"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Troubled Planting Season May Impact Wildlife 
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

How the weather and spring planting scenario will play out when the frost flies still is a matter for speculation, but weather-beleaguered Hoosier farmers are running out of time to plant corn and they are getting close on soybeans. Equally as speculative is the scenario on the effects of the wet spring and the troubled planting season on wildlife. But one thing is certain, the unusual monsoon season in Indiana has wrought hardships on Hoosier farmers and the end results could impact in many ways on wildlife and hunting. 

As of June 3, the planting of corn in Indiana stood at about 75 percent complete, according to the Agricultural Statistics Service of the US Department of Agriculture at Purdue University. Ralph Gann, Indiana statistician for the agency, said at that time last year the corn was 100 percent in the ground and that the five-year average is 95 percent. 

The figures for soybean planting on that date was 45 percent complete, compared to 98 percent last year, and 89 percent for the five-year average. Monday morning, as updated figures on both corn and bean planting were being prepared, Gann said  the week of June 3 offered a fairly good opportunity for field work. For this reason, the corn-bean planting picture probably will look somewhat better. 

Still, he said, most farmers planting corn that has 110 to 115-day maturity cycle, or 90-day cycle, probably will not plant corn after this week. He said, however, that there are seeds that offer shorter maturity cycles, but they are not real popular. 

Farmers not getting corn planted probably will go to soybeans, Gann said, adding that the maturity cycle of beans would make it possible to plant for another two weeks or a little longer. There also are sorghum and some other grains available, Gann said, but added that they are not popular because they can pose marketing problems. 

In an ordinary year corn covers some 5.7 million acres of Indiana and beans roughly 5.5 million acres. 

The big problem area for corn and soybean planting, appears to be in the southeastern part of the state, Gann says, pointing out that corn planting in that part of the state was 61 percent complete on June 3, and that the planting of beans was 23 percent complete. 

So how do the vagaries of spring planting of farmers impact wildlife and hunting. The answer is simple: many ways. 

Water, or a surplus thereof, can affect the reproductive cycle of wild birds and animals in the same ways it affects farmers who are trying to produce crops of grain. Ed Theroff, state research supervisor for the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), says it probably is too early to determine the effects of the wet spring on wild birds and animals. 

Theroff says, however, that ruffed grouse and wild turkey nest through the rain-filled period the state has experienced, adding that there is some concern for those species. But it still is too early to tell, he says. 

As for quail and pheasant, they nest a little later, he says, and a dryer summer could keep that production on track even though both species have been spotty in the last few years. 

Brood counts later in the summer will tell us more about quail and pheasants, Theroff says, adding that rabbits must also be considered even though they reproduce throughout the warm months and into the fall. 

Jim Mitchell, deer biologist for the DFW, does not expect adverse weather impacts on deer, although a variation of the corn crop picture could make hunting somewhat different, especially during the bow season which opens October 1, and the urban areas which open for bow September 15. 

Mitchell says, however, that in 1996, the last year we had an extremely wet spring, deer were affected by an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disorder (EHD, blue tongue), and that several hundred, or more than 1,000 deer, may have died in the southern part of the state. But it did not impact heavily on the deer herd state wide. 

In the final analysis, both  crop and wildlife pictures will be more clear in the weeks to come. 


All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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