Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Post Planting - Dove Field Worries

I was a little worried after planting the Millet and Sesame.  Worried because the fertilizer was not down, worried that there would not be enough rain.  There’s not much I could do about the rain, but hopefully, applying the fertilizer a couple days after planting would be fine.
Preparing the Dove field Before Planting
I called the farm and garden center on Monday; they were backed up and could not spread the fertilizer.  “Call back tomorrow” was the only help I could get.  I called Tuesday and finally, they could spread our plots in the afternoon.  So I drove 2 hours to the store to pay and meet the driver at 12:30.  But he was stuck in another county waiting for someone to show up and tell him where to spread his load.  So again I waited until 2:00, then 3:00, then 4:00 and at 4:30 he was finally on his way back.  A few hundred dollars and minutes to mix our fertilizer was all that held us, and then we were on the way to the field.
At the field, I climbed in his truck and pointed down the narrow path towards the dove field.  Johnny isn’t bush hogging the roads because we found out this is bad for the quail. Trees growing beside the road had not been trimmed this year making the path to the plot look like a needle eye for the large fertilizer truck.  The driver complained and told me I was going to damage the truck.  “How much further is it?”  I could only reply the same as I do to my children on a long trip; oh, we’re almost there, it just up over the next hill.”
Climbing the last hill was the worst for him, he got stuck twice and at one point I thought we would have to call in a tow as his complaining led to cussing.  But he made it and I quickly found that spreading a small field takes no time at all and in about 5 minutes we were headed back down the hill to spread some of the quail plots.  I also found that ordering enough fertilizer to spread four acres of field will get you about 3 acres spread. Many of the quail plots were left without fertilizer.
With this accomplished, I didn’t have to worry about the fertilizer, and since it rained just before and after we planted, I wasn’t worried about the rain.  That was until it stopped raining.  While the rest of the country is facing epic floods, I am not asking for rain.  The problem is that South Georgia is facing a drought and some areas haven’t received rain in nearly five weeks.
Sesame and Millet starting to emerge through the Georgia Clay
But as I visited family in North Carolina, the news finally came in.  Johnny was up at the field and sent back a picture with the caption “the field looks better than the picture shows.”  And the picture shows some Sesame and Millet sprouting through the dry earth in Georgia clay.
I’ll be up in a week or so to look at the results and to start on the next planting – Proso Millet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Planting the Dove Field

Finally, the time came to start planting the Dove field.  I gave Johnny a list and some cash a few weeks before, and he kindly went to the seed store to purchase the seed.  There was a poll on this blog for a few weeks asking what I should plant and I believe the Brown Top Millet won out. I actually chose a combination of Brown Top and Proso Millets with Sesame. The idea is that I can start mowing the Brown top Millet in July giving time for Doves to find and get used to feeding in the field.  The Sesame will be ready for the first Dove Season and The Proso should last into the second season.  This gives us September and October to hunt doves.  By the time the field has stopped producing, Quail season will be under way.
My daughter and I left late Saturday evening after a Cub Scout banquet and stayed in camp.  On Sunday, we woke early, got the tractor and began plowing the field one last time.  It was wet, but broke up nice. Johnny arrived with a side by side 4 wheeler and took over the tractor.  He finished the field with as smooth a surface as a tractor can lay.
While he was finishing the plowing, Sydnie and I started laying out the field.  The plan was to plant a couple of areas of each type of seed so the Brown Top Millet mowing would produce nice open areas for the Doves to land next to either Sesame or Proso Millet.  I taught Sydnie how to drive the 4 wheeler and she followed me around the field with stakes and flags.
The planting was easy, we just broadcast the Sesame and Brown Top plots with a walking seeder.  Sydnie followed slowly with the seed.  The Proso wasn’t planted with the rest, I am waiting until June to put it down.  The idea is to have it ready in September and for it to last well into October.
After spreading the seed, Sydnie and I hooked the drag on the 4 wheeler and drug the field for about an hour.  All the seed should have plenty of contact with the soil to aid the germination and growth.  Now it was up to getting the fertilizer down and a little rain.
Back at the camp, Johnny had finished some chores and we discussed plans for planting the rest of the field and the quail plots.  Later we talked about our future plans for the Dove and Quail seasons and our hopes of Doves weaving and coveys rising.  Hopefully, our hard work will pay off in a way that matches our expectations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Preparing the Dove Field

