Even though duck season is a long way away from June, hunters with upland waterfowl impoundments need to get their crops planted this month to have them mature by the opening day of hunting season.
Typically, most waterfowl impoundments are planted with a variety of grains: sorghum, rice, millet and traditional dent corn. Hunters thinking about planting corn varieties typical to the South are out of luck and out of time, as the maturation period for most varieties require planting in early to mid-April. However, a hybrid variety developed over the past decade, CanaMaize, has a short maturation period perfect for late plantings, and hunters have plenty of time to get this crop started, even as summer begins.
If ducks had candy stores, corn would be on the top shelf — or all the shelves, for that matter. Waterfowl will go out of their way to get a mouthful of this sweet confection. It is the primary reason it’s illegal to hunt waterfowl over bait. Ducks and geese will ignore all other natural foods when it is available.
While corn is not readily-recognized as a nutritious food source for wildlife and waterfowl, it is undeniably loaded with carbohydrates that provide a quick energy source. During the fall migration, waterfowl seek out stout food sources to refuel their spent energy reserves. Additionally, they need to fill the tank to the top for the rest of the migration.
Corn is an ideal attractant for ducks and other waterfowl during that migration. Not only does corn provide a high-energy food source, the stalks and silage provides perfect escape cover that gives ducks a sense of security. And impoundments with a significant coverage of standing corn will provide opportunities for roosting.
First developed in Canada in 1999, CanaMaize is a relatively new option for the landowner or manager who either had an early crop failure or just didn’t get the seed planted on time.
Canadian scientists isolated specific traits in corn to produce an early crop with a short stature. CanaMaize was developed to allow farmers to grow corn in regions where the growing season is too short to produce a crop using traditional varieties.
Typically, dent corn is planted between March and April to produce a dried-out crop by the time of the fall flooding. Time to maturation is around 150 days, plus another 20 days of drying time. CanaMaize can produce a crop in slightly more than two months — 69 days. Since early duck seasons arrive in September for North Carolina hunters and October for South Carolina hunters, CanaMaize must be planted around 100 days before the season opens; that includes a 30-day period for drying and impoundment fill up.
Ducks will begin eating as soon as the fields are flooded, and when filled for the early season, hunters risk not having any food left for late-season duck. Unless hunters have a series of impoundments so they can fill up a portion of their acreage, they should be flooded between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15 to ensure enough food is available for the main season. Hunters planting CanaMaize will have until mid-July to plant and still have plenty of time for drying and flooding for the November season.
As with any crop planted late, the plants will be significantly shorter. But a short stature is an added bonus for duck impoundments. Most duck impoundments are flooded to depths between 12 inches, and two feet that provides the ear placement right at the water level for both divers and puddle ducks.