The Latest from Hilliard Management

Another planting season is in full swing, and we are rolling on sunflowers! Dove fields are one of our favorite projects so there’s always excitement here when early spring rolls around and we start tuning up planters and equipment. Actually getting out and planting only builds on that. Every season starts with the same goal, and that’s making sure the only thing we our clients are worrying about is who they’re going inviting to the opening day shoot. Everything other than that, from planting to prepping fields for the first hunt, is on us.

A typical day this time of year starts at sunrise and goes until sunset or later. It’s crucial to get the sunflowers and the pre-emergent weed control down in tandem, and spring weather in Virginia is anything but predictable. So when we get a window of good weather we hustle. After the pre-emergent is down we’ll be back with the post-emergent in a few weeks. The second spray is almost as crucial as the first, however, it’s a little easier to coordinate since it requires less people and less equipment.

The benefits of the tight spray regimen are two fold:

  • One, our sunflowers grow free of weed competition, meaning big heads and lots of seed. This seems fairly obvious at first glance (bigger heads > more seed > more food > more birds), however, a secondary benefit to big heads is the flowers flop over when they die, which prevents Finches and other song birds from poaching the seed before dove season.
  • Two, it ensures bare ground on when the season comes in. When we bush hog the fields we want the seed ending up directly on the dirt so it’s easy for dove to get to. Just like any of us, dove are all about getting good food with as little effort as possible. 

In between the sprays we go around to each field that’s 6 acres or less and set up an electric fence. We have a lot of deer pressure in central VA, and half a dozen deer can crush a smaller field of young sunflowers in just a few nights. We’ve found fence is every bit important spraying, and we keep fences up until sunflowers reach maturity.

See below for some pictures that show the full life cycle of a field – from drilling seed to opening day – as well as a few shots from planting this year. More to come as the planting season continues… 


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