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Undergraduate student gains variety of wildlife experience in internship with Bradley Farms

By Jacob Trammel, FWCB undergraduate student

Recently, I completed an internship at W.C. Bradley Farms, which is located in Omaha, Georgia. Bradley Farms is comprised of approximately 50,000 acres and is privately owned by the Turner and Bradley Families. The property has been in the families for over 100 years.

While on the farm, I had the opportunity to take part in prescribed burning. I completed a total of 6 burns during the internship. I learned that when burning an area, the wind and humidity are very important aspects. After the area had been “circled up,” meaning a fire break cut surrounding the area to be burned, we lit what is called a back fire. The position of the back fire was determined by the wind. If the wind was blowing out of the south, the back fire would be lit on the north side of the plot. Once the back fire burns about 30 feet, flank fires were set on each side of the back fire. Setting these flank fires will pull the back fire helping it travel into the wind.

FWCB undergraduate Jacob Tammel working on a habitat burn during his internship with Bradley Farms.

FWCB undergraduate Jacob Trammel working on a habitat burn during his internship with Bradley Farms.

During the internship I had the opportunity to experience a South Georgia ring-necked pheasant tower shoot. I was told by the staff that this was an old South Georgia tradition and social event. A total of 200 ring-necked pheasant were brought in on a truck from a bird farm in Central Georgia. The birds came in large crates and had 20 birds per crate. The crates with the birds inside were then hoisted up into a 75 foot metal fire tower. Surrounding the fire tower were 10 stations where hunters are placed for the hunt. There were two hunters at each station around the tower. Upon the sound of a horn, birds were thrown out of the tower and fly toward 1 of the 10 designated stations. After every 10 birds, were thrown, the hunters rotated stations and after 100 birds there was a halftime break. In each set of 100 birds there was a money bird. This bird had a streamer attached to its leg and was worth up to 400 dollars. My job was to keep track of how many birds had been released and sound the horn at the proper time for rotation. Also, I had to make sure everyone remained at their station when the birds were being released.

Quail hunting on Bradley Farms is the primary focus. Birds are released twice a year into the wild. I was told the reason they only set birds twice a year is they are more active if they have been in the wild longer. Luckily, I got to experience how they set birds while I was on the farm. First, data from previous hunts were examined to determine the areas of need. Areas with the lowest number of coveys jumped and with the lowest number of kills were set with birds. There were two ways we released the quail. The first method involved cutting a small opening in the box the birds were delivered in and placing it in some cover. The birds will slowly walk out of the box and remain in the area. At each release point, I recorded a GPS way point so the quail hunting guides could predict when their dogs would point. The second method of release was fly releasing. The birds were basically shook out of the box and forced to fly over a large area. This method was usually used after the first method.

Bobwhite Quail on Bradley Farms.

Bobwhite Quail on Bradley Farms.

Secondary to Quail, Bradley farms has a management programs for white-tailed deer, turkey, mourning dove, and waterfowl. Fortunately, I got a little experience with each program. This season on the farm, 186 does were harvested, 4 management bucks, and 4 trophy bucks. This past season, the largest buck killed on the property was a 165 inch non-typical. Each deer is logged and watched as they mature via trail cameras. From the trail camera pictures, deer that are mature enough to be harvested either as a trophy buck or as a management buck are identified. Every deer that is killed on the property, whether it be from natural causes or death by hunter, is aged and weighed to determine the overall health of the population.

Bradley Farms has some of the best waterfowl hunting in the South. There are 3 impoundments on the property that they maintain. Also, the property borders Lake Eufaula, and the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge. I had the opportunity to tag along on one of the duck hunts and was completely amazed. I had never seen so many ducks in one location at one single time. I asked one of the staff members how they had so many ducks in their impoundments. In fact, they will not even hunt the impoundment until they can count at least 1000 ducks on the water.

Lastly, feral hogs are a huge problem on the farm because they are very destructive and can take over an area in a very short period of time. Bradley Farms owns three Jagger Pro hog traps. These traps are controlled by an app on your phone. A camera is placed at the back side of this huge corral trap. Any time something enters the trap, a notification is sent directly to your phone and you can receive a live feed of what entered the trap. The purpose of this activity is to catch all the hogs in the group as oppose to only one or two out of the group. Once all of the hogs are in the trap, the door to the trap is closed right from your phone. At the push of a button, the trap door will slam shut trapping the whole group inside. Last year, they caught over 200 hogs using the Jagger Pro. None of the meat from the game harvested on Bradley Farms is ever wasted. The meat was either served to the family members and their guest at the lodge, or donated to the community.

I learned so much from the people at Bradley Farms and had an experience of a lifetime. It is my dream to one day become an employee and help manage this awesome piece of property. Also, this experience taught me that good work does not go unnoticed.