Planting Swamps for Ducks
Not everyone has the ability to create a waterfowl haven of flooded corn every year, but most duck hunters do have a pond or beaver swamp they have access to. In our beaver swamp management post we have talked in detail on managing natural areas for ducks. Here is another article on how to plant and manage a swamp for waterfowl.
For a beaver swamp you first want to break two holes in the dam. The main hole you will focus on is the hole in the deepest run of the swamp. Dig out the back of the dam first before breaking the seal so you can get a solid trench. Once that is done, let it flow.
Next you want to go ahead and get a pipe 12-24inches in diameter (depending on the size of the swamp) with a beaver guard at one end. After the hole is drained or while it is draining set the pipe in place. The beavers will start repairing that hole within 24 hours. The key is to have them build back on top of your pipe to help keep it in place. If you have taken the steps to drain the water out of your swamp 75% of the job is done.
Planting grains like milo can be risky if the area has a potential to flood in the summer. Milo doesn’t grow well in very wet soils like millet. If standing water sits on your crop during the early growing season it will stunt the growth of your milo. It will also be more labor intensive than promoting grasses or planting millets. If you plan on planting milo, water should be pulled or drained out by the beginning of July and seeds in the ground by the middle of July at the latest. This will give you 100 days to reach maturity before the first frost or for a better result drained by May and kept dry while waiting on a soil sample.
Milo needs disturbance to the soil such as a disk behind an ATV or tractor if dry enough. Planting milo in these areas can be tougher than millets or moist soil plants but offers a lot of food and a higher carbohydrate source for late season migrations.
A productive option is planting “dirty milo” which is broadcasting back over the milo or corn with millet late in the planting season which offers two sources of nutrition. If you are fortunate enough to have both, you would see that the ducks
prefer the moist soil plants like millet for first half of the season and then turn on to the corn or milo in the colder half of the season. The milo can not be planted too thick and must allow enough sunlight to penetrate for the millet to mature.
In the Southeast you can get by planting millet up to the first of September. Millet is the go to for the swamps because it needs no fertilizer and thrives in wet, muddy swamp environments
. Japanese Millet grows quickly and can take minor amounts of standing water throughout the growing season. So worry of heavy rains are not as serious.
Japanese millet can reach maturity as soon as 45 days and will most likely be fully developed at 60 days. Japanese or Golden millet does best when just broadcasted on wet soil, immediately after the water is drained out. Golden Millet is becoming the new go to for waterfowl managers because it can grow in water half its height. Millet is tough to beat for the swamps.
A management practice that takes the least amount of effort and is becoming the standard for a lot of successful waterfowl managers around the country, is promoting native grasses. The three main moist soil grasses the ducks are after in a natural setting is byarnyard grass, smartweeds and sprangletop. These, plus invertabrates are primarily what the ducks in beaver swamps are feeding on.
These native grasses are promoted through a slow and steady draw down of water being drained out of the duck hole. These seeds are already laying dormant in the soil. All they need is oxygen at the right time of the year to germinate. Soil disturbance at the right time of year is also key in promoting barnyard grass and sprangletop. This disturbance can be done by a light disking behind an ATV or tractor.
If you want to learn from someone who has perfected this management method search “Jody Pagen” from “Five Oaks wildlife Service”.
A good place to order your seeds will be Southern States or a local feed and seed. Although some local feed and seeds have distributers that can not fill exotic orders easy like golden millet and wildlife dwarf sorghums(milo). Southern states has a few different locations that makes it easier for pick up where ever you are located. Ordering the bags online packs on a hefty shipping cost but you will definitely get what you need. If you go that route, I recommend looking at Pennington seeds, Cooperseeds.com or Mossy Oak Biologic. If you want to see someone down south who’s managed low grounds once or twice watch “Rusty Creasey” “planting for ducks” on youtube.
We hope this helps anyone out there trying a cost effective way to manage for ducks in swamps or low grounds.