What’s the best habitat management plan for a 15-20 year old Christmas tree farm?

By Grant Woods,

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← Grant's AnswersHabitat Management
Thanks for your time Grant. I just bought a farm in NY state that is a 15-20 year old Christmas tree farm planted in rows. The trees are 15-20 feet high and the deer are not utilizing them at all for food or cover, but are using the open hardwoods around them instead. There are a few open areas in plan on using for Buck forage oats and forage beans…Wondered what the best thing to do with the trees would be? Planning on leaving a few rows around the edges for screening, but didn’t know if I should drive over them with a dozer or skidder or take every other row out or what?? Any input would be great. thanks


I suspect the Christmas trees have matured enough that they aren’t providing any cover and are shading most of the beneficial forbs and grasses.  I assume you have determined there’s no market for the trees – even if you used a tree spade and sold them as living trees for landscape?

If there is no market, then you could doze the trees or simply cut them off at ground level and use a no-till drill to plant forage or cover crops between the remaining rows.  I do this frequently where pines have been thinned. Is common practice to remove every third or fifth row of 15-20 year old pines in southern pine plantations to allow the residual pines to grow faster.  

We typically design, based on each specific site a plan to plant food and/or cover between the rows.  This creates great deer habitat!  Deer are very comfortable when they can bed very close to food. This type of habitat will hold a BUNCH of deer and is relatively easy to hunt. The rows of trees serve to channel the wind and keep it from swirling!  This is one of my favorite habitats to hunt!  

I strongly recommend you have someone design a plan before you go to the expense of knocking down trees. You will only get one chance at getting this correct.  Trees don’t stand back up!  We do a lot of work in New York – there is much potential to have great bucks and good hunting with the correct management plan!

Enjoy creation,


December 16, 2015