Timber Stand Improvement for Wildlife and Timber Growth

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Beech Saplings Befor TSI Cutting

When timber in the Northern Hardwoods forest type (Cherry, maple, beech, birch) are harvested or otherwise stressed, the beech trees send up thousands of root suckers to gather more sunlight. This brush can take over the entire understory, leaving no light for desirable growth. Beech are shade tolerant while more valuable species such as cherry and oak are not. They need full sunlight for a good part of the day in the spring to grow.

On State land in New York, we always take care of TSI and regeneration work any time there is a timber sale. This should be done on any private harvest as well, but is rarely done, causing the degradation of timber growth in the US.

The side effect of beech cutting is that we can create some escape and bedding cover for deer and get some sunlight on the ground for growth of browse, forbes and grass.

Understory after cutting beech brush

This job is up high on a mountain east of Cayuga Lake. Lake effect snow here has driven the deer out and down to lower elevation – I didn”t see any tracks the first day of cutting. Interestingly, the next morning, I noticed many deer beds at the edge of the cutting. The chain saw in winter is a dinner bell to deer. The poor things came to the sound of the saw looking for some nice red maple buds to eat but there was only beech brush. I have seen browsing on beech but rarely as it is not palatable. They didn’t receive a meal but the deer felt comfortable bedding with the thick brush from the cutting to their backs.
The lesson learned here is two fold – one is that logging work attracts deer when there is snow on the ground and deer like to bed with thick brush behind and a good view in front.
I once was talking with an old-timer while working in the Adirondacks who had a garage full of big antlers thrown here and there. As I examined one of the biggest racks I asked him to tell me how to go about getting one of these big Adirondack deer. “Drop a soft maple” he said. “When they hear the saw they come to feed on the top.” He had one big buck with a 24 inch spread ten point rack mounted. I asked him to tell me the story of how he got that one, expecting to hear an exciting story of woodsmanship and hunting skill, but I was disappointed: “I was sleeping in the cabin and when I woke up from my nap and looked out the window, he was walking past, so I shot him.” I’d rather be lucky than good I guesse.
I never got a big buck when I lived up there, but I can tell you that on tracts we owned that had multiple hunting leases, the club who leased on the part we were harvesting had extremely high success rates while the other clubs did poorly. So, get out your chainsaw this winter and do some TSI.
This is hard, dangerous work (I have had most of my ribs and several vertebrae broken). If you want to hire it done, give me a call and I will give you a per/acre price and do it right.

Steve Chilcote

Check out this website for more info on TSI: http://fw.ky.gov/timber.asp

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.