Timber Managment for Deer Habitat

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I was just talking to one of my clients about ordering seeds and getting some soil testing done to get ready for planting.  We will be replanting some food plots that have been overtaken with grass and bullthistle. 

I could not help thinking that, even though we have planted some nice plots, and there are thick pines that regenerated on the land to make thick cover, there is a missing component to the forest and that is thick regeneration and diversity.

I marked a thinning and did some herbicide work on about 20 acres of the wooded property several years ago.  We fenced half the area with money from the pulpwood thinning and funding that I was able to obtain through government programs.  The fenced area has come in great with many native shrubs and trees as well as fruiting shrubs, aspen and apple trees.  We are ready to take the fence down this year and I wish we could move it over to the unfenced area which is devoid of new growth due to over browsing by deer.  But, this landowner did not apply for funding.  We are, however going to put in some warm season grasses in a 5-acre old field that should come out nice and provide security cover for deer and other wildlife.

Almost every tract of land I work on, whether private or state forest/game lands, the forest managment is lacking in terms of wildlife.  Most private lands are severely high graded and the state forest is managed for timber income, not wildlife.  (that includes game lands)

If a landowner takes ten percent of their land each year and works a regeneration, herbicide, fence, plant program, that would be an ambitious project, but the rewards would be tremendous.  Pick places that really do not have quality mature oak and cherry and regenerate it, installing shrubs that have been eradicated from the landscape.   Tall shrubs that overhang such as witchhazel, and fruit bearing shrubs introduced into thinned hardwood stands will create deer bedding areas and provide food and cover for turkeys and grouse as well as songbirds, bears, etc.

Active managment of forest land is critical if you want to have a lot of game on the property.  This means prescribed burn, planting, thinning, herbicide and fenceing.  Yes, it takes work and money. 

I can help you figure out the money part and do the work for you.  And, you Marcellus Shale landowners, lets get to work and spend some of that mad money your will be getting for your gas leases and royalties!  I should have continuous work to do for the next twenty!

I was reading Grant Woods’ blog on the subject:

Grant’s Blog

Thoughts from the field

Timber Management

March 11th, 2011

I’m in the Montgomery, Alabama airport waiting on a flight home. I’ve been working in a privately owned property in south Alabama that is leased to a hunting club. The current tenants have established 100+ acres of food plots, completed an intensive camera survey of the deer herd, and are keeping great harvest records. They are off to a great start!! However, there is much more to deer management than food plots and estimating the demographics of the herd. The property is approximately 2,000 acres. Therefore the food plots only compose approximately five percent of the property. The remaining 95% is just as important for the deer management and hunting programs!!

To address this point, I spent time with the landowner touring the property and addressing the most obvious habitat features that are very unproductive from a wildlife and timber production point of view. In the south, this usually means unmanaged or poorly managed timber stands.

Unfortunately, unproductive timber is common on privately owned forested properties. Forestry practices in the past often dictate the current forest health unless the past forest was totally removed as part of the regeneration program. Typically, the best trees are harvested on private land and the diseased and/or poorly formed trees are left. In any business, if the best stock is removed and the less desirable is left behind for several generations the overall quality decreases substantially. In forestry, this is called high–grading.

Deer herd management always means some degree (usually more than less) of habitat management. Healthy forests usually result in healthy deer. What makes a healthy forest for deer and other species of wildlife? There should be some sunshine reaching the forest floor. There shouldn’t be weedy species, such as sweetgum, filling all the space where more desirable species have been harvested.

Remember that the ax can be one of the best deer management tools – or one of the worst, depending on how and when it is used. It’s always best to use all the tools in the deer management tool box, not just the tractor and a bag of seed. For the deer herd to express its full potential, the entire habitat must be managed, not just a small percentage.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

  the link to his great website is http://www.growingdeer.tv/view/2011/03/11/deer-habitat-timber-management/

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.