Daniel recently toured and designed a habitat improvement and hunting plan for a 180-acre property in southern Missouri. The timber on this property had been harvested during the mid-90’s. The result of this harvest was a closed canopy forest containing low quality trees.
The timber stand offered no quality food or cover for wildlife. There were several stands of cedars that also created a close canopy. Daniel recommended using a chainsaw to fell all the cedars and use hack and squirt to terminate the hardwoods to open up the canopy. The landowner will leave a quality hardwood tree every 50 yards or so but terminate the rest. This will create a great savanna habitat of scattered trees and vegetation growing below. With sunlight reaching the ground and management through prescribed fire, native grasses and forbs will flourish, providing great cover and browse.
There were also several large hay fields. These fields could easily be converted to food plots and provide deer quality food and create incredible hunting opportunities. Daniel recommended that the landowner begin implementing principles from the Buffalo System to improve the soil and provide deer forage throughout the entire year.
After touring the property (see Daniel’s Tracks from OnX), Daniel drew up a plan that increased quality food, provided quality cover, and great hunting locations. In an area that is mostly cattle pasture and low-quality timber, these improvements will make this property one of the most desirable to deer as they seek quality food and cover. We look forward to updates from the landowner and hearing about his hunting seasons!
A viewer recently asked me about a property he was considering purchasing to follow his dream of owning a hunting property. It’s always fun looking for a property. This guy was wise and already knew to consider access, distance to shopping, healthcare, etc.
I always start evaluating a property for wildlife management and hunting by considering the existing sources of food, cover, and water on the property and within about a mile in each direction.
I noticed ponds on this property so water isn’t an issue. It appears the remainder of the property is pasture with a few trees. For wildlife it would be best to convert a portion of the pasture to produce food (deer don’t consume grass) and cover.
I prefer to have the best source of at least one of food, cover, or water in the neighborhood. The resource which is the most limited often varies by season. Given the amount of acreage on this Texas property, it would be wise to consider which resource or resources to manage based on availability during the period when it is primarily to be hunted.
Another consideration when purchasing a property for wildlife management and hunting is the neighbors. It’s very important to understand the neighbors’ hunting and wildlife management goals and objectives. If they are vastly different, there will most likely be issues and/or tough compromises during future ownership of the property. Not understanding the wildlife management and hunting practices of neighbors before purchasing a recreational property is one of the most common mistakes I encounter when assisting folks that recently purchased a property.
Enjoy creation and may God bless you with wisdom when you decide to purchase a property,
Prescribed fire can be a great management tool! Here, you can see three bedding areas with the date they were last burned.
Burning during the dormant season (late winter) tends to promote native forbs. Burning during the growing season (summer) favors native grasses.
By rotating the use of prescribed fire during different times of the year (growing season/dormant season) it creates a mosaic of habitat types.
The fires from August 2019 and February 2020 are currently growing rapidly! They are providing quality native browse. In a few months these areas will provide quality nesting and fawning habitat. The area burned during 2017 is providing great cover for critters now- should they seek this type of cover.
This diversity habitat of food plots, native food and cover located in close proximity is extremely productive for wildlife year round!
I received the question below from fellow hunter:
“I was recently helping with a prescribed fire in central Iowa when we ran into an area of saplings encroaching an old grass land. I see you have recommended both cutting at ground level and spraying, as well as hack and squirt, then burn. The area is 15 acres of old CRP but over half is overrun with 10-15’ tall growth. We hope to convert most back to native grass and a few acres for food plots. Is there a reason for one method more than the other? Is there ever a time to mechanically cut all the brush at ground level and maintain with annual burns?”
I gave him the following advice:
It sounds like you are doing some nice habitat improvement work. If the area where saplings have encroached is to remain in native grass/cover then there is no need to expend the resources to cut the trees assuming they aren’t cedars. The easiest way to control eastern red cedar is to cut them below the bottom limb.
Hardwood species almost always sprout after being cut. They can be cut and then an herbicide applied to the stump within five minutes of felling the tree. This requires lots of time and resources. I prefer to use the hack and squirt method. This is a much safer, faster, and less expensive method of controlling hardwoods and allows the sun’s energy to reach the soil.
There’s some excellent information at this link about which herbicide to use and time of year for different species. Please note that the best results when using the hack and squirt technique almost always occurs when it’s used during the late summer. I don’t recommend using this technique when sap is rising.
A regular rotation of prescribed fire, especially during the growing season, will keep hardwood seedlings from becoming established.
One thing I really enjoy is seeing how many worms are in our food plots. Why? Because there is a correlation between the number of earthworms in the soil and therefore deer herd quality. That’s because earthworms really improve the soil, making forage more nutritious…so more earthworms, bigger antlers per age class. Here’s a quick check of the earthworms in this food plot and a brief analysis of what it means.
Turkey hunters – check out this recent live question and answer session sharing tips and strategies for turkey hunting: calling strategies, roosting birds, hunting silent Toms, time of day to hunt, preferred habitat, strategies for turkey hunting on windy days, and more!
I received a question from a client about planting spring food plots into a recently burned field. If you’re considering the same question or making plans to do a prescribed fire, here are a few points to make this a successful food plot:
Planting soybeans (or any crop) into a burned field is fine. The black surface will result in the soil temperature warming faster there compared to fields covered with forage or that have light-colored soil. This can be an advantage during the spring. The added heat would be an issue if the planting date is when the soil and air temps are high. However, the beans should make a canopy before the temperatures are warm enough to damage forage. A 90 degree outside air temperature can mean surface temperatures are well over 100 degrees on a black surface. Burning will reduce much of the above ground organic matter and therefore some of the moisture retention and weed suppression advantages of having the terminated vegetation (mulch) in the field will be lost. However, the past crop’s roots are still providing lots of organic matter as well as holding the soil in place.
Before initiating a burn on your property, please get the proper training. Use a backing fire when burning through hardwood timber. Backing fires are less intense and won’t cause as much damage to mature trees. Rotating areas to burn will create a mosaic pattern of habitat which is very productive! In your fire training you will have learned that it is of paramount importance to consider where the smoke will go! The best practice is to burn during a day with a great ventilation rate (the National Weather Service has a website with fire data). A good ventilation rate means the smoke will rise and move on quickly. This is much safer than burning when the smoke hangs in one area which can, in the worst-case scenarios, cause traffic accidents for which you can then be held accountable.
This link is to the National Weather Service’s forecast including fire weather. You should be able to refine the location by typing in your zip code or city name for an update to get current fire weather for your area.
Another website I frequently use this time of year shows the daily soil temperature. You can review it at this link, updating for your location. This is useful as I like to plant soybeans when the soil temperature is 60 degrees at 9am – the coldest time of the day for soil.
Questions about how to plant spring food plots? Grant held a Facebook live event where he shared what we are doing here at the Proving Grounds and answered viewer questions to help them plan their spring planting and improve their food plots…plus a few other questions related to deer and turkey hunting! Click below to watch the event!