Create a pine hot spot
If you own land or lease property in the Southeast, there’s a pretty good chance you’re hunting property dominated by Southern pine species. These properties can be feast or famine, based on how well they are managed. Check out these tips to make your pine dominated hunting grounds a bonanza for Southern wildlife.
Maximize the value of your hardwoods
The economic value of pine timber in the Southeast has led to the conversion of many upland areas to what we call pine plantations. These are silvicultural areas managed specifically to produce fiber or lumber. They are usually devoid of competing hardwoods, but on properties that are properly managed, you will have streamside management zones, also called SMZs, where hardwoods have been retained for habitat value and water quality. These are extremely important spots for wildlife and should be a key focus for management activities on your property. Leaving an area of hardwoods 10 to 30 yards wide on each side of any major stream corridor is considered a best management practice, but if you really want to maximize wildlife value, you need to manage these corridors.
Conducting timber stand improvement in these hardwood areas will increase the wildlife value. Select preferred species like oak, hickory, persimmon, beech, walnut, wild pecan, dogwood, cottonwood, cypress, tupelo and hornbeam to keep in your woodland. Mark these trees with a non-permanent method and leave most of them for wildlife habitat. Remove lower value species like sweet gum, maple, poplar, sycamore, blackgum and ash using either a chainsaw (firewood cutting) or by chemical control (hack and squirt).
Get the help of a professional forester who is well-versed in wildlife management to help with your timber planning if you are not comfortable doing it yourself. In many states NWTF biologists and foresters can help you at little or no cost.
Keep it uneven
Wildlife thrives on diversity. Having different aged stands of timber provides all the habitat needs for many game and nongame species. A professional forester or wildlife biologist can quickly lay out a plan that provides different timber age classes over time and does not interfere or decrease timber value or activities. Shoot for four or five age classes in relative abundance at any given time on your property. You may have some pines that are 1 to 5 years old, an adjacent stand that is 5 to 15 years old, a pre-commercially thinned stand that is 15 to 25 years old and then manage selected mature stands for saw or pole timber. It’s a constant process of planting, thinning and commercial removal. Add in a copious amount of prescribed fire and biannual disking, and you’ve got the recipe for some excellent hunting.
Disk and burn
If you really want to maximize wildlife value in mature pine dominated forest, you must conduct prescribed burns on a two- or three-year rotation and be willing to disk between the tree rows. Burning removes pine needles that choke out understory vegetation and controls low quality hardwood species that immediately start to invade thinned pine areas. Biannual disking stimulates valuable understory species like native lespedezas, beggar’s lice, ragweed and blackberries. These plants provide important browse, seeds and cover for many species, especially deer and wild turkey.
Clearcuts are a wildlife haven in the Southeast
Clearcut areas are a vital part of upland wildlife habitat. These areas should be small and irregularly shaped to maximize adjacent edge habitat. A wildlife plan that includes clearcutting as part of your uneven timber stand management should place these small clearings in a patchwork around your property. They are the primary areas where deer bed, wild turkeys nest, and quail, woodcock and grouse raise their broods.
Year-round food plots
If you have flat, easily accessible areas suitable for tilling and planting, carefully plan what and when you will plant. It’s hard to go wrong in the Southeast with planting a multi-season, multi-year perennial plot like the NWTF’s Triple Threat Clover mixed with chicory. This plot provides not only tremendous forage all year, but excellent brood rearing habitat. If you really want to sweeten these plots you can no-till drill forage oats and wheat each fall to provide a little more temptation for your deer. If your plots are large enough you can also plant a strip of Turkey Gold Chufa beside your perennial clover mix.
Native warm season grasses = awesome wildlife cover
Using native warm season grasses to create a soft edge along your woodlands and food plots is extremely effective. These areas provide vital cover for game birds like wild turkey and quail and provide important fawning cover for white-tailed deer. Plant a mixture of two or three tall grasses with plenty of native forbs thrown in and you’ve got a recipe for excellent wildlife habitat and hunting. Check out the NWTF’s selection of regionally tailored native mixes at www.OutdoorDealHound.com or call us at (800) THE NWTF for a consultation on what you might want to plant.
Wetlands for water quality and wildlife
The culmination of good wildlife stewardship doesn’t just stop with the wildlife. By properly managing your SMZs, pine plantations and planting native grasses you don’t just improve the land for wildlife, you improve it for everyone and everything. Water quality and quantity is enhanced by sustainable forest and uplands management and providing shallow wetlands and ponds. Wetlands and ponds not only are great places to hunt waterfowl and fish, they are filters for contaminants and sediments that can harm streams and water quality.
ONLINE > Order your clover and native warm season grass mixes at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.