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>>GRANT: We recently visited two properties in north Georgia. And I wish to share my observations about timber management from those properties.

>>GRANT: I think this is the best plan for this unit. I like that a lot.

>>GRANT: The first property was primarily hardwoods and the second was almost totally pine.

>>GRANT: David owned the first property we visited, and it was about 90 acres.

>>GRANT: After studying David’s property and the properties in the neighborhood using onX, I knew before getting there that timber management would be a huge part of his site-specific plan.

>>GRANT: When managing timber stands, whether hardwoods or pines, you need to look at it as a continuum. And on one extreme end of the continuum is maximum income and the other extreme end of the continuum is maximum quality wildlife habitat.

>>GRANT: Each landowner’s goals fall somewhere along that continuum. And that’s why it’s best to have a site-specific habitat management plan so they can meet their objectives.

>>GRANT: Oftentimes, I use Smilax as an indicator as soon as I get out of a truck. Because it’s not like they’re just standing here and eating Smilax or we’re going to find a big patch over there. I’m going to promise you it will be the same across the property.

>>GRANT: But when I’m walking in here right off the bat and I find like Smilax like this – and I’m sure they stood right here. And you can see this clearly. That’s deer browse.

>>GRANT: I mean, they’re reaching up five, six foot tall to reach stickers.

>>GRANT: So, we’re another month, give or take, from spring green up and they’re –

>>DAVID: They’re hungry.

>>GRANT: Hungry, hungry.

>>GRANT: We hadn’t been on the property long when the signs of the past timber management program became very obvious. The previous owners had high graded the timber at David’s property.

>>GRANT: While there were still some good oaks on David’s property, it was obvious that sweetgums, hickories, and even eastern red cedar had filled in the gaps created by harvesting the better trees a few decades ago.

>>GRANT: All of these species – sweetgums, hickories, and hardwoods – produce a lot of viable seed and wildlife don’t consume those seeds unless they’re on a starvation diet.

>>GRANT: Now David also wishes to improve the timber stand quality but he’s heavily leaning towards the wildlife habitat side of that timber continuum.

>>GRANT: As we got into the timber just a bit, it was obvious the crowns of the trees were very small. There weren’t a lot of limbs, wouldn’t be a lot of leaves and therefore not much photosynthesis. Remember, photosynthesis is what feeds a tree. If it has a small crown, it’s not getting much food and it will become weak and sick fairly soon.

>>GRANT: The small, tight crowns also greatly limit the amount of sunshine reaching the forest floor. And that’s why there were no grasses or forbs growing – nothing really but a bunch of leaf litter on the floor.

>>GRANT: And we’re going to want to do some TSI, so we’ve got a really nice oak right here and one right there. And so, I would come in here and like I would double girdle and hack-and-squirt this and this. And I look up – most people look down. I look up.

>>GRANT: So, I look at the crown of that tree; it’s much bigger. And it’s competing with this little tree here, this eight-inch tree. So, I would probably hack-and-squirt that one. And that will give me a gap between that tree and that tree over there about ten yards straight through here.

>>GRANT: And this is in the middle and the crowns don’t have any room to expand. So, I would take this one out, as an example. And let those other two trees grow in from there. Does that make sense?

>>DAVID: Yeah.

>>GRANT: David wishes to do most of the timber stand improvement himself, so we talked about using the double girdle and hack-and-squirt technique.

>>GRANT: Both of these techniques achieve the same objective. You can terminate the tree while it’s standing without taking a chainsaw and cutting it down.

>>GRANT: When you fell a green tree and it falls against another one – well, that green tree is super heavy – think in tons. And it’s going to knock the bark off; knock limbs off and allow disease and insects to enter that tree that you want to leave standing and allow to mature.

>>GRANT: So, we have two tools, but they’re best used at a different time of year. The double girdle works really well now. As a matter of fact, you can start using it about the time the leaves started changing colors and continue using it until about July or so. The rest of the year, from about July until the first leaves start changing color, it’s really simple and faster to use the hack-and-squirt system.

