Waterfowl hunting success is often driven by the availability of fresh food sources whether it be an agricultural field or a waterfowl food plot. Waterfowl managers have the ability to control many aspects of the management practices that they perform, but mother nature always holds the upper hand. This year, many farmers and land managers have either lost planted crops or have yet to be able to work their ground thanks to the record rainfall across much of the midwest and central United States. Thousands of acres of corn will not be present this fall for the migration and waterfowl hunting. So what options are still available for hunters, clubs, and outfitters for their waterfowl food plots?
Golden Millet As A Waterfowl Food Plot
5 Oaks Wildlife Services Golden Millet is a food source that performs in a variety of conditions. It’s short growing season to maturity makes it an excellent option for any year, but especially this year. As we approach the mid-summer months, hot and dry condition will likely prevail. The soil should eventually dry out to the point that planting can commence, but with only a short window before cooler fall temperatures approach, plants that are put in the ground will need to be quick maturing varieties.
Golden Millet features a 75 day maturity span. What sets it apart from other quickly maturing food sources for waterfowl is the prolific production of food. Waterfowl hunters know that food for migrating waterfowl plays a big part in the success of their hunting season. Golden Millet can provide up to 3,000 pounds of forage for waterfowl and at only $55 to $60 an acre, you’re saving money versus planting corn anyways.
Many waterfowl impoundments, green tree reservoirs, and bottom lands have not been able to be planted in corn this season. Much of this acreage was and still is too wet to plant and the water wasn’t able to be drawn off early enough in the growing season to promote a good moist soil bloom. These lost acres offer a perfect opportunity to plant Golden Millet. The filmy mud flats left behind from the excessive rains are a perfect environment for broadcasted Golden Millet. Golden Millet needs to be planted at least 75 days before the first frost to ensure it reaches maturity. For our area here in south-central Illinois, the average first frost is mid-October. Our planting window for Golden millet ends around August 1st. For areas further north into South Dakota, it will need to be planted by mid-July.
Planting Golden Millet
Depending on your equipment, getting seed into the ground can be accomplished in a variety of different ways. Whatever method you have available, be sure to start with a good clean seed bed. Don’t be afraid to disk to get rid of unwanted vegetation, but be sure to have a firm seed bed before planting. Broadcasting Golden Millet can be done by plane for large acreage, drill, or basic hand spreader. The small nature of Golden Millet seed allows for broadcasting on top of the soil followed by flushing it with water or catching a good rain to incorporate the seed barely into the soil. If you’re drilling, 1/8″ will work. If your seed doesn’t receive rain and needs moisture to germinate, flushing the impoundment will work, but be sure to get the water off within 24 hours.
Growth and Maintenance
Once your Golden Millet emerges, be sure it gets adequate moisture to continue to grow. If flushing is needed again, be sure to get the water off within 24 hours. Once the plant reaches the 5 leaf stage, broadleaf controlling herbicide can be sprayed to remove the undesirables. Typically, by this point, the Golden Millet will be tall enough for a shallow flood. This is where Golden Millet stands apart from other waterfowl food sources in that it can continue to grow in standing water. The key is to keep the water at less than half of the plant height. For example, our Golden Millet last year was planted just before a rain in early August. Just a few weeks later, the remnants of a hurricane moved through southern Illinois and dropped 5+ inches of rain. Rather than having to remove all the water from the impoundment, we were able to just drop it a few inches to get the water level to around 8 inches because our Golden Millet was over 20 inches tall. The limitless water source for the plants can allow it to grow upwards of 10 inches a week and keep undesirable weed competition out.
For the waterfowl managers, outfitters, and guys with small acreage who have lost their opportunity to plant corn for duck hunting this fall, Golden Millet offers a fast maturing high producing forage for waterfowl. The limited growing season left can still be taken advantage of and with proper preparation and care, your duck holes can still be full of food courtesy of Golden Millet. For more information and for ordering Golden Millet visit 5 Oaks Wildlife Services.