Farming for Ducks

Howdy Hunters,

We began in 2010 with our “Duck Farm Project.”  The goal was to attract and hold, during the season, more ducks.  It sounds simple right?  Nothing ever is…

The first couple of years we were happy with any kind of crop growing in our ponds and moist soil impoundments.  We tried easy crops like Japanese millet, buckwheat, and pearl millets.  Marginal success was seen in growing the crop, and it helped hold some ducks longer.  After three years of following a simple management plan, we decided to start farming the moist soil impoundments like we would for a cash crop.  The difference was staggering!

We developed a farm plan for each wetland.  Each wetland was identified into two categories — floodable or dry-land.  For dry-land wetland projects we are completely dependent on rainfall for irrigation.  These projects will serve a dual purpose for ducks and doves.  The best crop for this type of ground is a mix of sunflowers and milo.  The nice thing about the two crops are how similar the plants are.  We start with a burndown shot of herbicide, usually Glyphosate with surfactant, to rid the wetland of unwanted weeds.  Then we would no-till crop into the moisture.  Once a stand is established, we fertilize with 200 pounds of Urea per acre before a rain.  Two weeks into growth season, we cultivate the crop for weed control.  Checking the crop weekly for bug pressure, especially army worms, and spraying accordingly.  Milo and Sunflowers are wonderful crops for September doves and Early Season ducks.

The moist soil impoundments with irrigation are a different story.  With the possibility of irrigation, we increase the yield and tilt the conditions in our direction.  Rice and corn are king in the moist soil impoundments with irrigation.  These projects will have different steps depending on the crop.  Let’s begin with Rice.  Disc, disc, disc is the key to my rice projects.  I like to plant my moist soil impoundments with a drill into a prepared seedbed with fertilizer at a seed rate of 75 pounds per acre.  I like to plant Clearfield varieties to allow use of herbicides while growing.  Rice does not need to be flooded in order to grow; however, flooding a rice crop will control weeds. Rice creates a wonderful wetland project for not only the ducks, but also shorebirds, songbirds, and crane species.  Corn also requires a discing preplant.  It needs more fertilizer and two herbicide sprays and also it has the ability to hold more ducks and geese than other crops especially mallards and Canada geese.  Corn needs water during certain periods of growth and requires a seeding rate of 5 pounds per acre.  Corn can be flooded and stands strong in water for most of the season.  Rice and corn are also the most expensive duck crops to grow, but you will see increases in duck numbers with both of these crops.

I suggest you invite your local game warden, NRCS Agent, and/or FSA Agent out to your moist soil impoundments and discuss your farming plans before beginning any projects.