The temperature might still be in the 90s but the kids are back in school and football season is starting soon; that means fall is coming and with it, the beginning of hunting season. Here in northwest Florida archery season for deer and turkey begins October 24. While it might still be a little early to dust off your camouflage there are still plenty of things you can be doing this time of year to get ready for the start of hunting season.
If plan to utilize food plots on your hunting property this fall it is time to take soil samples and if need be, apply lime. All plants have a soil pH range where they grow best. For many of the plants we commonly use in food plots the ideal range for soil pH is above that of our soils here in Florida. Applying lime to the soil will increase the soil pH, but it takes time; months not weeks. There are a variety of liming products available but the most economical option is generally bulk, agricultural or dolomitic lime. Ideally lime would be incorporated into the soil well before planting. A soil test will provide specific recommendations about how much lime and fertilizer your site needs. Your county extension agent can assist you in submitting a soil sample for analysis and interpreting the results and recommendations. Soil pH greatly effects soil nutrient availability; spending money on fertilizer without checking or correcting the pH is not advisable.
It is still early to plant cool season food plots; planting should begin around October 1. It is not too early to begin researching what you want to plant and booking seed. If you are particular about what varieties you want to utilize (you should be) you should make arrangements with seed suppliers in advance. Always be sure to utilize crops and varieties that are well suited to your site. Be careful with premixes that are sold at chain stores. These products may not be well suited to our environment here in Florida. Contact your county agent and be on the lookout for future articles for more information on selecting the forage crops that are best suited to your area.
If you are planning on hunting over feed (corn, etc.) you should have already began your feeding program. To legally hunt over feed the feeding station must have been maintained with feed continuously for at least six months prior to harvest game in the vicinity. In other words, if you start feeding corn today (8/20) you can’t legally hunt over it until February 20th. For more information regarding hunting over feed see the FWC webpage.
Using game cameras to monitor your property can help you get an idea about the quantity and quality of animals utilizing your property. Having this information before hunting season can help you plan management decisions in advance. Preseason scouting, on foot or with game cameras can also help you determine what parts of your property game are utilizing the most. Granted, there is still plenty of time for patterns to change before hunting season gets here. Another positive aspect of utilizing game cameras this time of year is that they give you an added excuse to spend a little extra time in the woods. In the months leading up to hunting season going to “check cameras” is somewhat of a Sunday afternoon tradition in my house.
Long summer days give you plenty of time in the evenings to practice shooting your bow. Proficiency with a bow takes practice and repetition. I was once told, “Don’t practice until you can hit what you’re aiming at, practice until you can’t miss”. Practice now, don’t wait until you miss, or worse, wound an animal to realize you needed to improve your skills. In addition to working on your skills for hunting season, archery can be great outdoor fun for the entire family.
There are a lot of hot days to wait through still ahead of us but hunting season is coming; if you’re like me you’ll be happy to see it when it gets here. Now is the time to make plans and preparations so when the waiting is finally over you’ll be able to have your best season yet.