- Chris Campanelli
Keep an eye out for Fawns and Turkey Nests
Photo by Wiscnews.com
Tractor season is officially upon us.
We now trade the camo of turkey season for work boots and sweat on the brow. We will be covering plenty of the intricacies involved in food plotting and land management throughout the spring, summer, and beyond. But we wanted to start the season with an important message or heads-up.
As we take to the fields to mow trails, trim perennials, and plant the food plots of the future, we have to keep an eye out for newborn whitetail fawns and wild turkey nests. Conservation is the name of this game, so we certainly do not want to be doing a disservice to our beloved wildlife.
A lot of unaware and eager tractor operators simply jump on the machine and take off without much consideration to what could be lying in the high grasses at this time of year. You're excited and eager with a limited amount of seat-time on that tractor. While you up those RPM's and let the brush-hog eat, you could be destroying precious habitat for newborn wildlife.
Even worse, you could be mowing right over top of a whitetail fawn or a nest full of turkey eggs that are getting ready to hatch. Any farmer can probably tell you that hitting an animal in the field is no fun for them or their equipment. It's even less fun when you're a wildlife manager who mounts the tractor for the wildlife and hunting purposes alone.
Whitetail fawns will be hitting the ground anytime from April through June, depending upon your local rut cycle. There's a great chance that the local whitetails are giving birth by Memorial Day in most all regions of America. Wild turkeys are building nests at the exact same time, with eggs getting ready to hatch as the calendar flips to June.
As hunters and conservationists, we know that our game species already face an uphill battle. Coyotes, floods, habitat loss, and just about everything in between already threatens young wildlife. The last thing we need is to harm them as we are trying to help them.
At last, we wanted to share some of our go-to methods for avoiding that awful collision between tractor and wildlife. It can be done with just a little bit of effort.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you mow, spray, and plow this spring and summer.
Take an ATV Ride or Walk
We understand that you are eager and probably crunched for time as a hunter practicing land and wildlife management, but this only takes a few minutes. Take a simple survey of your work area before you let the tractor eat. If you own an ATV, UTV, golf cart, or dirt bike, go and take a quick joyride around your property before you do anything. I like to do this anyway to make sure nothing is amiss on the property if I have been away for any length of time.
While you're out and about, take a spin or a walk through the area you are planning to work. If you jump a mama doe or hen out of the high grass, there's a significant chance that she's tending to a fawn or nest. You can typically get away with moving a turkey nest off to the side without causing much harm, but whitetails are different. We should avoid touching young fawns at all costs, because there is a great chance that mom will abandon a fawn with human scent on it. When in doubt, back out.
Remember why we're doing all of this. It's all about conservation. If we harm the very wildlife we are managing for, what is the good? If you find a fawn or a turkey nest, just move on to your next chore for the day. Work in another area and let nature do its thing.
Leave Edge Habitat Alone
Does and hens rarely set up shop in the middle of agricultural fields or pastures. Sure, it can happen, but you will typically see fawns and nests set up in edge habitat. Those areas between the heavy cover or timber and the open fields. Land managers know that edge habitat is crucial and heavily preferred by wildlife, so we try to facilitate it. Farmers are more concerned with maximizing their planting area, and rightfully so.
Make sure you are checking that edge habitat if you're planning to touch it whatsoever. I like to go the extra mile and promote edge habitat as much as I can, so I simply let it go. Deer and turkeys both love that extra buffer between the timber and the open fields. Why not let it grow?
Keep Grasses in Check
This one can be tough for most of us, as we all have regular lives and busy schedules to attend to. Unlike commercial farmers who are always on the tractor and keeping their property in tip-top shape, us hunters can go for weeks without tending to the land. If you're a spring turkey fanatic like me, your hunting grounds can go from barely overgrown to a jungle in the blink of an eye.
Simply staying on top of your property can go a long way in avoiding that dreadful collision with young wildlife. If you have hopes of planting in an open field or meadow, keep that grass from getting waist-high. Keep those trails mowed ahead of time. If you keep up with the areas that you know you will be working in during the late spring, you can avoid the fawns and nests before they start popping up.
More than anything, simply remain aware and attentive when you are on the tractor this spring and summer.
Accidents happen and we often can't avoid them, but we should do our best. It may take a little bit of extra time and effort or the inconvenience of working somewhere you didn't expect to, but remember why we do what we do.
It's all about the wildlife, and the fawns and turkey poults of today will be the trophies of tomorrow. It's all about conservation.