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Wildlife get food to grow in
winter

Turkey federation has a garden-variety
plan

May 25, 2000

BY ERIC SHARP
FREE PRESS OUTDOORS WRITER

POSEN -- When bovine tuberculosis was
discovered in the northeastern Lower Peninsula,
brothers Jerry and John Kieliszewski were among
the first to feel the effects.

"We were cattle farmers," Jerry Kieliszewski said.
"Well, actually we were deer hunters who liked
farming, but we were in the beef cattle business.
After bovine TB, it became almost impossible to
sell our cattle.

"We had developed some good genetics. Our
cows averaged about 2,000 pounds and our bulls
were about 2,600. But if you were in the market
for breeding stock, would you buy from a place
known to have bovine TB? Nobody else wanted
to, either. If they did make an offer, it was way
below what the cattle were worth, so we just got
out of it."

While the brothers sold off the cattle, they held
onto their adjoining farms along M-32 in potato
country largely to indulge their passion for deer
hunting.

Then the Department of Natural Resources
established Deer Management Unit 452 covering
the five counties where TB was first discovered
and parts of six other counties surrounding them.
Baiting and winter feeding of deer were banned in
the area in an attempt to control the disease.

Which is why the Kieliszewskis were more than
happy to let the National Wild Turkey Federation
use their farms for a new program to help get
wildlife through the winter by planting feed plots.

Paid for by a $15,000 grant from the Ford Motor
Co. through the Outdoor Life Magazine
Conservation Fund, the NWTF will plant 260
acres of corn, sunflowers, sorghum and wheat in
Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda and
Presque Isle counties at the core of DMU 452. It
also will plant several thousand fruit trees to
provide food and shelter.

The project is supported by additional materials
(mostly seed and fertilizer) and expertise from
Weyerhauser, Monsanto, American Cyanamid,
Mead Corp., Cinergy Corp., Michigan State
University and the DNR.

The DMU 452 feeding ban has made it much
harder to provide winter food for turkeys, because
new rules say such food must be made virtually
deer-proof. But while big piles of deer feed are
illegal or will be soon, it is legal to grow the same
crops in the field, where they can be eaten by a
variety of animals.

"These feed plots we're planting are aimed at deer,
but they'll help all kinds of wildlife, including
turkeys," said Dan Potter of Hazel Park and the
Beard and Spurs NWTF chapter in Oakland
County. "I think that the significant thing about this
is the commitment from the national federation to
do something about a problem we're facing in
Michigan."

Potter and his wife, Barbara -- who last month
killed a 19-pound gobbler -- came to help plant
trees at the Posen site.

Steve Sharp of Sunfield, the NWTF's senior
regional director, said the flock is expanding rapidly
in southern Michigan "where there's so much
agriculture that food isn't a problem, and the
winters aren't as tough. We started introducing
them there in 1984, and now the southern Michigan
flock is about 60,000. But up here, if we can't feed
them, we've got a real problem."

Bobby Maddrey, director of the partnership
program at the NWTF's headquarters in Edgefield,
S.C., thinks the answer is finding landowners who
will let the federation plant 10 acres or so with food
plots and fruit trees.

"We want to expand it next year to several
thousand acres in the (core area), and then
hopefully outside," Maddrey said. "We've talked to
a lot of landowners, and they've been more than
willing to provide the land and the labor, and a lot
of our Michigan chapter folks are helping them
out."

The fruit trees are crab apples from Mead Corp.'s
Escanaba nursery, trees that are adapted to life
north of 45 degrees N. and which will provide
20-30 years of annual crops after they mature
about five years from now.

The NWTF also provided plastic shields to protect
the saplings from hungry deer until they reach about
three feet in height a year from now, their growth
accelerated by the mini-greenhouse effect created
by the plastic tubes.

The NWTF has other programs that provide seed
corn and other crops free or at low cost for
planting. The NWTF has distributed 5.5 million
pounds of seed corn nationally and some 125,000
in Michigan.

One of the local organizers of the wildlife feed plots
project was Mark Schuler, an officer of the Black
Mountain chapter of the NWTF and owner of
Nettie Bay Lodge in Hawks a few miles to the
north. Schuler said that in addition to providing
seed, the Michigan turkey federation chapters will
pay to have the crop tilled and treated with
insecticides if landowners don't have the means.

"We think this project will show people all over the
state that we can maintain good turkey and deer
numbers and a healthy deer herd without the kind
of feeding we did in the past," Schuler said.

 

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well this will be good for the private land owners but the guy on state land is going to suffer. How will he or she be able to compete? I know there will be some deer if the acorns are around but we all know that the deer will go to the most easiest food source. Just wondering?.....marty
 
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