Now that the Holidays are behind us and everyone is beginning to settle into the New Year, it’s time to start planning. In my opinion, the winter time is the best time to get out in the woods, here in eastern NC we don’t see much snow, but for us, the understory is low, wildlife trails are easier to find in the thick, and the bugs are not carrying you off. I like this time to simply walk the woods, scout out areas that I haven’t been to in a while, gather soil samples, enjoy the quiet and visualize what I would like to do better in the coming year. February and March are great months to do just that! I start off by sending my soils samples off the be analyzed, our good friends at Mossy Oak Biologic (http://www.plantbiologic.com/t-soil.aspx) can help with that or you can visit your local Ag agency, which is a great resource and usually free. The soil test results will determine how much lime and fertilizer you’ll need to get the dirt right and provide you with the basis of your plan.
Next is to make actually a plan, break out the calendar and determine when to lime, when to fertilize, what to plant and when. Planning helps you budget your time effectively, let’s face it, we all have jobs and families, kids in sports, honey-do lists, and church or community service commitments. If you don’t schedule the work and find balance with everything else going on then you are left with another year of a woulda, coulda, shoulda. To get some help with that you can go to the Biologic website and download the regional planting guide (http://www.plantbiologic.com/plantingguide.aspx) it will help you determine what and when you will need to plant to best suit your intended purpose, soil conditions, and region of the country.
Other things like getting out on the tractor or 4-wheeler to mow or break the soil up in areas you may be wanting to convert to food plots is a good idea. I also like finding those little honey holes tucked away back in the woods where small “killing” plots can be placed. This is a great thing to do while the understory is dormant, you can get in there, remove any brush, scratch or disc up the ground, take a soil sample and get it ready to lime and fertilize as well. I also like to take this time to pull all my stands down, bring them back to the house and clean them up, check the straps, give them a fresh coat of paint if needed and store them out of the weather for a while.
The outdoors is available for us to enjoy all year long, not just for a couple of months during the hunting season. There is also a lot of satisfaction to be gained by working the land, creating better habitat and food sources for the game and most importantly putting forth the effort to make your piece of dirt the best it can be.
Don’t forget to take a kid with you, they’ll love you for it!