TIPS FOR MANAGING HARDWOOD TIMBER FOR BETTER DEER HUNTING (EPISODE 537 TRANSCRIPT)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: I feel the frustration. Pie and slice forestry management plan. Nesting habitat. Feeding habitat. Old trees, so easy to hunt. I’ve traveled to assist several landowners throughout the whitetails’ range recently and I’ve enjoyed sharing with you some of the habitat and hunting improvement techniques we’ve recommended that they apply to their properties.
GRANT: During a recent trip Clay, our spring intern, Nigel, and myself traveled to northern Missouri – almost to the Iowa line – to assist a landowner.
GRANT: One of the biggest features on his property was a recent timber harvest. I’ll share with you my observations of this recent timber harvest and the advice I gave this landowner for future timber harvest to improve the habitat quality and hunting at his property.
GRANT: Northern Missouri is known for great deer and deer hunting. In general, the habitat is a mixture of ag fields, cattle pasture and mature hardwood timber. Most of the timber stands in this area are even age. That means most of the trees are about the same size and same age. And that’s a result of repetitive high grading through the years, where they took the best and left the rest, creating a homogeneous habitat.
GRANT: It doesn’t take much time for timber harvests like this to result in another closed canopy forest which is shading out any beneficial growth for food or cover at the forest floor.
GRANT: As we know, in a closed canopy forest, there’s no sun reaching the forest floor. We end up with a pile of leaves down there and very little food or cover being produced. In that forest, you hope for some acorns to drop during the fall and there’s nothing else that really benefits deer, turkey, quail, and many other species of wildlife.
GRANT: During the summer a closed canopy forest isn’t a big issue if the other land is used to grow productive crops such as soybeans. There will be plenty of food and cover during the growing season.
GRANT: Combines are extremely efficient anymore. And once those crops are harvested, wildlife go from feast to famine.
GRANT: When deer have to make a living in a closed canopy forest during the winter and the local crop fields have been picked clean, there’s no way they’re going to express their full genetic potential.
GRANT: When we arrived at Mr. Kline’s property, my first mission was to sit down and discuss his goals and objectives for the property.
JASON: So that’s my goal. Kill mature deer and have a place where my boys can hunt and we’re not dealing with what we deal with in PA. But I’m overwhelmed. Now I don’t know what to do. Like I have all these things and it’s like, man, every year it’s like – you know what I mean? I’m just, I’m not pointed in a direction, so that’s where…
GRANT: I feel the frustration. I hear you. And I believe I can help you. So let’s discuss these one at a time.
GRANT: Once we talked about his goals and objectives, we got more specific with the different portions of the land by studying it using the onX map.
GRANT: You want as much food in the central part of your property and cover – CRP – on these outside edges.
GRANT: So you want them bedding here and going this way. You don’t want them bedding here and they could easily go this way as this way.
JASON: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: Having a better understanding of his goals and objectives, I was eager to tour the property, even though it was windy and cold.
GRANT: I assumed the ag components would be fairly standard and I was really interested to go check out that large block of timber that had been recently harvested.
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GRANT: Hey, continuing through Jason’s property. And he’s had some logging recently in a primarily white oak stand. Logging has benefits and some parts that are not as good. That’s just true for any practice, right? But a big stump behind us.
GRANT: The loggers pretty much took the biggest stumps – that’s one form of forestry. And they’re going to consider these the next crop coming on. I’m always working to improve the land, so I would rather take the larger, crooked trees and leave the straightest trees here.
GRANT: White oaks live, you know, three, four, 500 years old. So a lot of people manage these for a 30-year rotation or an 80-year rotation. I like to manage white oaks on a couple hundred year rotation, but they took the crown out of here, obviously, opened it up, which is great. Because I’m seeing lots of saplings and brambles and this will turn green.
GRANT: Now, there’s a lot of white oaks in here and a huge amount of fuel. But ideally, we would back a fire through here. We would start on the ridgetop, back it to the bottom and get this leaf litter off so more green would grow. Then we would have tremendous cover and food in this area.
GRANT: Jason said this was just normal closed canopy – nothing but leaves before he cut it.
JASON: Oh, yeah.
GRANT: So this is a big advantage for what it was. But when you fell big, mature, live, green trees and they fall and they fall against another tree or skidders are dragging out logs and they cut the corner, a lot of trees are scarred. So they’re not near as valuable.
GRANT: So what I prefer to do is do clear cut. So let’s just say the amount of wood they cut out here was equal to about 10 acres. And they cut that off 50 acres or 100 acres or whatever. I’d rather take that 10-acre block and do a clear cut – remove everything. Get maximum growth, maximum sun down and that way you’re not scarring the residual trees. And then these residual trees – like the scars right behind us – so they would be more valuable when you cut the next 10 acres.
GRANT: And another way to look at that is, let’s say you cut 10 acres now, and you skip a few years, and you cut 10 acres, and you skip a few years, cut 10 acres – you still can get old trees but now you’ve got a constant source of income coming in.
GRANT: So you’re playing the market. Timber’s high; timber’s low. You average that out over time, so you’re trying to pick it. You don’t have all these scarred trees and you have a mosaic of young, medium, old timber which is better for wildlife. Because now we’ve got all the same age class and everything’s going to grow up at the same.
GRANT: By removing all the trees from a smaller area, you can end up with the same volume of wood as selective cutting a much larger area. But the result is much different.
