Profiles in Conservation: Dustin Roddy, Cache River Farms
Greenhead is shining a spotlight on three hunter/conservationists working hard to improve habitat for the ducks.
Cache River Farms
Woodruff, Jackson, Cross and Poinsett Counties
Biggest Influence/Mentor: Jeff Farmer of White Oaks Duck Woods has been a great mentor. I was lucky to be able to connect with Jeff shortly after he purchased what is now White Oaks Duck Woods in Augusta. Watching him dedicate time and resources into building world class waterfowl habitat inspired me to do the same. I learned a lot by watching the transformation of Jeff’s farm. We differ as we focus on small acreage tracts (40-150 acres) spread out across multiple counties, but many of the management and development practices are relatively the same.
Best Practices: Simple, food, water and reducing pressure.
The agricultural game has changed. Modern advancements in farming equipment and agricultural practices (like fall tillage), don’t leave much food behind for migratory waterfowl once they show up to the wintering grounds in our area. We manage multiple units for waterfowl food. These units include planted crops (typically millet, milo, rice and corn) as well as moist soil.
Water management before, during and after the season plays a large role in the success of a property. We rarely pump a property to 100% of its carrying capacity to start the season. Instead, fields have a staggered flooding regimen to provide fresh food and water for deeper into the season.
But above all that, in my opinion, is managing hunting pressure to keep ducks using your property. Waterfowl have adapted to feeding more at night and spend most of their days seeking refuge due to human pressure. Some of our farms are traffic locations and can tolerate more pressure than farms that primarily consist of feeding or loafing areas.
When hunting farms where pressure will have a larger impact, we do our best to pattern ducks as they come and go. This allows us to get in and get out of an area without disturbing the majority of the ducks using the farm.
Pressure extends beyond actual hunting. Hunters don’t have to be shooting at ducks to pressure them. Scouting, ATV rides, boat rides, etc. stress out ducks just the same. We try to travel our farms with the least amount of disturbance possible, regardless of activity. Most of our scouting is done from afar with a set of good optics.
We always look for ways to design travel routes for entry and exit that create very little disturbance. For example, we might plant Egyptian wheatgrass along roads, or build levees to create a screen. Sometimes disturbance is unavoidable, but the longer you can keep ducks from feeling harassed, the longer they’ll continue using your property.