This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
DANIEL: Grant and Clay are in Florida this week chasing hogs and turkeys. They’ll be back soon, and we’ll be sharing some great hunts with you from south Florida here next week.
GRANT: Awesome morning in south Florida. I’m just blessed is the word – just blessed.
DANIEL: During the past few weeks weather conditions have been favorable for prescribed fire in our area. This week we’ll be sharing techniques we use during a prescribed fire and how fire plays a key role in improving habitat and reducing tick populations.
DANIEL: During the summer of 2018, Grant and the summer interns visited property about an hour and a half east of The Proving Grounds. The landowner, Mr. Free, wished to improve the habitat and the deer herd quality on his property while making it easier to pattern mature bucks.
DANIEL: While touring the property, Grant identified several areas that had been overtaken by eastern red cedar.
GRANT: As far as I can see down through there, it is useless for a deer. Look; come here and look through this hole right here. Get down where deer, quail, turkey live. There’s nothing. It’s a biological desert. Whack it.
DANIEL: Where sunlight was reaching the ground, great native grasses and forbs were growing. There was a great seed bank in the soil. It just needed sunlight to be released.
GRANT: We’re going to cut ‘em, fell ‘em, let ‘em lay for a year or two, then drop a match.
DANIEL: Mr. Free didn’t waste any time. Within just a few months, Mr. Free had hired a crew, they had felled all the cedars and let them lay.
DANIEL: When converting areas of cedar to native habitat, it’s best to allow them to lay on the ground for about two years, depending on the conditions, to allow them to dry before you burn.
DANIEL: Last summer when we revisited Mr. Free’s property, the cedars weren’t quite ready to be burned. However, there were already a lot of native grasses and forbs growing up because more sunlight was reaching the ground.
DANIEL: Waiting until the leaves and limbs are dry ensures a better consumption of the entire cedar skeleton during a fire.
DANIEL: The cedars continued to dry throughout the summer into the fall and winter, and just a few weeks ago Mr. Free checked, and they were ready to be burned. If you slap a limb and the leaves fall off, it’s ready to burn.
DANIEL: When the conditions were favorable, Mr. Free brought in a crew to use prescribed fire to burn the felled cedars and allow even more sunlight to reach the ground.
DANIEL: A fire break was created around the entire perimeter prior to lighting. And when the first cedar was lit, things warmed up quickly.
ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Eagle Seed, Winchester, LaCrosse Footwear, Morrell Targets, Hooyman, Hook’s Custom Calls, Summit Treestands, RTP Outdoors, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, onX Hunt, Scorpion Venom Archery, Bloodsport Arrows, Code Blue, D/Code, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.
DANIEL: Ideally, when burning cedar cuts, it’s best to allow the fire to back through the area and consume more of the cedar trunk and limbs. This method consumes more of the cedar skeleton which has been pulling nutrients from the ground for decades.
DANIEL: By burning slowly and consuming more of the cedar, well, those nutrients go back into the soil and are available for the native species which will be growing soon.
DANIEL: It’s impressive to see how much sunlight is now reaching the ground in this area.
TOM: Well, we finally got to burn our glade restoration project today after a long time of waiting for the rain to stop and things to dry out. I think we got a good first burn. It’s exposed a lot of new area. We’re seeing a lot of things that we just couldn’t see before because it was covered up in cedars. Dave and the crew really did a great job.
TOM: We’re looking forward to the next phase, seeing this spring what grows. Giving this a couple more years to grow back up and then burn it again. And eventually we’ll get it down to – we’ll get rid of the remaining skeletons and move on to our next project.
DANIEL: Within a few weeks, there will be many species of native grasses and forbs growing which will be tender and palatable browse for many species of wildlife.
DANIEL: Mr. Free will continue to do his prescribed fire on his property to promote diversity and to keep cedars from reestablishing that area.
DANIEL: Burning during the dormant season before spring green-up tends to favor more native grasses to grow. Burning during the growing season or the late summer tends to promote more forbs.
DANIEL: By rotating between dormant and growing season fires, the habitat is able to have a mixture of native grasses and forbs. This type of habitat is extremely productive for wildlife.
DANIEL: Historically, fire would move through the landscape when there were adequate fuel loads to carry and the conditions were favorable for fire. This created a very productive and diverse habitat.
DANIEL: As wildfires have been controlled in many areas, habitat types have changed dramatically. But there have also been other impacts.
DANIEL: High fuel loads, especially in the hardwood timber where leaf litter has built up over many years, creates incredible tick habitat.
DANIEL: A closed canopy forest during the summer, well, it can get very humid and leaf litter can hold a lot of moisture. This is ideal habitat for ticks as their skin requires moisture.
DANIEL: Ticks can have a very negative impact on both wildlife and humans.
DANIEL: Research has shown that prescribed fire can be used to help reduce tick habitat and ultimately decrease tick populations. The amount of impact depends on the size of the area that is burned. If the area is only a few acres, well, it won’t take long for that area to be recolonized by ticks as they’re brought in by deer, coyotes, raccoons, or other critters.
DANIEL: Research has shown that tick populations can be reduced when larger areas are treated with prescribed fire every year or two. This time of year is a great time to target tick habitat as the conditions are often dry and favorable for prescribed fire.