GRANT: By making a small clear cut, you have definitive edges and pinch points which make it much easier to pattern deer and hunt. In a few years, the same treatment can be used to a different portion of the forest, giving you a different age structure throughout the stand.
GRANT: Several years ago I started using this technique and I call it the pie and slice forestry management plan. Simply stated, imagine the entire tract of timber as a pie or maybe multiple pies depending on the size of the tract of timber. The size of each slice and how many slices are in the pie depend on the landowner’s objective and the amount of timber we’re trying to manage.
GRANT: The first year, one slice of each pie is cut and the amount of time that passes before another slice is cut depends on the age of the timber when we start the project and, again, the landowner’s objectives.
GRANT: When it’s time to harvest the second slice, I skip a slice in between the original slice that was cut and where I’m gonna harvest. And that gives me a great mosaic of different habitat types.
GRANT: Typically, I have nine slices or certainly an odd number of slices. And if you skip a slice, that means you go around the pie twice before every slice is cut. You don’t want an even number or you’ll end up on top of a slice where you’ve already harvested within fairly recent times.
GRANT: Now consider a pie that’s had four or five cuts in it and you can easily see we have young, medium and old timber all throughout the area. We’ve got perfect nesting habitat, fawning habitat, brooding habitat, feeding habitat, soft mass habitat and now we’ve got some small mass species – you know, 10, 12 years old. They’re maturing and they’re putting out all the berries or fruit. We’ve got old trees that are making acorns – all with hard edges in between ‘em. It is so easy to hunt versus a contiguous stand of timber that’s been high graded.
GRANT: You’ve often heard me reference the hack-and-squirt technique to improve wildlife habitat quality in timbered areas. And that’s a great technique when the trees are not large enough or the right species to be merchantable. They can’t be harvested and yield a profit to the landowner.
GRANT: At Mr. Kline’s property, the forest had been managed in the past – high graded but allowed to get old – so that the trees were marketable and just killing them on site would not have been a good use of that resource.
GRANT: Hack-and-squirt can still play an important management role in a pie slice design. Let’s say they harvest all the merchantable trees, but there’s some three- or four-inch sweetgums or something out there that there’s no market for. You don’t want them having a competitive advantage of the more merchantable trees, profitable trees, growing. So you hack-and-squirt them and take them out of that slice.
GRANT: I mentioned at Mr. Kline’s property there were some saplings coming up in the high graded area. And there will probably be more and more. Those saplings can be worse than an uncut closed canopy forest. They can form an under canopy – one below the top canopy – effectively sealing out all sun from reaching the forest floor. So now you have nothing growing at the ground level and no visibility because there’s so many stems six to ten feet tall.
GRANT: To offset this Mr. Kline is going to need to use prescribed fire, maybe mowing or herbicide to limit the amount of saplings that are going to mature and make shade in that area.
GRANT: As we continued the tour and saw some of his food plots or ag fields, I noticed, well, they were bare. There was no food in that area and there were several weeks of winter left.
GRANT: We’re continuing through Jason’s property and we’ve come through a food plot where he had drilled in oats and, of course, there’s nothing here. It looks like straw laying down. So, we’re in northern Missouri. Jason, it gets cold up here. It’s cold today. I’m putting my…
GRANT: …hood up as soon as we’re done here, so. Oats are just not that cold tolerant. Cover crop farmers use oats because they know the cold is going to kill it, so they don’t have to terminate it the next the spring. So you could have planted oats, but you needed some cereal rye, or some brassicas, or something mixed in it, so there would be some food here now. Because right now it’s just a, you know, biological desert.
GRANT: Not even much scat or tracks out here. So that’s why I always like blends, especially in the cool season or the fall – the winter stuff. I want something that’s good early – might be oats or whatever – mid and late season. This probably did pretty well early, maybe mid, but late – nothing. I recommended Mr. Kline start using the Buffalo System to ensure there’s food available in all the plots year-round.
GRANT: As I’ve shared in the past, the healthiest deer herds have food available year around. They don’t hit that late summer or late winter stress period and be out of groceries. Because if they do, there’s no chance they can express their genetic potential.
GRANT: After touring the entire property, we returned to Mr. Kline’s cabin, warmed up, pulled out a map and discussed all aspects of what I’d seen and finalized a plan that will improve the habitat quality and huntability of his property.
GRANT: I want to convert these very outside fields to commercial ag or CRP.
JASON: Hmm, hmm.
GRANT: In these interior fields, as much as budget allows, should be converted to providing food for deer.
GRANT: I’m very confident Mr. Kline and his family are in for some really good years of deer and turkey hunting at his farm.
GRANT: The conditions are getting favorable here at The Proving Grounds to use prescribed fire as a habitat improvement tool and those are days I always enjoy.
GRANT: But no matter what you’re doing, I hope you take time to get outside and enjoy Creation and, most importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
MALE: There’s a what?
FEMALE: There is a buck.
UNKNOWN: You see a buck?
UNKNOWN: Oh, there’s a bunch of them.
CLAY: Those other ones are shed bucks.
GRANT: Yeah. Probably so. Are you filming?
CLAY: Yeah. (Inaudible)
MALE: Watch if that (Inaudible) falls off there.
CLAY: That one on the far right is definitely an older deer.
GRANT: Old deer. Yeah. That’s your favorite buck right there.
CLAY: Yeah. Yeah.