Deer Habitat Improvement

By GrowingDeer,

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Dr. Woods,

I live in northeast Missouri and have access to 3 farms around 200 acres a piece.  We have planted food plots and now we are interested in improving our native browse and cover.  We have many oak, hickory, and other native Missouri trees.  There are many places that you can see 100+ yards without difficulty.  The forest floor is pretty open, covered in oak leaves and little vegetation less than 5 feet tall.  The majority of the bigger trees are 15-18″ diameter.  We have a mix of younger trees that include a lot of hickory which are 5-10″ diameter.  There are younger oaks, elm, ash, and other species.  We are interested in improving our timber stand with cutting.  Would you recommend cutting ourselves or talking to a logger?  We do not want to get rid of too many acorn producing trees.  Would loggers be willing to take the less desirable trees, especially the medium sized trees (8-15″ diameter)?

I would appreciate any recommendations on improving our current habitat.  Thank you for such an informative website.



The ability to sell timber is always dependent on the current market in each region.  Generally, the current timber market is slow.  To improve the quality and quantity of native vegetation, the forest canopy will need to be opened at least 30% to allow sunlight to reach the soil throughout the day.  This can only be accomplished by removing lots of trees.  I suggest you work with a local forester (state employee or private consultant) to evaluate the timber stand and learn accurate information about the local timber market.  The forester can also mark the trees to harvest based on your objectives.  They should also be able to help you time the harvest to maximize income produced.  Timber prices can move slowly, so you may have to wait months or longer if maximizing the income is a priority.

If the existing timber stands are thinned without any additional follow-up treatment, the residual stumps will produce multiple sprouts each.  The forage produced by these sprouts is relatively low quality food.  In addition, within 2-5 years the sprouts will grow to a point that they fail to provide quality cover or food within the reach of a deer.

Timber harvest can be a good wildlife habitat management tool, but usually requires follow-up treatment (prescribed fire, herbicide, etc.) to maintain the stand’s ability to produce quality food and cover.  If the treatment isn’t appropriately applied and/or maintained, the habitat quality is rarely improved.  The timber harvest should be designed specifically for wildlife habitat improvement on a site-specific basis to ensure the habitat is improved.

Growing Deer together,