DANIEL: During the past several weeks, we’ve been using prescribed fire to burn away the leaf litter in the hardwood stands of timber here at The Proving Grounds. However, we didn’t just drop a match and let her rip. We carefully planned and prepared for each burn.
GRANT: So start a backing fire. Let it get off the top of the mountain, right on top, the wind’s going to be a little whippy even though there’s not much right here, and then just start stripping.
DANIEL: It’s great that we have onX on our phone and can be right there in the field right before the burn, describe how we plan to do the burn and where everyone should be positioned throughout the day as the burn progresses.
GRANT: Sound like a plan to everyone?
CLAY: Sounds good.
GRANT: All right. So let’s do a radio check. Everybody get your radios on.
DANIEL: People often ask us, “How do we control the fire or how do we create breaks so the fire doesn’t get out of control?” And one of the ways that we do that is we use just naturally occurring fire breaks. In this case, it’s a food plot. So we’ve got this long ridgetop food plot right here. This is our fire break. It’s green out here. It’s not going to – there’s no leaf litter out in the plot. So this fire isn’t going over this hill. It’s going to go where there’s fuel which is right behind me where there’s heavy leaf litter.
DANIEL: So any time we can use a food plot, a creek, an interior road – it just makes our life easier than having to create a break. We just use those naturally occurring breaks.
DANIEL: When burning in the hardwoods with the goal of reducing tick habitat, we don’t want to send an intense head fire through the area and risk damaging or killing trees.
DANIEL: To accomplish this, we start lighting at the fire break at the highest point in the burn unit. We let that fire back down and then we use a series of strip fires to complete the rest of the burn.
DANIEL: By using a drip torch, you can light parallel to the backing fire only a few yards away and strip out the timber much faster than if you just allowed the backing fire to back all the way through the burn unit.
DANIEL: This method allows you to save time while still having a low-intensity fire.
DANIEL: We also blew the fuel away from the bases of large white oaks in the units we were burning.
DANIEL: On the fire today we have several large white oaks in this stand of timber. And we want to protect those white oaks. White oaks have a thinner bark; the heat can get around those trees and girdle them very easily. So we want to keep a low-intensity fire around those trees so they don’t get too hot and are terminated.
DANIEL: So on this white oak here, what we’ve done is we actually went around and we blew the fuel out from the base of it with a backpack blower. And as I’m walking through the timber lighting and stripping the fire, what I’m doing is I’m lighting right along top, the high side of this tree and other trees, and what that does is that allows that fire to back down at a very low intensity around that tree.
DANIEL: If I lit at the base of that tree, I’d send a head fire up through and that heat would come up around that tree and could damage it, or come up the back side, chimney and cat face that tree. So by lighting on top and letting that fire just back down, I’m saving that tree so we can hunt it later when acorns are dropping, and I keep on going.
DANIEL: I’m okay with lighting a little head fire here because I have black up above me and just smaller saplings in between. So it’s okay if I get a warmer fire coming up through here. I want to actually set back these saplings. So when I see these gaps or places where I can set a little head fire through and get it a little hotter and do some work, I’m going to do that. But always watching out for these large, mature trees.
DANIEL: All right. Just finishing up this prescribed fire and we talked a little bit while we were doing the fire about saving the large trees. And this is just a great example.
DANIEL: We’ve got a large white oak right here. And you can tell at the base of it, we cleared out the leaves. There was no fuel at the base and the fire didn’t get hot right on the base of that tree.
DANIEL: But right behind it, there’s a small sapling and you can see whereas the heat was coming up the mountain, it was chimneying up the back side of that trunk and it kind of scarred the trunk. That tree probably got girdled, damage to the cambium layer and that’s okay on that size of tree on that sapling. We’re okay with that. But we didn’t want that to happen on these large trees.
DANIEL: So this is just a great example of why we removed the fuel from the base of these larger trees, especially, our prized white oaks.
DANIEL: Because of the time of the year and the less intense fire, it’s not likely that many ticks are killed directly by the fire as they will move underground.
DANIEL: However, by removing most of the leaf litter, there is little moisture at the tick level, especially if it doesn’t rain for several days after the fire. When the ticks surface and there is no moisture, well they will desiccate and die. If a rain moves through right after a fire, well, there may be enough moisture for ticks to survive and continue the rest of their life cycle.
DANIEL: Fire has been an important part of the landscape throughout time as it creates diverse, rich habitat and keeps critters like ticks in balance.
DANIEL: Prescribed fire can be a great management tool when it’s used correctly. However, you have to remember, it’s not a burn once and you’re done. It takes a frequent use of prescribed fire to achieve the best results.
DANIEL: If you’re interested in learning more about how we use fire to improve the habitat, check out our habitat management playlist. Keep in mind, if you wish to use prescribed fire as a management tool, these videos are not a training course. You should enroll in a training program before conducting a prescribed fire.
DANIEL: Whether you’re thinking about turkey season or lighting up a fire soon, I encourage you to get out and enjoy Creation. But more importantly, I hope you slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you and the purpose He has for your life.
DANIEL: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
DANIEL: All right. Sounds good. We’ll start doing that. I’m working with Clay. Tyler is kind of working that western side. I would say, Grant, if you’re okay with it, Tyler probably can come over here. That way we get this side over here and it’s just gonna creep down pretty good on that west side with that.
GRANT: Yeah. Copy that.