Property owners cannot maximize their hunting opportunity if they are not aware of the condition of the habitat that they manage. Five Oaks offers habitat assessment to gain a better understanding of habitat conditions. It is our thoughts that if you don’t understand where you are you can’t even begin to improve and know where you are going. We take a comprehensive look at each acre of habitat. We collect soil information, conduct vegetation sampling, assess management practices, assess the infrastructure of impoundment, and hydrology data to understand the condition of the habitat on your property. We focus on the following habitats.
Moist soil Habitat What is moist soil?
Moist soil habitat is the intentional production of native herbaceous plants in a waterfowl impoundment to provide weed seeds, invertebrates, and plant matter for wintering waterfowl. When discussing moist soil we speak of many annual herbaceous plants. Barnyard grass, Crabgrass, Tooth cup, Pennsylvania smartweed, and lady’s thumb smartweed are just a few. The original goal of growing moist plants in waterfowl impoundments was to reduce cost of managing food sources for waterfowl on United State Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges. The comparative cost between growing a crop of corn as a hot crop vs. moist soil plant is staggering. Countless research studies have shown waterfowl need a balanced diet and have different food requirements during their reproductive cycle. Moist soil is but one of the wintering habitats that waterfowl need during the year. The annual moist soil plants have the potential to produce high seed yields that serve as an important food source for waterfowl and other wildlife. When moist soil plants are flooded in the fall they provide a food source for aquatic invertebrates. During the fall, molt waterfowl forage on the invertebrates which provide high yields protein.
Moist soil Habitat Assessment
At Five Oaks Wildlife Services we conduct a comprehensive assessment of both the living and non-living factors that drive moist soil systems. We pay close attention to the soils, the hydrology, and the vegetation in an impoundment.
Moist soil Habitat management plans
To maintain a highly productive moist soil impoundment to feed wintering waterfowl you must develop a management plan. Water management and vegetation management are the two most important actions to maintain high productivity. At Five Oaks Wildlife Services we offer writing of annual management plans to keep you in the game. We will hold your hand on a yearly basis to maximize food production on your property.
Turn Key Moist soil Habitat Renovation
Many poorly managed moist soil impoundments become grown up in woody species, if the levees are not maintained they become degraded, if water control structures are not maintained they will not function. Five Oaks Wildlife Services will provide the proper equipment and knowledge to renovate your moist soil impoundment to maximize waterfowl benefit.
Green Tree Reservoirs
Green tree reservoirs are defined as stands of bottomland hardwood that are equipped with levees and water-control structures and are flooded during dormant season to provide mast and invertebrates for wintering waterfowl. Biologist, commonly refer to Green tree reservoirs as “GTRs”. The first of these waterfowl management impoundments was developed in the late 1930s in an area known as Grand Prairie near Stuttgart, Arkansas (Fredrickson and Batema, 1992.). Unknown to most, the private landowners in the Grand Prairie region of Arkansas didn’t build the first GTRs for waterfowl hunting but for water storage to provide the first flush on planted rice. The GTRs were allowed to fill during the winter months and waterfowl piled into these areas and by early spring the impoundments were dewatered into the surrounding rice fields. It was a great water conservation measure but as the inception of commercial hunting and the demand for hunting opportunity increased groundwater wells were drilled to artificially flood the impoundments. The original Green Tree Reservoir boom struck in the early 1960’s. For the past 50 plus years green trees have been managed the same. Fill the impoundment to full pool by the first day of duck season, hunt, and then drain the impoundment the day after duck season. We call this managing for duck hunters not for ducks. Any ecological system whether it is a floodplain forest or a herbaceous marsh one thing is certain the depth, the duration, and the timing of the flood is not consistent. Mallard hunting exploded in the man made impoundments due to massive amounts of forage. Today we see extremely high mortality of the red oak species that once provided high volumes of acorns to feed the mallards. In the late 1990’s researchers spent lots of time and energy getting a handle on forest health indicators to identify problems. In the last ten years Five Oaks has spent much time, energy, and financial resources to better understand how to assess GTRs and how to renovate them to maximize waterfowl benefit. Our key note “Early Fall flooding” is extremely degrading to the red oaks in your GTR. We have developed practices to remove undesirable woody species and replant red oaks.
Green Tree Reservoir Habitat Assessment
Conducting a habitat assessment is the first step to understanding forest health in your GTR. Five Oaks offers an intensive GTR habitat assessment to identify drainage, design, and forest health problems in your green tree reservoir. We identify all problems from poor management strategies to poor forest health and prioritize corrective measures. The assessments are complied into report form so landowners can review progress periodically.
Turn Key Green Tree Reservoir Renovation
Many landowners have no idea where to start when renovating their GTR. Over the last ten years Five Oaks has been working on cutting edge techniques on their own properties to better understand sound and successful practices in GTR renovation. This is why Five Oaks is the only choice in green tree renovations. Our exclusive services include planning, survey and design, reconstruction of levees, installation of water control structures, removal of undesirable species, and reforestation.
