Success Stories Clearco Sportsman’s Club
Clearco Sportsman's Club Landowner Success Story
Location: Charmco, WV
WHIP, Wildlife Development/Management
September 25, 2007
Club uses WHIP to Improve Former Mine
The Clearco Sportsman's Club of Charmco, WV signed up to participate in the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) in 2005. They are using WHIP to improve habitat for turkey and other wildlife. Turkeys need vegetative growth for food, shelter, and nesting sites. The club's president, Bud Whitlow, works with Tom Vance (District Conservationist) and Katy McBride, (Soil Conservationist) at the Lewisburg Service Center. The Clearco Sportsman's Club leases approximately 3,695 acres from MeadWestvaco. The area is a reclaimed mine site with forest land.
The Club has been working on improving the land for turkeys by:
taking soil samples and applying lime and fertilizer according to the West Virginia University (WVU) soil test recommendations to improve the forage quality,
creating 60 acres of food plots that consist of cool season grasses/legume mixâ”€increasing the plant diversity and helping improve the wildlife habitat, and
purchasing a tractor, spreader, and other farm equipment to manage the crops on a continuing basis.
Fertilizer and lime are most effective when used in the proper amounts. That is the reason for soil testingâ”€to determine the amount of lime and the proper fertilizers for the crop or plants to be grown. The tests indicated lime was needed. The club brought lime trucks in during the fall. Pellet lime will be used in some spots where trucks can't go.
The club created 60 acres of food plots which increase the plant diversity and improve wildlife habitat. The openings are up to 3 acres in size. The openings allow sunshine to reach the low-growing vegetation and are areas where turkeys can obtain insects.
Food plots provide seeds and insects for turkeys. Taller grasses provide cover. MeadWestvaco provides a seed mixture including rye, tall fescue, timothy, trefoil, millet, and clovers. Millet is a quick growing plant that produces abundant seed and is an excellent food for turkeys. The club adds additional clover to the mix. Clover is a nitrogen fixer and turkeys feed on the leaves, flower heads, and insects that live on the plants.
"There was just black coal dirt up here. We plowed it, limed it, and fertilized it. We didn't haul in any soil. We just did what was said on the soil plan. It has changed the soil its much better." said Bud Whitlow, club president. "This used to be a gravel parking lot. I disked it all up one day and took the spreader and fertilized it, and planted it last year" said Bud. "It's done well, hasn't it?"
"One of the guys with a tractor thought he had a 5 gallon bucket of diesel fuel but it was a 5 gallon bucket of corn seed. He said, "I'm not taking it back and I said I'm planting it." said Bud. Corn fields attract turkeys during periods of severe weather in late winter and early spring when food supplies are short.
"This has done better than I ever thought. This is our second year doing this. This has been a learning experience. I knew nothing about farming before," said Bud. Fall planting was tried but it wasn't as successful as spring planting. It gets dry in September and it was damaged more by the freezing and heaving. We now sow in March." They also improved their plowing. Chemical herbicides and pesticides have not been used.
The food plots benefit other wild birds. The tall crops such as millet and corn can supply cover as well as grain for quail and ruff grouse. Wood cock are also seen in the woodlands and thickets near the food plots. Clover may maintain population of rabbits. Bear and bear scat have been seen in the food plots.
In September, some of the plots were mowed again with the brush hog set on high for better clover. Some plots will be mowed every other year. Three tractors were used this year. Several members brought their own. The plots are at about 4,000 feet in elevation. The growing season is 90-100 days. Plowing starts the end of April or first of May. Thirty new plots are planned for next year.
The WHIP program provides lime, fertilizer, perennial seed, and payments for labor costs and equipment. "The club members are out talking to other landowners about the WHIP program," said Katy.
"Bud Whitlow and the Clearco Sportsman Club have followed through with their plans. We need more groups like them," said Tom Vance. "This former strip mine has benefited from WHIP and the results are obvious." Their program promotes healthy plant and animal communities.
The Clearco Sportsman's Club is limited to 30 members from around West Virginia. There is a waiting list to join the club. The Clearco Sportsman's Club was recognized by MeadWestvaco as the West Virginia Club of the Year in 2005.
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land. Through WHIP, NRCS provides both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. WHIP agreements between NRCS and the participant generally last from 5 to 10 years from the date the agreement is signed. For more information on WHIP in West Virginia go to http://www.wv.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.
Tall crops such as millet and corn can supply cover as well as grain for wild birds. The club has logged 325 tractor hours and 35 hand labor hours so far in 2007. The Clearco Sportsman's Club created 60 acres of food plots which increase the plant diversity and improve wildlife habitat.