Once again we return to Mr. Smith and his not-so-perfect “perfect” property for a look at the last three flaws and their respective solutions.
Flaw #3: No tall grass left. Fewer fawns are being spotted each year.
Solution: Re-plant the freshly burned ground throughout the pasture areas in a NWSG (native warm-season grass) mixture. Use grass varieties that grow to six or seven feet. This will create brand new bedding areas for the deer. Fawns survival rate should be near 100% once established. The predators can’t kill what they can’t find.
Flaw #4: All of the agricultural fields immediately border thick timber or overgrazed pasture.
Solution: Strip disking is a very overlooked habitat management practice. Deer feel much more comfortable entering a field when they have softer edges around them. Strip disking is a very easy was to add this edge to your fields. By making one pass along the edge of the field, you create new growth of many different forbs and grasses. When the soil is disturbed, it stirs up an old seedbed filled with all kinds of goodies. You simply let this new edge grow wild. By raising the disk every 100 yards or so, you skip half of the area, creating even more diversity. The deer will use this new cover as bedding and as an appetizer bar before heading into the lush field of alfalfa.
Flaw #5: Very little native browse is left.
Solution: In the timber, the canopy has been too thick to allow the growth of many desirable forms of browse. A few of my favorites are coralberry, blackberry, poison ivy (yes, poison ivy), green briars and honey suckle – not to mention new tree saplings. In the pasture, you can see distinct browse lines in the trees scattered about from the cattle eating as high as they can reach. Brush hogging thick patches of weeds can create immediate food plots after a good rain. Fertilize any native browse close to deer stands and field edges.
Along the edge and interior of the timber, you can implement hinge cutting. This is a technique used to drop the tree to the ground but allowing it to survive which in turn lowers the leaves to the whitetail’s level. Pick out an area that would be a likely location for a bedding area. Then sharpen your chainsaw and have some fun. Target only the undesirable trees such as elm , hackberry, hickory, and any other tree that poses no benefit to wildlife. I do this to trees that are less than six inches diameter. Make your cut three or four feet from the ground. Cut ONLY three quarter of the way through. Then push the tree to the ground. The part of the tree left attached will allow the tree to continue growth. The deer will browse the tree tops and bed underneath also. So now you have added tons of new forage and a place for them to feel safe. At the same time, you have opened up your forest canopy even more. This new area is best used as a sanctuary for the deer so stay out of there once you are finished. This management practice is not very aesthetic, but it is very practical.
By following these habitat management practices, Mr. Smith will be amazed at the upswing in deer activity on his property. They now have more food and cover, which will allow them to feel like living there instead of only passing through.
In these last few posts, I’ve only touched briefly on each of these 5 critical native habitat management practices. Each one could encompass a month’s worth of posts all on its own. For now, hopefully you have at least some understanding of the incredible difference that native habitat management practices can make on a property.
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‘til next time – Scott