Conservation Reserve Programs are still open. Under CRPs, farmers can be paid to take cropland out of production and manage it in ways that benefit the environment.
A CRP could be a benefit during low crop prices. There was so much yield in Illinois last year it hurt crop prices. This and worldwide farming has created so much grain that prices are lower than expected.
A CRP reduces soil erosion, improves water quality and benefits wildlife. It can also provide landowner income for low producing crop areas. All Pheasants Forever chapters are for this option and have a portion of land near the La Salle Station nuclear plant set aside for bird enhancement.
Some years ago high crop prices prompted farmers to allow CRP contracts to expire to put acreage back into crop production and Congress lowered the cap on the program from 36 million acres to 24 million with the 2014 Farm Bill.
Now it seems lower crop prices are again boosting interest. The lack of honeybees, monarch butterflies, decline of water quality and grassland depletion now are starting to spark interest. I hope there is high demand for a new program. Visit your local USDA service center or Farm Bill biologist for some options.
I received a question on fox calling last week. The person asked me what I would suggest for someone just getting into calling.
I told him to use a rabbit distress mouth call or a rodent squeaker. These are both effective for coyotes as well. One can start calling near fields next to woodlots. An even better area would be, if one could get permission, near a landfill. Both coyote and foxes visit these sites near evenings or right after a day’s dumping. Try to stay downwind as well.
• I finally am seeing some wild turkey activity this week. Many are hens, but that’s all right. If the hens are around it isn’t long before the gobblers soon appear. I have been doing some preseason scouting as well. Areas that still contain acorns are very productive. If an area contains a good supply of worms, that also is a plus. Try the old owl hoot call in the evening and you may be pleasantly surprised.
• Depending on weather conditions, including moisture, one should start looking for the early morel mushrooms. They are small and darker that the May versions but are just as tasty.
• Walleye and sauger are hitting on the Illinois River now. You may have to work for them, since there are many boats near the dams. Too many boats tend to scatter the fish. Many anglers are preparing for upcoming tournaments. For them, fishing has been tough.