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Vandiver: Summer is time to prepare for fall hunting
Jackson Vandiver poses with a large mouth bass he recently caught. - photo by For The Times

What a great spring we have had. I was witness to the birth and growth of three new red tail hawks that have left their nest and can now be seen hunting as their parents have done for years.

As summer nears, it is time to establish new food plots, bush hog shooting lanes and perform maintenance on existing food plots, check existing tree stands for safety and place new tree stands on trails discovered during turkey season.

Extraordinary amounts of rain have primed the soil for summer planting and provided some great trout fishing.

Sunflowers are planted and brown top millet will be planted in the next few weeks in preparation for the Sept. 5 opening day of dove season.

The deer herd looks to be in good shape as many of the bucks captured on trail camera pictures are showing exceptional antler growth due in large part to the protein feed we have been feeding since January, which is boosting both body weights and antler growth. The time spent in the summer will pay big dividends this fall. Hunting has become a 12-month sport for me as ‘every day is Saturday.’

This year marked the fifth that I was able to experience the nesting hawks at my house. I watched the adults build their nest in a huge white oak tree beside my driveway.

Soon afterward the shrill voice of the adult hawks was an alarm that it was feeding time, and was followed by the chirping of the babies as they enjoyed their first meal.

I enjoyed seeing their growth as they eventually appeared on the limbs outside the huge nest and soon thereafter they were gone, leaving an empty nest. These are truly majestic birds and I look forward to the watching another hatch next spring.

A great deal of sweat equity is required in late spring and summer for those of us that love to hunt.

Taking time to prepare food plots and maintain existing food sources is a must if we are to be good stewards of the wildlife we enjoy hunting in the fall.

Tree stand safety is a must and that includes checking stands for weathering of straps, legs, bolts etc.

Summer is also the time to prepare new food plots and place new stands in the areas discovered during turkey season.

The wet spring has provided an excellent opportunity to identify travel corridors that would be overlooked in dry conditions. Perhaps one of the best benefits of turkey hunting is that it provides an opportunity to be in the outdoors and experience movement of deer, which provides a lot of information for planning the upcoming season.

Having an aggressive feeding program for deer in the off season can provide great benefits in the fall. Deer protein, such as Results protein pellets from Whitetail Institute, provide the nutrients that deer need to improve body weight and antler growth.

Trail cameras help identify the quality of the bucks on our property as well as the health of the deer herd and the timing of the birth of fawns. It is always encouraging to watch antler growth and know that the work and expense will provide quality hunting in the fall.

Sunflowers were planted in late May for our dove field and brown top millet will follow in June. The rainfall we had in May should help establish the sunflowers, which mature in 90-100 days and should be ready for cutting before opening day of dove season on Sept. 5. The brown top millet matures in 60-70 days and will be cut and bailed in late August.

The dove hatch should be excellent this year as we have had a mild spring with very few strong storms which can destroy dove nest. I am hopeful of another great dove season as we had last fall. Dove season is always a great time to share the outdoors with family and friends and officially open a new hunting season.

Trout fishing has provided some great outings for our family this spring. My grandchildren Jackson and Taylor caught some great trout on our most recent trip to the mountains.

My son Josh and his wife Amanda enjoyed watching my granddaughter Taylor fishing in her first pair of waders with her Papa.

We did more wading than fishing, but did catch and release some great trout. The good news is that, amazingly, neither of us fell in; not sure how she kept me from falling.

Jackson caught his best largemouth bass ever on a pond fishing trip this summer as well as some really nice bream. We plan to take several more trout fishing trips this summer and enjoy some cold watermelon on the river bank.

What do archery hunters do when the hunting season is closed? You go shoot in archery tournaments. Josh took Taylor and Jackson to an archery tournament sponsored by the Gainesville Archery Club in May.

They all shot in the tournament and, to no surprise, Taylor shooting for the first time in a tournament won her age group as Jackson had done earlier when he shot in his first tournament.

The afternoons they share practicing shooting their bows is not only fun but helps prepare for hunting season.

I don’t shoot that much and they all think I am bow challenged, but I respond that I only have a few good shots left and can’t afford to waste them. What a great way to pass on a family tradition.

Consistent hunting success in the fall is directly related to the work put in during the hot Georgia summers. I actually embrace the preparation as much as I do the hunts. I have been blessed to have the time, opportunity and health to take the time to prepare for hunting season in the summer. ‘Every day is Saturday.’

Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.

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