More Effective Than Food Plots!

Your place to discuss ways the habitats for deer can be improved!
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JPH
 
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More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Thu May 03, 2012 10:53 am

To begin with, I've always found it a bit odd that so much of the Natural Habitat Enhancements is taken up with food plot discussion. It's not that I am opposed to food plots, it's just that they're not exactly natural.

Anyway, over the past 10 years I've experimented with food plots and minerals on my North Missouri micro property. I've done the no-till thing on the trails and I've planted corn and clover on my 1.8 acre of tillable. Each of these experiments were expensive and labor intensive, both in terms of start-up and maintenance. What is worse, none of them really seemed to have much of an impact on the way wildlife used the property. Maybe it is because I sit in the middle of fertile farm land where a variety of food sources are readily available, but no matter what the reason, my plots failed to live up to expectations.

Then I decided to switch gears and work toward natural habitat restoration. I had a wildlife specialist walk the property with me. I told him that I wanted the best deer and turkey hunting possible, but pointed out that single species habitat management is unsound in the long run. He drew up a plan for 4 different areas of management and one DIY project for me. 3 of the 4 areas were 1.5 acre professional timber management sites, with an emphasis on thinning to enhance mast production and promote low level understory. The 4th area was to burn my tillable plot and seed it in native grasses. The DIY part was for me to perform hinge cuts around the perimeter of the property, both as an attractant and as a security measure.

We began 14 months ago with the first 1.5 acre of TSI and the hinge cutting. All I can say is WOW! I chose the first TSI area because I was skeptical and it was an area I rarely utilized. Well in the span of a little more than a year, it turned into the most productive section of the property for deer and turkey hunting! Last November I watched what would have been my best buck harvest there breed and bed a doe, and I would have killed him if I hadn't moved at the wrong time. This spring this area was the favored roosting sight and strut zone for my resident turkey flock and I managed to kill a limbhanger right along the edge.

If I were more educated and experienced with a saw, I could do the TSI myself. But the guy I've hired does an entire area for $300 and it requires absolutely no maintenance. Money is tight and as I said, I was skeptical, so 3 of the 4 projects in his plan remain on the shelf. But I intend to move forward with all three as soon as the budget permits and I may have bought my last bag of food plot seed.

jbekes
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby jbekes » Thu May 03, 2012 12:48 pm

We have had some of the TSI work done on out property and we have had mixed results. The first section that we did went great, like you said JPH the wildlife seem to jsut flock to those areas because they feel safe a secure, and if you can create paths for yourself to sneak in and out of stands you can be very successful. This second section that we had done we are not quite as impressed with. It is a rocky hillside that we were told by a wilflife person that we should have the TSI work done then do a prescribed burn on it because the hillside was so full of cedar trees, then let the native grasses come back and the wildlife will love it. Well, we got everything cut down, the burn was crappy and now we have a hillside that is so thick with downed trees the wildlife have a hard time getting in muchless out and we dont have any wild flowers or grasses because the sun still cant get to the forest floor.

So I would say if used correctly it can be a great thing but it can turn the other way just as quickly if you go a step to far.
Whoever said, "Money doesn't buy happiness," obviously never bought a flyrod or a bow.

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Thu May 03, 2012 2:28 pm

^ Excellent point, jbeaks. How well did you know your consultant before you hired him?

I suppose it is just like hiring a contractor to do work on your home. Some are better than others and I suppose it's a good idea to check references before you hire them. I guess the risk is that any failed TSI will take a long time to recover, whereas a bad food plot can be killed with roundup and restarted every fall/spring.

FWIW, the guy who does my work spent several years working for the Nature Conservancy, has done excellent large scale projects for the most active property owner I know and is the son-in-law of close personal friends. I'm lucky to have such good contacts. I's feel really nervous going with an add in the paper or something.

jbekes
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby jbekes » Fri May 04, 2012 8:44 am

We got our guy through the state and he did very well on the first part but the second as stated was a bust, and maybe it was just because there was such a large amount to burn on the second part. The conservationist that we were hooked up with even came out and said that it went well but we were just expecting something very differant i guess. We are going to try and cut up or pull out some of the downed trees that are left just to try and clean it up a little more.

Maybe I can make some of those branch fences like msbadger talked about in another post.
Whoever said, "Money doesn't buy happiness," obviously never bought a flyrod or a bow.

