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,