Effective wildlife management just became easier with these tools
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Years ago, when deer management was not as common or as well researched as it is today, I decided I would delve into planting food plots on my farm in Ohio. The idea seemed simple enough—a little land, a few seeds and the deer practically sprouted out of the ground like the alfalfa and corn. I chose a rocky, out-of-the-way patch of mud and clay (after all, planting crops for deer certainly wasn’t going to pay for the farm, was it?) and began earnestly turning the soil--with a garden hoe. This was an immense failure so I opted to use a little more horsepower in the form of a finicky gas tiller that belched and clawed its way through the clay soil like a dinosaur slogging through a tar pit. Eventually the tiller turned the soil and that turned out to be the basis of my first food plot.
Times have changed since that long spring day when I sweated and cursed behind that bulky old tiller. Today’s seed blends are heartier and far more balanced than early mixes. As our understanding of deer biology has grown so has the availability of better seeds that are resistant to drought, shade, pests and poor farming practices. Wildlife management today is more about science than sweat equity.
Time has also proven that wildlife management can, in fact, pay the bills. Today many of the farms in the county where I planted my first plot years ago are dedicated strictly to growing big whitetail bucks. Whether the ground is leased or privately owned landowners have learned that the right food plot can pay huge dividends during the fall hunting season.
The growing popularity of supplemental food plots has also seen an increase in the variety, quality and sophistication of plot management equipment. Manufacturers now design implements with the plot manager in mind. Some of these pieces are built to be pulled behind an ATV. Others require slightly more horsepower, but they all have one thing in common—no matter how large or small the plot there is an implement that will make planting and maintaining it easier. Better preparation in the spring means big dividends this fall and beyond. Here’s a look at some of the best equipment for 2011.
Tarter Equipment Disk/Cultipacker Combo
Tarter Equipment has designed a single implement to make unturned plots seed-ready in a single pass. The company’s Disk/Cultipacker Combo is highly adjustable and allows landowners to customize the depth of cut, angle of cut and applied force of the cultipacker. Eight heavy duty blades cut a 48-inch wide area at the front of the Disk/Cultipacker. The notched blades offer twenty degrees of tilt adjustment, allowing plot managers to customize the depth of the cut. Upright disks cut deep into unturned soil while angled discs simply turn over existing plots. In addition, the Tarter Disk/Cultipacker allows for cultipacker adjustment that is independent of disk blade settings. Cultipacker depth is controlled via a ratchet system that is mounted on the front of the unit’s heavy duty steel frame. By lowering the cable the cultipacker applies more pressure to the ground for a more firm soil pack. Having separate (and simple) adjustments for the disk blades and the cultipacker means that Tarter’s unique implement can be personally adjusted to cultivate different types of soils quickly and easily.
The Disk/Cultipacker attaches with a standard ball hitch to most ATVs and lawn tractors. Despite the bulk of the implement (it weighs just a shade over 700 pounds), the 13-inch four-ply tires can be lowered far enough that the implement can be moved or towed without worrying about ground clearance and possible damage to the unit. In addition, the ability to quickly raise and lower the height of the unit means that the Disk/Cultipacker will work with ATVs of various size and horsepower by simply adjusting the depth of cut. The hefty frame of the Disk/Cultipacker is treated with a corrosion-resistant powder coated finish. For those who are serious about soil preparation and long for an implement that allows for rapid setting adjustment the Disk/Cultipacker offers a great deal.
For more information visit www.tarterfarmandranch.com or call (800) 733-4283.
Frontier FS22 Series Seeders
Machinery giant John Deere looks to claim a portion of the wildlife management market with their all-in-one FP22 line of food plot seeders built by Frontier. Once upon a time, planting food plots required hours of prep time and a variety of different implements to finish a plot. Frontier designed their FP22 planters to cover all of your tillage, seeding and finishing needs using a simple implement. There are three FP22 models available; the four-foot FP2204, six foot FP1206 and the eight foot FP1208.
The FP22 Series combines a disk, plow, seeder and finish implement in one piece that allows habitat managers to finish seeding ground in a single pass. First, a row of 16-inch notched heavy duty disk blades opens the soil. The FP2204 has six 3mm disk blades spaced eight-and-a-quarter inches apart while the FP2206 and FP2208 carry eight and twelve blades, respectively. The 2206 and 2208 models also get beefier 3.5mm 18 inch diameter blades set at seven-and-a-half inches apart. All three models come standard with three different spring steel S-tines including sweeping points for existing plots, turning points to turn residual materials into the soil and chisel points designed to break and prepare even the hardest, rockiest soil. The 2204 carries 3 points while the 2206 and the big 2208 have 5 points. An optional second row of tines is available as an accessory.
