One of the first blogs I wrote for my website dealt with the common habit of new landowners mowing too much. I called it “The Golf Course Syndrome”. I lectured readers not to shred in the spring because that destroyed fawning cover and turkey nesting cover. Well, now (August/September) is the time that shredding weeds becomes acceptable. Let me explain……
Young turkey and fawns are large enough and mobile enough now to have a chance against predators. Taking that cover away will not affect them near as much as when they were babies. Also, during late summer, weeds are mature and their leaves have little if any nutritional value. Shredding at this time of the year not only makes your pasture look good, but if you are lucky enough to get a timely rain shower or two after shredding, weeds will begin to sprout new growth. That new growth is what deer relish. Those new leaves and growing buds have as high of a protein content as the plant had in early spring.
Over my lifetime, I’ve experimented with dozens of different summer food plot plants. I mostly concentrated on different types of peas and clovers. None work as well as the weeds you already have in your pasture. I have shredded weeds in August and September then smiled broadly after rains hit and I saw grass and weeds begin new growth and while doing census work during those times noticed deer concentrated on the areas I shredded. In one of my earlier lives I had a couple of chicken houses. Tons of manure (fertilizer) was distributed annually on our ranch. The best summer food plot I’ve ever seen was fertilized and shred western ragweed.
Late summer is also a time when deer, hogs, birds, squirrels and raccoons get their dessert. Two important plants in Southeast Texas that most wildlife enjoys during late summer are mustang grapes (Vitis mustangensis) and American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).
American beautyberry has very obvious purple berries that the aforementioned animals eat. The seeds are maturing now and often last well into the fall. This plant usually grows in sandy soils and areas that are shaded. I have seen deer that were gorging on the seeds and they had purple lips. They reminded me of a kid eating a grape snow cone.
Another highly relished “dessert” is mustang grapes. When ripe and falling, these grapes are sweet. People have been making wine and jelly from mustang grapes for generations. They are not like store-bought grapes in that they have a thick and tough outer skin. You do not eat that. The way to eat a mustang grape is pluck a ripe one, gently squeeze the skin allowing the meat of the grape ooze out. Delicately bite that WITHOUT getting any juice on your hands or lips. That juice will itch like crazy. The grape to me has a texture like Jell-O. Be careful not to eat the seed. There are usually 3-4 seeds in each grape.
Having some grape vines on your ranch is an obvious benefit for wildlife. Like many things however, having too much of one thing is bad. If left unchecked, grape vines will grow to eventually smother the plant it is using for support. Although grapes are good, I would rather have the live oak tree it might smother.