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jonny5buck
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby jonny5buck » Fri May 04, 2012 10:18 am

I've been doing something similar for yrs. It's amazing what can be accomplished with a chainsaw /a quad/ and an extra pair of hands.

I personally believe most food plots are way overrated..just MO...Not only does most Natural habitat restoration benefit deer but it will most likely benefit other animals and songbirds...Sometimes just clearing an area of non-native species and turning the ground will expose dormant weed seeds to germinate...other times a planting of native grasses can be beneficial and provide nesting areas and cover for pheasant or quail....wildflowers are benefical to butterflies and draw insects which in turn feed the young of wild game birds like quail and or turkey....one property i hunt has turned into a rabbit factory after some clearing...never seen so many rabbits in my life...my point is that when going with a native planting or simply discing the ground and letting the sunlight work its magic you never know how much or which group of animals will be attracted..but it is benefical to wildlife..in a big way.....one strip i planted of habitat wildlife blend seed now has turkey sneaking in it and on occasion we have seen deer bedded in it and feeding amongst it.

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Sun May 06, 2012 10:07 am

Here are some late spring photos of the area's we've worked on.

The first three are of the TSI area. As you can see, my conservationist favored the white oaks and removed the rest. This has greatly improved mast production and low browse. It's kind of like having a covered food plot in the heart of the timber.
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The last two are of the hinge cutting I did on the perimeter. They bring a lot of browse and cover down to eye level. The bottom photo shows how these cuts make it harder to see in from the road.
Hinge1.JPG
Hinge1.JPG (208.56 KiB) Viewed 7762 times
Hinge2.JPG
Hinge2.JPG (180.53 KiB) Viewed 7762 times

henry06
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby henry06 » Sun May 06, 2012 11:35 pm

That's quite impressive and lively to see greens so full and strong.

I think we could all have a great summer then.

:)

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jonny5buck
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby jonny5buck » Mon May 07, 2012 3:20 pm

Joe awesome photo's...looks like well spent time and money...just curious what does TSI stand for???

Also wondering when they thinned the less desirable trees and left your oaks did they do any trimming /pruning of the oak trees or recommend that to be done??

One property that i hunt is being over-run with Black Locust trees[ with the big thorns]...and the oaks are fighting for sunlight...i am left helpless on this property because i do not own it and the property owner doesn' t get how thinning out the locust will improve the mast of the several types of oaks on this land....the locust are winning and it kills me to watch this happen...besides the landowner dumps 100's of dollars into plots that arent limed .and dont attract deer....chainsaw time would dramitically improve this land and create a decent amount of natural browse with the acorns...its a nightmare that i must watch deteriate yr after yr....i focus my energy on hunting elsewhere because of this delima......what you did or had done on your property just makes sense i am always interested in learning when the focus is on improving what mother nature already has there....great job man..Jon~

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Mon May 07, 2012 8:42 pm

Thanks for the complements, Jon but I cannot take a lot of credit. Most of this was the result of hiring the right guy to help me.

To answer your questions. TSI stands for Timber Stand Improvement. I think he has an eye for the trees that will produce the most mast with the least assistance and he clears out anything that might be slowing them down. That's pretty much what TSI is all about. He did not prune the trees that he left standing. When I see him I will ask why.

Also, when you look at those photos, bear in mind the perspective. The trees that are standing are much larger than they appear. Most of them are at least 30" around, and some of them are much larger. Also look in the distance in the photos and see the dense timber that surrounds the TSI area. That is what that area looked like before he came in and opened things up.

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Deebz
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby Deebz » Tue May 08, 2012 9:54 am

JPH, After seeing what your hired guy did, how difficult do you think it would be to replicate the work in other sections of your ground?

My Dad bought some neighboring property to his home in town, and it had a wooded hillside. Tons of small scrub trees and CRAPLOADS of multifloral rose and other viny thorny weeds. We (Dad and his 4 boys) cleared at least 2 acres with the exception of some of the bigger more valuable trees in the span of 4 or 5 weekends and a couple of after work sessions. He now has a nice fenced in horse pasture for my little brother's horses with some good looking trees for shade and aesthetics. It was a lot of manual labor, but it didn't really require any special knowledge aside from knowing which tree species add value to a property and which don't. Obviously a very different goal from what you had, but it sounds pretty similar.
"When a hunter is in a tree stand with high moral values and with the proper hunting ethics and richer for the experience, that hunter is 20 feet closer to God." ~Fred Bear

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