More Effective Than Food Plots!

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

Postby kribbz » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:19 pm

So do you just cut the trees and let them lay? Joe, yours looks really cleared out but the other guys have downed trees everywhere? which one is correct?

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bioactive1
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby bioactive1 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:42 am

kribbz;

Letting the trees lie in place is one of the most important things you can do if your primary interest is deer habitat rather than growing crop trees. In woodlots in much of the midwest it is nearly impossible for preferred browse species to grow because of high deer populations. For example, in the woods shown in the second series of pics, there were many basswood trees 50 years old and older. But virtually no young ones. The reason is, that 50 years ago was when deer populations in southern Michigan began to recover. No basswood seedling can grow because it will be eaten to the ground by deer. However, if you hinge the basswoods you will get florid growth off the stump and trunk that is far too robust for deer to keep up with. Leaving the top in place protects seedlings from deer--they simply have trouble getting at them.

The horizontal cover provided by hinge cut trees, whether they survive or not will enable instant use by deer. You do not have to wait 2-3 years to establish new growth, you are instantly putting browse on the ground and providing needed cover.

The main secret to success no matter what method you are using is to let enough light into the area.

Hinge cutting is starting to get a bad rap but I believe it is often the case that if hinge cutting has not been more effective than classic TSI it is because most practitioners do not go far enough in terms of letting in enough light. They go through and cut small diameter trees, and not much happens because they have not let enough light in.

Removing trash makes the work of regenerating oaks and other desired species much more difficult than if you leave the tops in place. If there are oaks in the area you will get regeneration of oaks by simply letting in enough light and not letting the deer be able to get access to the seedlings that will naturally grow.

Before working on your woods I would contemplate what you are doing the work for. If it is mainly for wildlife habitat, then you will have a much different definition for what a junk tree is than if you are doing it to grow timber. You are likely to derive more benefit from clear cutting or extensive hinge cutting than you are from TSI. If on the other hand, timber production is important to you, than you must sacrifice some of those benefits to wildlife by preserving trees that will make good timber in the future even though they are providing shade, drawing water and nutrients from the soil, and otherwise diminishing the quantity of food and cover at ground level.

To a forester a basswood tree growing on it's side with growth coming off the stump is a junk tree that is competing with the good trees (meaning money trees or mast trees) and therefore needs to be removed. As a deer habitat manager I know that the basswood tree is like catnip to a deer. I want as many of them as possible growing. Same is true for a number of other species that a forester will call junk or trash trees. They are not trash to a whitetail.
Last edited by bioactive1 on Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:09 am

kribbz wrote:So do you just cut the trees and let them lay? Joe, yours looks really cleared out but the other guys have downed trees everywhere? which one is correct?


Actually we left everything in place. I think the difference is that bioactive1 is showing his hinge cutting work, whereas most of my photos are of selective thinning (or TSI). In hinge cutting the tops continue to grow at eye level. The idea behind my guy's work was to eliminate those trees and let the tops rot down. This allows other plants to grow at the ground level. I do use hinge cutting on the fringes, mostly for security, but I've moved away from using it as a primary habitat strategy. It's not that one way is right and the other is wrong, it's that they are two different things.

The work I was showing off is a kind of natural restoration. That land was an oak savanna prior to farming. Native grasses and plants grew between mast producing trees. I've got a long way to go before it reclaims that status but the idea is to swing it back in that direction. Again, I'm hoping to encourage a "natural food plot", if you will.

On a side note. We've had a devastating drought. Many crops failed and those that didn't were harvested early. Oaks were stressed and dropped their acorns in August. Everything is brown and down. But in my little 1.5 acre TSI area there is a blanket of low green browse. I don't know what that is growing in there but it was beautiful from the stand yesterday morning. I'll try to get a photo next weekend.

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bioactive1
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby bioactive1 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:18 am

Here are examples of what foresters would describe as junk trees. The first is an ash. Note that you can see from the trunk that it is a dying ash--ash trees cannot survive to maturity because of the emerald ash borer, so would not be a tree that you would target to sustain in a classic TSI situation. But for deer habitat, I want as many a=of these stumps sprouting ash browse as possible. The more variety there is in my woods, the more utilization I will get by deer, who naturally desire varied food sources. Look at the florid growth coming off the stump. This is much more robust growth than you can get from the ground. The reason is that the root system of this tree grew to support a very large tree, and now it is providing food at a far faster rate, in a more renewable form, that deer can use as a permanent feeding station. Nor does this prevent robust growth of seedlings. There are thousands of ash seedlings in the area.
Image

Here is a maple tree. Maples are a shade resistant tree that will often be one of the few species found in the understory of a canopied woods. Deer develop a tremendous appetite for maple browse. Again, this is a tremendous resource for deer. Most foresters would recommend that this tree be removed and many would even have you treat the stump to kill it so it does not sprout like this. Whether you do that or not depends on what your goals are, which may or may not be to produce timber.
Image

Here is a basswood tree. Without question a tree that is not a target timber species, but has no peer in my area as the most preferred browse for deer. I don't know any other method to produce so much desirable woody browse for deer that is so robust that it will continue to withstand even hard browsing because of the extensive root system feeding it. By the way, the only reason this basswood was ever able to grow is because it was right next to a road and therefore not as accessible to the deer. In the main part of the woodlots there have been few new basswoods produced in the last 50 years.
Image

This area weas a deer desert prior to hinge cutting. You can see in this before picture that there was virtually no food and cover for deer in this area. Now it has dozens of species of woody browse and forbs growing at deer's eye level that were stored in the seed bank.
Image

I think jph has done a great job with his woods. However, there are alternative approaches to providing more varied cover and food sources for deer. Which approach one takes depends on what the goals are.