Green Tree Reservoir Long Term Habitat Management Plans
Once a habitat assessment and all corrective measures are completed a Habitat Management plan is critical to ensure an increase in habitat quality. The long term habitat management plans are in report form and include water management strategies such as flood dates and dewatering schedule, forest management guidance, hunter management, and many other strategies.
Over the past decade researchers in the waterfowl community have shown there is a lack of hot foods due to the timing of harvest and efficiency in harvest equipment. Five Oaks Wildlife Service, in conjunction with Ronnie Helms, Ph.D and Jay Coker (local crop consultants that farm property in the Stuttgart area) have been working to maximize waterfowl habitat by using innovative crop rotations. This is a way to link practical wildlife management and common agricultural practices to maximize crop yield and increase hunting opportunity. Waterfowl usage in the southern part of the United States has revolved around row crops for many years. The technology of today reduces waterfowl forage opportunity greatly. A supplement is needed to maintain adequate food to keep interest throughout the wintering season. This management scheme follows normal crop rotation and allows for great crop production as well as great waterfowl forage. The common duck hunter believes that a flooded rice field or a flooded bean field is one of the most common places to kill ducks. In today’s advanced farming world that is not always the case. A rice field today does not have more than 60 pounds per acre due to advanced harvesters and earlier harvest. In the late 80’s the waste grain was approximately 300 pounds per acre. A mallard will not forage in a field if he exerts more energy than he can gain. This is where our millet comes into play. It is planted prior to or after the harvest in late August or early September. Our millet will produce up to 2,000 pounds per acre with fertilizer and irrigation. This provides adequate food for migrating waterfowl as well as structure for invertebrate populations. The product should be planted at a minimum of 75 days prior to the first frost. Therefore, the farther south you travel the greater the chance of success.
Agricultural Land Management for Wildlife (Rotations)
Five Oaks Wildlife Services provides agricultural consultation to clients to develop management plans to both maximize crop yields and increase hunting opportunity.
Waterfowl Food Plots
Limited acres of what we call “hot foods” on a farm can produce high duck numbers for a limited number of days during extremely cold periods. For waterfowl to hold in an area energy must be available. Energy comes in the form of grain crops. Hot Food crops such as corn, millet, buckwheat, and milo can provide this niche habitat during cold periods. When writing management plans on properties we outline the recipe for success when growing hot food crops.
A unit of land must meet three criteria to be classified as a “wetland”. There must be hydric soil present, hydrology (standing water present), and hydrophytic vegetation must be present on the site. Wetlands fill several needs for waterfowl to include food, protection from predators, brood habitat, and several others. However, wetlands are not limited to just waterfowl. Fish, herptiles, and other migratory birds use wetlands as well. Wetland restoration is not as simple as planting trees building a few levees and walking away. That is why Five Oaks Wildlife Services offers planning, engineering, design, construction management, and reforestation for turn key projects.
Wetland restoration planning
For any project to be successful ample data both on and off site must be collected. Considerations in the planning process must include the landowner’s objective (e.g. to maximize wildlife habitat and hunting opportunity), soils and hydrology information, both quality and quantity of surrounding habitats, and any opportunities for government cost share.
Wetland Restoration topographic survey
To properly restore hydrology topographic surveys are necessary. While conducting this service we advise clients on where to construct new levees when restoring wetlands. We use the newest mapping technology to select the appropriate areas that will sustain a wetland environment without failure.
Wetland Restoration engineering and design
One of the most common mistakes encountered by Five Oaks Wildlife Services staff during a habitat assessment is poor engineering and design of the waterfowl impoundments. The impoundment must be constructed properly in the interim to maximize waterfowl habitat quality. This service provides proper design of levees and sizing and placement of water control structures designed by a registered professional engineer (P.E).
Turn Key Wetland Restoration
Unfortunately many landowners have no idea how to correctly construct levees, install water control structures, nor plant trees. This is why at Five Oaks Wildlife Services we offer restoration services from start to finish. We act as an agent for the landowner and develop the final product.
404 Permit Applications
When restoring wetlands under certain conditions the US Army Corp of Engineers may require a Clean Water Act – 404 permit. This service provides the landowner piece of mind that the appropriate permits are acquired to restore or renovate wetlands on their property. Five Oaks Wildlife Services provide processing of 404 permit applications for wetland restoration, mitigation site planning, and turn key mitigation site restoration.
Farm Bill Program Assistance
There are several different USDA Farm Bill Programs designed to restore, enrich, and increase wildlife habitat. With more than fifteen years of experience in these programs we are able to provide guidance on selecting the proper program to maximize wildlife habitat, increase economic income on marginal lands, and meet the objectives of the landowner.