As I walked down the lane toward him, my focus was intense. A little more than a week earlier, I had taken my best buck, and now another lay just yards ahead. I had calmed my heart rate, taking several deep breaths as I climbed down the ladder from the stand, and it seemed to be getting back within the normal range.
Suddenly, the explosion of quail in flight startled me and, once again, my heart rate was back in the fight-or-flight realm. I loved it! The burst of flushing quail was a sound from my youth. A sound that you never forget, and one that, unless you happen to spot them first or are standing beside a pointed bird dog, never fails to surprise.
I watched as the covey flew away, dancing between rays of sunlight, into a distant corner of the pine plantation as I stood there smiling in their wake. Seeing them was a much anticipated dream come true. Over the past two years, I have listened and watched as the birds have made a comeback on our farm.
The first sign that heralded their return was the sound of a “bob-white” whistle through the pines in our backyard late one evening as I stood at the grill enjoying a bourbon while cooking — never has “happy hour” sounded so sweet! Later that same year, as I paused during a hike to watch a Kingfisher at work on the beaver pond, I was treated to the sight of a hen with chicks in tow passing through an opening between two thickets.
Standing there admiring my buck, I thought about all the work we had done at the farm over the past few years. We had thinned a good portion of the timber a couple of years earlier and, this year, I began a more robust supplemental feeding regimen. Both of these changes seemed to be having the intended effect of providing better habitat and nutrition for our wildlife.
Things seem to be heading in the right direction. Now, with the arrival of a new year, what plans and resolutions should we make for 2021? Walking out to get my four wheeler, I contemplated what “outdoor resolutions” I should make for this place in the upcoming year (as well as for me).
My initial thoughts about the farm centered around the wildlife that is nearest and dearest to my heart: wild turkeys. Several years ago, we planted a food plot of chufas, and the turkeys enjoyed the perennial sedges for several seasons. However, as is often the case, “having enough time” kept that from happening again in the years that have followed. This year, I plan to make that happen, along with thinning the remaining timber.
If we can accomplish the thinning this year, we will be set up nicely for a controlled burn of all the timber in 2022, which would be beneficial for all the wildlife (as well as the trees). I plan to continue the year-round supplemental feeding schedule for the deer with a focus this year on enhancing the supplemental protein and mineral feeding.
“What more can we do for the quail?” I thought as I drove back in to retrieve my deer. According to the MDWFP, one option is to evenly broadcast milo, grain sorghum and/or wheat at a rate not to exceed 50 pounds per acre from May 2 through Sept. 1. This seems like a logical next step.
Another focus this year will be turning our lake back into the bass and bream hotspot that it once was. I stocked the lake several years ago, but we lost a lot of those fish to a drought that followed the next year. The rainfall totals of the past couple of years have the lake back to its normal pre-drought level. In fact, last year it got so high that water came over the dam, necessitating a bit of work on the spillway.
This past fall, I added bass, coppernose bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcrackers), fathead minnows and a few grass carp in my initial stocking and plan to do the same this spring. I also resumed daily feedings during the appropriate months, and we have thoroughly enjoyed watching the piranha-like feeding frenzy when the feeder goes off each morning and afternoon. Along with the feeding, I plan to fertilize the lake as well.
As far as personal resolutions go, I have made two thus far that are outdoors-related. I plan to improve my long-range rifle shooting skills and learn to fly fish. I already have all the necessary equipment for the long-range shooting practice and my family gave me a new fly fishing rig for Christmas with the help of Cohutta Fishing Company (cohuttafishingco.com) in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I can’t wait to use it this spring in the mountains of North Georgia.
For me, the best thing about making resolutions is the excitement generated by the process and, to say the least, I am excited about 2021 and this list of “outdoor resolutions.” Take time this week to make a few of your own (if you haven’t already) and, until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.