Benefits of Timber Stand Improvement

By GrowingDeer,

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I had a timber stand improvement done on 131 acres to improve deer and wildlife habitat.  It was done 2 years ago, and I noticed the woods thickening up quite a bit.  Is this the best technique to improve my timber for wildlife, and how long will it take to see the maximum benefit from this practice?



Timber stand improvement (TSI) techniques can be a good wildlife management tool.  The time until wildlife benefits from implementing a TSI project varies by the location and type of timber stand where the technique was used.  For example, thinning pine stands in southern states and following up with a selective herbicide and prescribed fire application can result in a tremendous flush of forbs that provide quality cover and forage within a year or two.  This can be maintained for years by occasionally using prescribed fire to maintain the successional stage of the forbs.

I’m not aware of any selective herbicide that yields the same results in hardwood stands.  I’ve implemented TSI in several hundred acres of hardwoods at The Proving Grounds and have had some forbs recolonize the stands.  However, the forb density is much lower than is usually produced in pine stands where typically more sunlight reaches the forest floor.

Hence, my mission is usually different when doing TSI in hardwoods.  It is usually to encourage the remaining trees to produce more mast, not to provide quality vegetative food and cover.  Managing for an increased yield of acorns requires that each tree left has room to expand its crown.  When hardwoods are cut and the stumps are not treated with an herbicide most will resprout.  These sprouts can provide cover for a few years before they shade out the understory and simply become a pole stand that provides very little cover and food to any form of wildlife.  The nutritional quality of hardwood sprouts is minimal during most of the year.  It can be survival food, but it won’t provide the same quality or quantity of food as most cultivated crops.  I usually use fire and stump applied herbicide to discourage cut hardwoods from resprouting and forming a jungle that has limited wildlife value.

TSI can be used to greatly improve the huntability of a stand.  By thinning a thick stand, the distance that deer can be observed can be increased significantly!  In addition, by varying the density of the stand, etc., deer can be encouraged to feed, bed, etc., in specific areas.

TSI is a great tool.  The specific design of the timber harvest should be designed based on the type of stand and the landowner’s objective.

Growing Deer together,