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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… If You’ve Got Them, Keep Them

With increasing regularity over the past decade or more, landowners are rolling up their sleeves, digging out their wallets and putting sweat equity into their properties by performing habitat improvement that benefits all forms of game and nongame animals and birds that live there. Very quickly you can amass a rather large amount of dollars

With increasing regularity over the past decade or more, landowners are rolling up their sleeves, digging out their wallets and putting sweat equity into their properties by performing habitat improvement that benefits all forms of game and nongame animals and birds that live there. Very quickly you can amass a rather large amount of dollars spent in these efforts, but there are also some things that don’t require a great outlay of cash and, with some physical labor on your part will go a long way toward attracting and holding wildlife. For the moment, let’s look at any old fruit and nut shrubs or trees that may already be on you land. While there may be a few old abandoned shrubs or nut trees, most likely what you will find as you survey the property are old, unkempt apple trees that have been there for years and are now getting crowded out by other vegetation and in desperate need of a good pruning.

It was in the mid to late 1800s, that the lumber industry in Lycoming County and surrounding areas had grown so much that Williamsport was known as the “Lumber Capital of the World!” Throughout the hills and valleys, lumber camps would spring up and would be occupied for months as the lumbermen harvested the timber. These hearty men probably never ate an avocado, but they certainly did consume a lot of apples, which resulted in apple cores being thrown everywhere – particularly around these campsites. Today, you will come across these old trees, sometimes singularly and sometimes in groups of a dozen or more. If you have any of these old gems on your property, you are in luck.

When you locate one of these old trees, there are three things you can do to improve its health and productivity. First – daylight the area around the tree. This requires cutting any other species of trees that are growing close enough to the apple tree to block needed sunlight for maximum viability of the tree. Secondly, while you have a sharp chainsaw and pruning tools available, prune the targeted apple tree. Cut out any dead or broken limbs, remove sucker growth and remove other branches to allow more sunlight to penetrate the remaining growth. Finally, fertilize with a mixture of 10-10-10 granular fertilizer underneath the outer reaches of the remaining branches (this is referred to as the “dripline”).

Depending on the lay of the land and what other food sources are available nearby, you might consider making these apple trees the centerpiece of an expanded food plot, ranging in size from ¼ to ½ acre or more. To do so, begin by taking multiple soil samples to properly determine the lime and fertilizer requirements for the clovers, grasses and seed mixes you want to use. The soil preparation, liming, fertilizing and seeding of the plot should easily be accomplished by using a small tractor or an ATV and a small drag harrow.

The creation of a foodplot that has the extra draw of these old apple trees will go a long way toward drawing and holding turkeys, deer, grouse and even cottontails. It will be used by songbirds and nongame species of all kinds and will be the source of a real feeling of accomplishment in your efforts to improve your habitat.

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