>>GRANT: When using either of these techniques, you need to understand the forest is your canvas. And each stroke or girdle you make – well, that’s a brushstroke on that canvas that’s going to last for decades to come.

>>GRANT: Again, David’s actions are necessary due to choices of previous landowners. Now those landowners didn’t necessarily make wrong decisions. They just had different objectives than David. Their mission was on a different portion of the timber management continuum than David’s.

>>GRANT: Something that’s always fascinated me is how resilient the earth is. David can go in using the hack-and-squirt and double girdle technique, and through time do a great job of restoring this forest quality and come pretty close to replicating what that forest was before all these timber management actions were applied to it.

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>>GRANT: Another indicator of the past forest management practices are the presence or absence of seedlings or saplings and the species compositions of those saplings.

>>GRANT: I should define the difference between a seedling, which is a young tree growing from a seed like an acorn or a hickory nut, and a sprout or a sapling is often growing from where a tree was cut and it’s growing off that existing root system. Saplings will grow much quicker than seedlings because it’s got a very old root system feeding all those nutrients and energy into those young saplings versus that big, mature tree it used to feed.

>>GRANT: Where a seedling – it’s coming from an acorn or hickory nut and just starting its root system. It can only supply so many nutrients.

>>GRANT: At David’s place, there were hardly any seedlings or saplings. Because it was a closed-canopy forest, there was no sun reaching the forest floor and very little food, so certainly any desirable seedlings like white oak would be consumed by deer.

>>GRANT: Sometimes I’ll go into a forest where people harvested sweetgum but didn’t treat the stumps. And almost always, there would be 8, 10, 14, sprouts coming off that root system and they’ll grow like crazy. It’s almost always necessary to treat sweetgum stumps if you’re harvesting sweetgum.

>>GRANT: Another issue we often see in forests is exotic and invasive species. And there was a really good or bad example, if you will, at David’s property.

>>GRANT: His bottoms were pretty much chock full of trifoliate orange. This is a very invasive and exotic species originally from China and Korea.

>>GRANT: Like many invasive, exotic species, they were brought here thinking they would solve a purpose. But that’s rarely the case. You’d think we would learn by now. Now, trifoliate orange was thought to be a really good living fence. But it, obviously, escaped from that and it cost landowners a lot of resources to correct that.

>>GRANT: A common way to control trifoliate orange is to take a pole saw – again, you don’t want to get too close to it – cut it off at the base and then treat those stumps with an herbicide called Garlon 3A.

>>GRANT: There are many invasive and exotic species, and the best way to control them when there’s only a few on your property – and I always tell landowners, keep an eye out for anything that you don’t recognize; have someone help you identify it. And if it’s one of these bad species, control it before it makes seed.

>>GRANT: Another really good indicator of the current habitat quality is to see what deer are browsing on. Now I knew David’s property had a closed-canopy forest and there wasn’t a lot of food there. But I gotta tell you, I was surprised to see eastern red cedar had been heavily browsed and even some trifoliate orange had been browsed on.

>>GRANT: Knowing that deer were browsing on very undesirable species at David’s property, I was very excited to share our plan with him and help him improve the habitat quality.

>>GRANT: I also knew, since deer were browsing on those species, there wasn’t any better habitat in the neighborhood or deer would have been feeding there. That made me extremely excited. Because I know once David implements the plan, his property will be the hub of deer and turkey activity in the neighborhood.

>>GRANT: I’m very excited to receive updates from David and I know he and his family will have many great hunting opportunities on his property.

>>GRANT: We also visited Jeff’s property which was just a few miles away from David’s. It was a totally different type of property.

>>GRANT: There were some hardwood draws at Jeff’s place, but it was primarily a large pine plantation.

