plant and grow trees for this purpose, because it will attract game and wildlife for legal hunting or viewing and is not considered to be game baiting. Try planting mature trees, vines and bushes for wildlife feeding that requires no expense of yearly replanting or long waiting to produce a wildlife food source.
History of Wildlife Food and Plants
Publication Permission granted by Patrick A Malcolm, Ty Ty, Georgia
For over 100 years hunting plantations have been planting fruit trees for wildlife food and shelter. Like the old English hunting plantations, today’s hunters are realizing that the best attractants for big deer, strong bucks and meaty, fat does, come from supplementing the food plot experience by planting and growing berry plants, nut trees, fruit trees or to produce acorns from oak trees, or muscadines from grapevines.
Fruit from Japanese persimmons are among the list of favorite deer food treats. The wild persimmon is not as common anymore, so by planting the Giant Fuyu persimmon an approach is to insure that the bucks and does will be in hot pursuit of these foods to grow reliably and economically by nature. When the lower limbs of the persimmon tree have been stripped of all its fruits, deer will often try to jump into the lower branches to get the plump tree fruits. Pears and crabapples also provide essential vitamins and minerals to grow bucks big, healthy antler racks: a food to keep the does growing fatter during hunting seasons.
The Kieffer pear is the one of the best wildlife fruit trees for planting for doe and other wildlife, as it is a hard, long lasting fruit that ripens late in the year. With this characteristic as a fall wildlife food, deer hunters are able to hunt over the layers of pears at the beginning of deer season. The Dolgo crabapple tree can also be planted; the fruit ripens in early fall, so plant this wild fruit tree close to your deer stand for a guaranteed kill.
Turkey, dove, and quail tend to flock towards different fruit trees, nut trees, grapevines, and berry plants. Grapefruits are popular with quail and dove, and turkeys seem to like muscadine and scuppernong grapevines. When grape vine clusters of fruit ripens, it isn’t unusual to see quail migrate in coveys to strip the grapes from their vines. Grapes have been planted by farmers for years as a growing blind to keep their crops concealed, and to keep the small game animals supplied with food. When planting grapevines for wildlife feeding, one should also inter-plant other native fruit trees such as the Chickasaw plum, and American persimmon or for the grape vines growing and intertwining to create the screening effect that makes all deer and turkey, and quail feel safe to grow in a sheltered environment. Not only will you grow an impermeable screen with the grapevines that you plant the added benefit of growing wild plums, and wild persimmons as a stable wildlife food for your deer daily diet, or birds, duck, and quail.
Quail in particular like to hide in the cover of blackberry bushes. More often than not in mid to late October, one can approach and examine the screening growth of a blackberry vine, before it loses its leaves that feeds the deer and turkey. Blueberries can be found growing wild everywhere, but wild blueberry plants tend not be as abundant as new hybrid berries. New blueberry plant selection supplies many wildlife animals. The same unpredictability happens with the mayhaw fruit. Grafted cultivars of mayhaw can be planted in drier areas and to grow a more reliable crop of fruit every year that feeds the birds quail, ducks, and turkey.