100 plus degrees with a slim to no chance of rain. That has been the forecast for the majority of Oklahoma for about a month now. A few lucky ones have recieved a couple decent showers. Just enough to keep their summer plots and clover fields from wilting. For the rest of us… total devastation.
Five hundred dollars. Can you afford to waste that? I can’t. That’s the average amount a the weekend wildlife manager spends on seed alone each spring. We all do it. Not knowing for sure if the weather will supplement our efforts or not. Most of the time the odds are a little better than going to the casino. Sometimes we lose it all. You can’t mow clover when it is stressed from severe heat and lack of adequate moisture. Corn, LabLab, cowpeas, or sugarbeets won’t achieve the necessary growth needed to sustain them throughout the summer. But let us forget our problems for a minute. We have to think about why we do this in the first place. For the health of the wildlife.
All wildlife need three basic things. Food, Water, and Cover. Let’s break down all three of these individually and discuss the effects that a drought has on them.
Food. Native vegetation and food plots all suffer from extreme heat and lack of H20. Plants won’t survive without water.What options do we have? The one thing we should all do during the winter is research. Do your best to find the best drought resistant varieties. Talk to your local farm supply as well as your county extension agent. Dry lands alfalfa have an extremely long tap root. So do most varieties of chicory. Durana clover is great once it is established. There are things that will take extreme drought and heat as long as they can have enough time to grow before the rain ends. Your native vegetation will will dry up and become unpalatable. To help prevent this they need to be healthier in the spring. Around March 15th in central Oklahoma is a good time to give them a little care. The plants that I am referring to is your common honeysuckle, greenbriar and other types of ivy. Do not forget your old pastures either. The honeysucle, briers and ivy plants are alittle more work. You need to prune them back and add a little fertilizer before a decent rain. Be careful because this will cause them to strive and spread out. I only recommend this if you have small quantities of these on your property. It’s best to do it within range of your stands if there is any in the area. With your old pastures full of grass, shrubs and forbes all you need is a good mowing. Then give it a dose of a triple quantity fertilizer. This will cause everything to be healthy and more lush going into the summer. Supplemental feeding will take a lot of stress off of your food plots during the summer.
Water. Simple enough… a lot of it is gone. You can create your own water holes in shaded areas. You can use a backhoe to create a great spot. Or you can take a shovel and half of a plastic barrel and bury it in the ground. Every little bit counts. If you have existing ponds make sure the water stays in good shape. Fertilizing your ponds decreases the odds of harmful algae blooming and making the water undrinkable. A wind or solar powered aerator placed in the southern end of a pond will keep the water more oxygenated throughout the pond. If you are lucky enough to have a live creek on your property you are in good shape. Just don’t let them run out of water!
Cover. There is not a lot we can do with this in the case of drought. Your native vegetation management plan should take care of it. During a drought your cover can suffer from over-browsing. A browse line will appear if the deer run out of their preferred food source. If this happens you will lose some of the effectiveness of your protective cover.
Hopefully you all have a little better hand on preventing losing all of your hard work. We are all in need of rain. If your plots are dead your only choice is to start a supplemental feeding program if you do not have one in place. Choose your varieties wisely before you go to buy seed. Our wildlife is much too valuable for us to be lazy and buy a bag of seed that was not meant for our conditions. On that note, Pray for a Blessing from the sky.