All three models have large seed hoppers with scatter plates that adjust to control seed dispersal and to evenly plant plots without broadcasting seed outside the tilled area. All three models offer Versa Seeders delivery systems that allow you to begin and end seeding with the push of a button. After seeding, the plot is finished with one of three optional cover systems. The operator can choose to cover seeds with a roller, a combination roller/flexible metal drag or metal drag only depending upon the soil type and condition. All models include 1-inch square gang axles with pinned adjustment. For those planting light native seeds an optional Native Seed Kit includes a rear seed curtain and a seed bed leveler.
Which FP22 Series seeder fits your needs depends largely upon the size of the plots you wish to plant and what size of tractor or ATV/UTV you wish to use for seeding. The four-foot FP2204 can be pulled with a small tractor using a category I 3-point hitch and the 2204P model is designed for a single point hitch attachment on an ATV or UTV. Larger models require use of a tractor with a category I/II 3-point hitch. The FP2206 is recommended for tractors producing 45-75 horsepower while the larger FP2208 requires 60-100 horsepower to work effectively.
For more information about the FP22 Series Seeders visit www.deere.com or visit your local John Deere retailer.
The Quadivator by Quadivator, Inc.
There are more hunters planting food plots and managing habitat with ATVs and UTVs than ever before. And why not? ATVs and UTVs are versatile pieces of equipment capable of taking on a variety of tasks from cultivating fields in the spring to helping transport a big buck from the field in the fall.
Quadivator, Incorporated, based in Manitoba, Canada, has developed implements specifically for ATVs and UTVs. The company offers a full line of products including mowers, blades, buckets and brooms that turn the standard four-wheeler into a gasoline powered “Swiss Army knife.” But the one piece of equipment that made the company famous is the Quadinator, a one piece utility implement that serves multiple functions.
The standard Quadinator hooks to an ATV or lawn tractor with a ball hitch. An available electronic depth control box allows the driver to adjust depth without stepping down from the driver’s seat. Cultivator teeth and harrows are the setup on the standard Quadivator, which weighs a relatively light 300 pounds. What sets the Quadivator apart is its seemingly endless level of versatility. While many of the implements listed perform two, three or four functions at one time the Quadivator, with the correct accessories, can perform dozens of tasks besides spring cultivation. Some of the accessories are valuable when planting food plots like the available tandem disk set that attaches to the Quadivator frame with a single bolt, and a pre-calibrated chemical sprayer that allows the tank to be installed and removed quickly for herbicide treatments. There are also cultivator extension sets available that broaden the cultivation area from four feet to five feet. A variety of additional attachments maximize the Quadivator’s versatility away from the food plot. There are available box scraper and leveler attachments, attachments that allow the Quadivator to be used as a potato digger and even a barbed wire dispenser for fencing jobs. For the hunter who uses an ATV for more than just getting to and from the stand the Quadivator is worth taking a look at. In addition to the implements available, the Quadivator has a robust frame made of square steel and a powder coated finish to protect it from the elements.
For more information call (866) 770-2169.
The Firminator by Modern Habitat Solutions, Inc.
Modern Habitat Solutions provided plot managers with a highly adjustable, precision cultivator seeder with their first generation Firminator. The latest, third-generation model is more refined than ever and offers game managers the ability to quickly and precisely cut and plant plots using this all-in-one tool. The Firminator is not the largest implement here by any stretch. Then again, it is anything but dainty. The frame is built from heavy grade 3-inch steel tubing that can take all the bumping and thumping that accompanies planting without breaking welds of losing structural integrity. Category I/II 3-point connections tie the Firminator to your tractor and it also includes forklift brackets for easy transport and storage.
The Firminator opens ground with a row of heavy-duty 18-inch notched disk blades made of 9-gauge steel. The blades are set only six inches apart meaning that the big front blades are capable of cutting through heavy soil. Narrow spacing means that the Firminator has more blades per foot than most any competitor (the six foot model has twelve heavy duty disk blades) and these blades are highly adjustable depending upon the terrain and the user’s needs. By angling the blades so they are parallel to the ground and placing weight toward the front of the implement plot managers can cut deep into untouched soil. The disk blades adjust a full 20 degrees so that the operator can adjust the Firminator to the soil type and prevent cutting too deep or too shallow.
The Firminator comes standard with the Accu-Seed dispersal system that is ground-driven and speed-regulated. This system allows for a variety of seed types to be planted without losing seeds while idling. Agitators are an available accessory but according to Modern Habitat Solutions most seed blends do not require agitators. The Firminator has the ability to plant the smallest grass seeds and the largest grains (up to an inch) without adjustment.
At the rear of the Firminator is a row of nine-inch cast-iron cultipacker wheels that finish and level the plot after seeding. The heavy-duty, notched blades provide a superb soil bed with excellent seed-to-soil contact for high-percentage germination. Sixteen inch cultipacker wheels are also available for loose, sandy soils.
For more information about the Firminator visit www.thefirminator.com or call Modern Habitat Solutions, Inc. at (317) 336-7184.