>>GRANT: These beautiful pines were about 35 years old, healthy and looking good, and obviously ready for a harvest. But after we visited with Jeff, we knew his objectives were much closer to the wildlife management side of the timber management continuum than it was maximum timber value.

>>GRANT: A typical pine management plan is for the pines to be thinned periodically and that’s to allow each pine to receive enough sunshine to grow at a good rate. And then the landowner decides at about what state of maturity he wishes to clear cut that stand or take a big payout from the timber he’s grown and replant more pines.

>>GRANT: When thinned appropriately, the trees with the lowest quality form or the least valuable trees are taken out allowing the better trees to continue to grow and reach a higher monetary value.

>>GRANT: From both a timber value and habitat management point of view, I recommended that Jeff have the pines thinned as soon as practical. Those crowns were certainly rubbing. The pine trees weren’t growing at their maximum rate, and there was very little sunshine reaching the forest floor.

>>GRANT: Now knowing that Jeff’s goal was much closer to the wildlife management side of this timber continuum than the maximum income side, I suggested that Jeff have these pines thinned to 60 basal feet per acre.

>>GRANT: We’ve shared this before, but to understand basal feet in timber terms, imagine if you had 60 trees that averaged about a foot at the ground. Well, that would be 60 basal feet per acre. The result of this thinning would mean there would be much more sunshine reaching the forest floor. And then Jeff would push a prescribed fire through there, kind of creating a seedbed. And that would allow the native grasses and forbs to take off. And because each tree is getting all the sunshine it could handle, it would grow much quicker, adding more value per tree per year.

>>GRANT: One of the most common issues in managing pines for wildlife habitat or maximum timber value is sweetgums. Sweetgums can literally take over all the understory of a pine stand shading out everything and competing for resources with the pine trees.

>>GRANT: It almost always requires a herbicide treatment to control sweetgums in a pine stand. A prescribed fire will kill a one-year-old sweetgum seedling, a little bitty tree that’s growing from a seed. It doesn’t have much root system and as that fire girdles the stem, there’s not enough energy in the root system for it to come back and survive.

>>GRANT: But if you’ve got sweetgum sprouts from a stump or an older sweetgum seedling – three, four, five years old, that fire may get hot enough to girdle and top kill it, but the roots store enough energy that it would simply send up more sprouts.

>>GRANT: Fortunately, there’s a very safe family of herbicides, called Imazapyr. It’s Imazapyr chemistry that’s lethal on sweetgums; doesn’t impact pines at all and has almost no issues with mammals, including the wildlife or humans. In fact, it has the same toxicity to mammals as toothpaste.

>>GRANT: A really great thing about this herbicide is it favors about 170 plus native grasses and forbs that are beneficial to wildlife.

>>GRANT: Like most people, I want to use the least amount of herbicide as necessary. But when managing pine stands in most places, a single application – a one-time application of this herbicide – is usually necessary to achieve high-quality wildlife habitat.

>>GRANT: As we were traveling through Jeff’s property, we laid out several food plots going from large feeding food plots to small hidey hole food plots.

>>GRANT: We arranged them in a way that would provide him and his family some great hunting opportunities.

>>GRANT: The combination of the native vegetation that will grow after the pines are harvested and the high-quality forage produced in the food plots will be way more than currently is on Jeff’s property.

>>GRANT: And once again, the neighbors around Jeff’s property have very similar habitat – mature pine. So, Jeff is going to have the source of the best food and best cover in the neighborhood and there’s no doubt it will be the hub of deer and turkey action in that part of the forest.

>>GRANT: I’m very excited about the plans we developed for both David and Jeff and look forward to hearing updates from them as they implement the plans and reap their rewards.

>>GRANT: I like these properties so much you might see me back there turkey hunting in a few years.

>>GRANT: Walking in the timber to create a habitat management plan or simply taking a walk anywhere is a great way to get outside and enjoy Creation. But even more importantly, I hope you take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.