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King lauded for enhancing wildlife existence with wetlands on property
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — About four years ago, Mike King began work to create wetlands on his farm to enhance the wildlife on his property.
Those efforts are paying off, he said, improving the quality and diversity of wildlife and helping his farming operation.
King, who farms about 500 acres in Somerset County and manages two poultry houses, was recognized recently as Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Farmer of the Year. He was also Somerset County Soil Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year in 2010.
“We’re trying to make a good habitat for wildlife. It just takes a little bit of thought to do what you want to do,” King said.
Through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program, King created a wetland area of about 200 acres by stopping up a network of 14 ditches to retain water in the area.
Where he plugged the ditches, small ponds were created along with a few other farm ponds he’s had on the farm that have brought a lot of wood ducks and other birds to the farm.
King’s wife, Janice, said she’s noticed many more woodcocks and flycatchers in her travels on the farm.
King is also letting the ditch banks around the farm grow taller in hopes of attracting quail to the farm.
Food plots of red clover and chicory also help attract deer and other wildlife to the wetland area but over time as the deer change where they travel, moving the food plots when needed is important.
“They will change their pattern some,” King said. “It seems very seldom but when they do, you better figure out where they’re at.”
King said what land he was farming that became wetlands had been ultimately unproductive from wildlife damage and decided the wetlands program was a good fit.
He also has another 17 acres in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
“They all used to be fields at one time back in the 40s, as far as we can tell,” he said. “It just needed to be left alone. It isn’t worth the trouble.”
With the wildlife attracted to the food plots and wetlands, King said it’s reduced the damage on the rest of his cropland and helped him manage the deer population.
“We’ve got world class deer here and that’s something we did not have before,” he said, flipping through photos of successful recent hunts.
“It gets more animals in there because there’s more year-round food and a variety of things,” King added.
Staying aggressive with hunting deer, especially females, has been a key part to the wetland’s success in the farm business.
“If you shoot a buck, you have to mount it,” King said, noting the mounting cost as a deterrent to shooting young and less desirable males. “That’s how we know we’ll get them bigger.”
King said they lost count of how many deer he and friends have killed on his farm.
“We’ve thinned them out and that’s been a goal of it,” he said. “The other side of it is building up the trophy bucks.”
He also helps organize a big doe contest in the county to encourage hunting more females.
Aside from better hunting, King said with four grandsons nearby, it’s just fun to have more wildlife on the farm.
“If you’re not going to have fun at life, what’s the point?” he said.