In my case I could not care less if these small wood lots ever produce another money tree. The number one money tree here is walnut from a TSI standpoint, but they are not as desirable from a deer habitat standpoint because they suppress growth of understory species, diminishing both food and cover in my woods. I have made the personal economic decision that the property is more valuable to me as wildlife habitat than for growing timber. With that said, we dod leave some walnuts standing in this spot :D .

If you look at a hinge cut area vs. a TSI area, I would argue you will see as much as if not more regeneration of natural habitat as a TSI area.

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:25 am

bioactive1 wrote: You are likely to derive more benefit from clear cutting or extensive inge cutting than you are from TSI.


I offer my disagreement with all due respect and humility. I'm only a small time land manager with limited experience but my habitat guy would disagree with you and my personal experience backs him up. Now, I should add that he did not call what he did for me TSI. I filled in the blank there but t certainly was not with timber production in mind. His point to me was that hinge cutting tends to be rather short sighted. Our goal is to slowly return the habitat to its original state. I was skeptical because I'd always focused on food plots and dense cover but the results have been phenomenal.

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kribbz
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby kribbz » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:52 pm

thanks for the detailed responses from both of you. So when you cut everything down you are able to see over all the downed trees that you are still able to get shots?

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:36 am

kribbz wrote: So when you cut everything down you are able to see over all the downed trees that you are still able to get shots?


We did our thinning in mid-winter so the trees he put down were bare. Last season was the first fall that I hunted over it. The ground was cluttered with trunks but it was otherwise open in there. Again, the only way I can describe it is like a covered food plot. There were plenty of acorns, low browse and some grasses on the ground but nothing that I couldn't shoot through. This spring the turkeys used it as a roosting sight and strut zone, all in one. So that should describe what it looked like.

Hinge cutting is another story. That can get pretty jungle-like. I use it around the thinning area and you really cannot shoot through it, but it adds to the feeling of privacy in there.

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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:30 pm

Our 1.5 acre clearing continues to produce some of the best hunting on the property. I sat one of the stands that overlook it on opening day of rife. I had a bobcat walk right under me, squirrels all over the place and shot my best buck from that property!

As I was saying last week, in spite of a brutal drought, our 1.5 acre clearing in the timber had somehow managed to remain green and succulent. It was pretty wet this morning but I went in and took a few pics. I do not know what those little green leaves are but they are growing at hip level and it continues to be a hot spot.

The first photo gives a pretty good look at the greenery.
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The second photo is taken from the center of the clearing, looking back at one of the stands.
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Finally, least you think it is too open, I include a photo taken on the fringe of the clearing, looking out.
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JPH
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby JPH » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:57 am

My guy Travis, at Adaptive Wildlife Management, did the second phase of his TSI project on my Missouri woodlot earlier this month and I'm even more excited about this plot than the last. He mapped out a second 1.5-2 acre area to be selectively thinned. The goal is to open the canopy, increase mass production and restore the original oak savanna. At the same time he is aware of my wish to keep the fringes of my property thick for security, encourage diversity on the property and make it friendly to hunting. The work involves picking out specific trees that have the best potential for mass production and culling those that are standing in the way.

Photo one shows a view from the ground. The tops remain in place, providing browse and cover. They will eventually rot down and are replaced with new native plants. As the area matures, these plants will be managed with prescribed burns.
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Small trees are dropped and left in place. Anything up to and including the size of the tree in photo two gets dropped.
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Larger trees that are determined to be less desirable are girdled and left in place. This opens the canopy but leaves the tree as a snag. They provide excellent habitat for birds and small game and eventually come down on their own.
girdle.jpg
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I have tried to do this sort of thing on my own but I'm not nearly as knowledgeable or skilled with a saw as Travis. Furthermore, I'd spend far more in fuel, food, and saw blades than what he charges for a day of expert work. And as I've said before it is FAR cheaper than a food plot and in my opinion, more of an attractant.

SteveBartylla
 
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Re: More Effective Than Food Plots!

Postby SteveBartylla » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:16 pm

Hope you don't mind, but I figured I'd toss in my own 2 cents worth.

With all due respect to anyone that may disagree, I don't think the question is whether clear cuts, selective cuts, hinge cuts or food plots are the best. Frankly, I don't think that question can be answered without going into all the specifics of the property. They each have their place and benefits, but none of them are the right in each situation and often a combination of these practices is the best route to take. Every property is different.

I did notice in earlier posts people questioning whether they could do these things themselves. My suggestion is that even the most ambitious limit their chainsaw projects to no more than a couple acres worth of work. Even if looking at a selective cut, that's a lot of work. Speaking of selective cuts, a very good rule of thumb is that if you are questioning if you are thinning enough, take out 200% more. To really jump start regrowth, you go hard or go home.

Along with these activities being a ton of work, they're also dangerous. I've been doing this stuff for over 20 years and I darn near cut my leg off last year when hinge cutting. A good friend of mine actually cut he leg bad enough that if he hadn't been wearing a belt he'd have bled out. Making things worse, the Dr told him that for every three gashed legs he treats, he treats 1 case where the chainsaw kicks back into the face, leaving gruesome scars for life...and that's if you're lucky.

I'm sure not trying to scare anyone off. I'm just suggesting to be realistic about how much a few people can tackle (I contract out all thinning and clear cut work over a couple acres worth on any property I work on). Even more important, if you are going to do it yourself, wear steal toed boots, logging chaps and the appropriate head/eye/heaing protection. Don't get sloppy and be sure to quit when you get tired. I know all that costs money, but it's not worth the risk otherwise.

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