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2020 UGUIDE South Dakota Fall Pheasant Hunting Outlook Forecast Report

July 27, 2020 by

PCL Guests, here is what I call the “last chance” update for the 2020 season.  Meaning that this is the point in the summer where what you have worked on all year is done, and you go into fall and winter with that…..from a habitat planning standpoint.  Here are the major updates:

·       The 13 row tree belts are in and growing.  They came out about as good as can be expected.  I would not expect to find many birds there this fall but you never know.  We did find the first brood of the year on its edge.

·       On the north side of each of these belts sits the renter's 100 acres of conventional corn (50 acres per farm).  This should be a great bird attractant to the farm whether it is standing or cut.  There are some grass weeds in there so that may add some bird holding cover once cut.  The grass weed pressure is extreme this year due to excessive moisture.  I will talk more about this in food plot points below.

·       Food plots:  I went the extra mile on fertilization and weed management and nature still won.  In the end, birds don’t care but I like to keep plots as clean as possible.

o   Corn – As you recall conventional corn was used so roundup was not an option for post emergent weed control.  Fortunately the renter used a 2nd post emergent weed control option that I also deployed on the corn and it helped set back the grass weeds and allowed the corn to get above the competition.  It looks really good right now and should turn out well for fall and winter.  Might have to go back to RR corn not only for corn plots but may have to do it for all plots for one season just to gain control back on weed pressure.  All plots got 140 lbs of nitrogen per acre.  There were 5 herbicide application passes; a lot.  Also considering going to 15” rows vs 30” now used as it would help get weed fighting crop canopy up sooner.

o   Milo – The past problem with these plots was too thin a stalk caused from too high a planting rate. They tended to blow over in the winter. I may have gone to the other end of spectrum at 5lbs/acre.  The ideal rate is probably 6-8lbs/acre.  The milo got all the herbicide applications the corn did except for last grass one because it does not tolerate the herb.  Milo was cleaner than most because it followed last years RR corn.  There was still way too much grass weed pressure for my liking.  Yes I can now see some of the grass weeds are giant foxtail so plan to shave long-haired dogs for less post hunt maintenance.  Generally the problem grass weeds are 4 types; sandbur and 3 sizes of foxtail of which the smaller two are only problematic to crop growth.  I have not seen any sandbur yet but may be too soon to tell.  The 5lb rate might be fine as milo comes on strong the last half of summer.  We should have solved the blow over issue at least and there is some volunteer corn coming to fill in the gaps as well.  I like the 15” rows vs 7.5”.  We put the right pre-emergents down for milo and corn but the problem is too much rain washed them out of the soil too soon.

o   Dirty Corn – This is a plot type that if you plant it one week too early the grass weeds are going to bite you in a year like this.  I think that is what’s happening.  A solution might be to plant even shorter day maturity crops and plant later getting more of these grass weeds with your initial burn down (roundup pre-plant).  The June 15 plant date is significant for managing the warm season problem grass weeds.  In dirty corn there are no pre or post emergent spray options because the seed mix is too diverse.

o   Bottom line – There will be plenty of food and cover for birds come fall and also through tough winter months.  Just be prepared to find some giant foxtail which sticks to anything fuzzy.

·       Bird numbers – In talking with UGUIDE outfitters, it seems that we who spend so much time in tractors covering our land have the least to say about bird numbers.  I think we just get used to seeing birds and it’s very hard to tell if numbers are up or down.  We got a new mail carrier recently and he drives between Platte and us and says he has seen more good sized broods this year than in a long time.  I too have seen good sized broods (8+) which infers a better hatch in the normal June window.  I am also seeing newly hatched birds in the last two weeks.  This is normal.  We had 5” of rain June 9 and a brief hail shower June 2 and recently 2.7 inches of rain.  Those are not ideal for birds but the heat, cover growth and bugs may make up for it.

·       Thistle  - I recently got a letter from USDA alerting me to noxious weed problems on our farm.  I was trying to avoid spraying and clipping CRP fields early in hopes of minimizing mortality to newly hatched pheasants from random disturbance.  We were planning to spray thistle this fall which is the best timing.  We’ll still have to do that but I had to go out and clip the infested areas, namely the firebreaks and recently planted diverse CP-25 honeybee fields (photo is picture of one of the non-infested fields).  The clipped acres totaled about 180 acres and was done in the last two weeks.  I can set the mover high (1 foot) and there is still good cover underneath so will have good cover come fall.  These fields don’t hold many birds once the onset of cold weather happens.  Birds move to plots, trees and tall warm season grasses.  Chemicals to treat thistle are not cheap, but something you have to do every couple years.  I am also looking into a new sprayer that is a little wider and can get up higher over tops of weeds.  It will have larger tank for fewer fills, etc.

·       We are looking forward to a good season and seeing you all this fall.

Check here for remaining openings for 2020 season.