Chufas: The Turkey ‘Mag-Nut’: Part 2

In Part 2, we look at some tips for growing chufa from the National Wild Turkey Federation, some sources of chufa seed, and how to best hunt turkeys using chufa as a food source.

How Do You Grow Them?
Here are some recommendations on how to grow chufa Soil Conditions
Chufa will grow in a variety of soil types, but it does best in moderately to well-drained soils. Sandy loam soils are preferred, but it will grow even in clay soils. Turkeys can have a more difficult time scratching the tubers out of hard clay soil. The solution is to run a disk lightly over the patch in the fall, after chufas have matured, to break up the soil. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.0 for best production.

Planting Time
Planting dates are much the same as corn. Southern tier states should be planted from April through June. In more northern areas the best planting time is April or May when soil temperatures have risen. Chufas will mature in approximately 90 days to 110 days. In areas with shorter growing seasons, chufa will still produce “nuts,” but not as many as when reaching full maturity. As it matures, the tops will turn a golden brown color. After the tops turn brown, turkeys will begin scratching the chufas out of the ground.

If turkeys aren’t familiar with chufas in an area, simply pull some of the plants out of the ground to expose the “nuts,” or as mentioned above, pull a disk over a strip of the plot so the turkeys can find them.

Soil Preparation
Prior to planting chufa seed, the soil should be plowed or disked. The NWTF recommends doing a soil test to reveal the proper amount of fertilizer and lime to add to the soil. Using the proper amounts may actually save you money. Without soil testing, use 40 pounds to 50 pounds of 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 fertilizer, and 1,000 pounds of lime per acre. With disk or drag, work the fertilizer and lime into the soil.

Seeding Rate
Chufa can be drilled or broadcast. Broadcast seeding is the most common method of planting chufa. The rate for broadcasting is 40 pounds to 50 pounds per acre. After the seed is scattered, it should be covered to a depth of 1 inches to 2 inches with a harrow or drag. Proper broadcasting will result in three to four plants per square foot.

If drilled, plant in 36-inch rows at a rate of 30 pounds per acre at 6-inch spacing. If planting, a peanut plate works well. However, drilling is not recommended because the drill can crush some seed due to its variable size.

Plot Size
Plots as small as 1/4-acre or less or as large as several acres can be planted for wild turkeys. If there is a large raccoon population, small plots, 1/4-acre or less, may be destroyed. The optimum plot size is about 1/2-acre to 1-acre. Remember, lots of critters love chufas. Plant enough for everyone!

Grass, Weed Control
Herbicides are normally not used in chufa plantings for wildlife, but occasionally grasses and weeds can become such a problem that certain herbicides have to be applied. No herbicides are labeled for use on wildlife food plots, but Treflan or Prowl can be incorporated into the soil before planting to control weeds. After the crop is established, top spraying with Poast or Fusilade plus an oil surfactant will help control grasses. For weeds, use 2.4-D Amine or 2.4-DB.

The NWTF recommends replanting each year, but agrees it is possible to get a good volunteer crop from the previous year’s chufas. Most turkey managers with chufa experience are successful at re-establishing plots through disking.

Light disking in early spring or after turkeys quit feeding on them is best. Some follow up one or two more times with a disk. If the seeds are distributed well, regrowth will produce plenty of “nuts.” Be sure to apply 100 pounds to 150 pounds of fertilizer per acre.

Source Of Chufa Seed
There are several commercial producers of chufa seed in the United States. Weather conditions can influence chufa production and harvesting. These two factors can make the availability and price fluctuate widely from year to year.

The following are sources of quality chufa seed:

NWTF-Ron Brennaman- 803-637-3106

Seedland- 888-820-2080

Glendale Enterprises- 850-859-2141

Nature’s Own Wildlife Habitat Products- 800-480-7661

Chufas: Turkey Hunting Strategy
For turkey hunters, the incredible attraction of chufas adds another tool in locating turkeys to hunt. Bo Pitman, of White Oak Plantation in Alabama, is famous for his turkey guiding skills. It is his business to know turkeys and he manages intensely for them. His guiding success reflects his turkey hunting mantra: “Know where your turkeys are, where they want to be, then get between them and those two places”.

Chufa attract wild turkeys from fall through spring making it an excellent crop to help hold turkeys on your hunting land.

In order to know where his birds are, Pitman strategically locates sites for chufa plots in and around habitat that supports turkeys. He also knows that once turkeys find chufas they tend to spend a lot of time scratching up the tasty morsels.

Pitman said that a chufa plot is often the center of breeding and feeding activity early and late in the day. A good pair of binoculars and a vantagepoint overlooking a plot from a distance is a dependable way to locate gobblers.

Scouting areas near chufa fields are excellent places to locate turkeys and determine their travel patterns. Undisturbed, turkeys frequent chufa plots daily till the seeds sprout in spring. By checking plots for sign, (tracks, droppings and strut marks) when birds are not present, much can be learned about a flock.

Bo adds that during years of heavy mast production, chufas may not be used as heavily. During light mast years chufas provide necessary nutrition through the winter months.

It is tempting to set up often to hunt on a chufa plot knowing their attraction to turkeys is like a kid to a cookie jar. But care should be taken not to put so much hunting pressure on chufa plots that the birds aren’t able to utilize the food source.

However, it is a grand place to take a child or novice where they are sure to see birds. It is especially great for setting up blinds for disabled hunters or anyone with physical limitations.

A chufa plot, the “turkey magnet,” can help make special moments happen.

For a selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.

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