Habitat Suggestions

DagoDucks

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I have been thinking about changing up the way we manage this field for duck hunting. Every year we try to grow corn, some years we succeed, most years we lose a lot of it in the south west corner to flooding. If you look at the aerial maps you can see the "wet" area pretty clearly. The red rectangles are the blind locations.
I still plan on planting corn on the drier part of the field but I am thinking about going with more moist soil and possibly trees/bushes in the wet area. What would the ideal planting be for you guys for an area like this? What would it consist of? I realize the trees would be a longer term project but I have a decent stock of oaks and willows (5-10yrs old) on some CRP ground that could be transplanted to speed that up.
Our ditches now fill completely with smartweed so I am thinking if we didn't till some of the ground at all we may be able to get that to come up naturally. We also see some barnyard grass and johnson grass in the field after we lose a crop to flooding.
The goal is to create a more diverse habitat where we can consitently attract more Gadwall, GW Teal, Shovelers and other dabbling ducks. We get plenty of mallards later in the season so we want to do better at attracting ducks earlier throughout the season. That wet corner is also where we flood early season for Blue Wing Teal.
We are located near Carlyle Lake in Illinois and our seaon generally runs from Nov 11 - Jan 9 give or take a few days either way.
Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.
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Swampfoot

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Do you disc it regularly? I think the moist soil route for a part of it is a good idea to create some diversity.
 
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Porter Bayou

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Corn and MSM don't go together. Either crap or get off the pot. Personally, I'd ditch the corn and go to a full MSM regime. I'd find someone that could do a GPS topo survey. Then I'd go down to Arkansas and find a rice levee plow. I'd pull levees on a .15 - .2 slope and plant the levees to Alamo switch grass to provide cover. I'd manage the "paddies" between the levees for moist soil vegetation.
 

DagoDucks

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In order...We often have Jap Millet in that corner and once in awhile on the entire field, the 3rd pic is all millet. Our harvest dips to about half when we don't get any corn in and just millet.

Yes it is disced every year unless it is flooded from the beginning of planting season all the way through. What I have noticed is we end up with more natural grasses/weeds growing if we disc vs smartweed where we don't disc. Probably because it is later in the year and the ground temps are much warmer then or the residual herbicide is preventing the broadleafs from germenating.

Corn and Moist Soil are what drive the harvest at the Conservation Areas we hunt in Missouri. At Grand Pass, Unit 6 is a combo of strips of corn and moist soil. That unit routinely kills the most ducks year over year. At Otter Slough their best 8 units have some combination of corn with a lot of moist soil. I am not saying that MSM alone will not kill ducks but in years that we do not have corn our harvest dips significantly. Those units at Otter do continue to kill ducks after all of the corn is eaten out which is why we are looking into the Moist Soil plants.

The rice idea intrigues me but it seems no one on here ever has success getting it to come up? One other isuue we have with that wet corner is the water depth. Once we get to full pool the water can be 24" - 27" deep. We bring it up slowly but in order to get the rest of the field huntable water we need it that deep.

Would there be any benefit to planting Buttonbush and a variety of trees on a portion and let Smartweed grow up in it? This is kind of what I had in mind.
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DisplacedDuck

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Love the conversation here.

I don't know the topography of the field, but Porter hit the nail on the head--I think you're going to have a REALLY hard time doing corn AND moist soil plants without a ton of dirt work. It'll either be too wet for corn or too dry for moist soil plants and trying to do both will end up with you disappointed all around.

If you really wanted to do corn strips with 'other' foods, I'd plant corn where you cared to and then jap or browntop millet (depending on the dryness) where you wanted something else.

I don't know Grand Pass, but I have hunted Otter my whole life--I know the area well enough to know no matter what it may seem, they only get corn + moist soil units in one of two ways: 1) corn on the higher ground or 2) pin-point precision of water level + the ability to control where water flows (complex dirt work).
 

Porter Bayou

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Here's my money's no object have some real fun idea. Spend all that corn and tree planting money on dirt work so you can have 100% control of your most valuable resource. Zero grade this puppy with a 2' dike all the way around it and a control structure with flashboard riser. Uniform maximum depth of 18" of water across the whole 60 acres. Plant native warm season grasses around the perimeter and small 1/4 ac islands. Manage the open water areas for moist soil. All your major expenses are in the infrastructure and your annual management expenses are in low cost low imput habitat.
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JFG

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Porter, I like your idea a lot as that would make that place look very attractive to a diverse amount of birds and provide many different hunting locations. With a flat grade you could eventually find the proper water level that worked best for whatever ms vegetation was propagated that year. And if the need to put in corn (as was mentioned by the OP), the 18” max water depth could be achieved to allow mallards and others to get after it. You can do a lot with 60 acres.
 

DisplacedDuck

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Agreed. Zero grade or the slightest of grades where optimal water depths (6”-18”) can still be achieved but maybe have less water early and full pool later would be my perfect-world scenario. Keep fresh food available, plus don’t let the first wave of birds completely pick the field dry.

Related side bar, what’s the cost of renting a dozer with laser-leveling system? I adhere to the “do it yourself” methodology only because in this instance it could save some money and I’d end up way too particular for it to be a fair shake for a contractor. Know thy self, right? Also, I’m not a smart man, but I got to think one could figure it out.
 

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