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted and it’s time for some new material.  Not that there’s been nothing to write about, preparing the field has been a task over the past couple of weeks.  I’ve just given other things more priority.
The last time I wrote about the field, John had taught me how to plow, and we left the field tilled and ready for fertilizer.  Again, with the dream of doves diving into a group of waiting hunters, I ordered the fertilizer.  The idea was to do everything I can to get a lot of legal seed on the ground in September.  So I called the local farm and seed store and ordered the 500 lbs. per acre of the 12-4-8 prescribed by the University of Georgia.
Not being a farmer, I was naive to think that they would deliver when I wanted.  Instead, I found that they were booked up for two solid weeks with farmers needing fertilizer for crops and pasture.  The earliest they could schedule was the Friday before we planned to plant the field.  I took it, realizing there was a certain chance that the fertilizer would not hit the field before our planned planting date.
Which is exactly what happened.  My call to the farm and seed store the Wednesday before planting confirmed that they would not be able to spread the dove field on Friday.  Apparently their truck was down and awaiting parts.  They would try to get to it Friday, but there were no guarantees.
On Friday, they confirmed that the truck was not ready, but that they would be able to spread on Monday or Tuesday the next week.  With a booked schedule through the rest of May, I thought we would need to hold off planting for weeks.  Johnny calmed my fears.  If they could spread on Monday or Tuesday, we would be able to seed the field over the weekend and get the fertilizer down before the seed germinates.
So the plans changed; we would seed the field over the weekend, and pray that the fertilizer could be spread on Tuesday at the latest.  And hope that it wouldn’t burn and young emerging plants.  Not ideal, but good enough for a novice dove field manager like myself.  It was at least enough for me to make plans to meet Johnny at the field over the weekend to spread seed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dove Hunt in Tropical Storm Dennis

I have to admit that many of the dove hunts I’ve been on have not produced a lot of shooting.  There was the time my brother Mike, and I drove 2 hours to pay $50 for a hunt over a field that was supposed to be full of doves.  We waited in line to pay and took our place in the middle of a field crowded with hunters but few birds.  I think I shot twice.
Then there was the hunt in the middle of tropical storm Dennis.  Mike had secured an invitation to a field of cut corn outside of Kinston in eastern North Carolina.  He picked me up in the morning and we started the trip hoping to return with our limits.  The problem was that Tropical Storm Dennis was headed straight for us.  As we drove east, the storm moved west.  By the time we were half way to the field, the flags at a car dealership were flapping so hard that it looked like the poles would snap.
By the time we got to Kinston, the first bands of rain had arrived and we crowed into a garage across a narrow highway from the dove field.  The field had been corn, but was recently cut with a lot of kernels left on the ground. A buffet in the minds of the doves.  But we were inside staring out at the rain and playing cards.  No one was about to hunt in the wind and rain and we all joked at the two young teens who toted guns out in the field.
As we watched from the dry comfort of the garage, an amazing thing happened.  We heard a gun and then saw a dove drop to the field.  In seconds we all had our gear and were headed to the hunt.  Doves were coming into the field from all directions to feed as much as possible before the full force of the storm hit.  While trying to shoot one flying with the wind at 90 mph was difficult, trying to hit one going crossways to the wind was impossible.  The wind would catch the dove and lift it, bend its course, drop it unexpectantly and then lift it up again.  It was like watching a super ball bounced under a table.  The best chance was to aim at the doves flying into the wind.  Really, thease doves were slow, and it was like shooting at a still target.
We ended up hunting in thirty minute increments.  Thirty minutes in the wind and then thirty minutes of down pour in the garage.  We left a few hours before the full tropical storm force winds hit and drove home wet and quiet but thrilled.  We didn't get a lot of shooting moving into and out of the field, but we sure had lots of fun.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Learning to Drive

I’m definitely no farmer, and it’s a good thing that Johnny had started plowing the field in the weeks before I got a chance to plow.  When we arrived at the camp, our task was simple.  The day would be spent plowing the dove field and a few quail food plots  We gathered the tractor and my instructions began.  The first lesson was to steer with the brakes.  With the heavy harrow in the back, the front wheels would slip off the ground when travelling up a steep incline.  Johnny and my son watched as a drove up a hill to see if I could handle it.  I went too slow, no wheels off the ground.

This slowness continued at the dove field.  We put the plow down and I started, slowly.  Johnny had to stop me and tell me to speed up.  So I started again.  Johnny had to stop me to tell me to raise the plow while turning.  I started again and again was stopped to tell me to raise the plow if the wheels spin.  I got to another turn, and was stopped to be told to use the brakes to turn.  And so it went for the first fifteen minutes in the field.

The New Hand
learns to drive

Finally, I got the hang of it, at least enough to satisfy Johnny, and they left me in the field while they ate lunch.  It really didn’t take long to finish, in a little more than an hour, they were back to pick me up.  That done, we plowed a couple of quail food plots nearby, and Johnny finished by plowing a few more.
Looking back on the field, it seemed larger.  The activities of fertilizer, seed, rain and mowing lay ahead but for now; the field was quiet and tranquil.  The work wasn’t that hard, and maybe the field could have been prepared better, but it was satisfying to me.
Later, my son pulled the thrower as I shot a few clay pigeons.  Although he can’t cock the arm, he earned a tip for his excellent interest in what was going on.  In a few years, he’ll be calling “pull” and I’ll be the one pulling.  And maybe that’s what this experience is about, seeing my son and daughter take notice of something I like.

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