Tag Archives: brush

Wildlife Habitat–General Requirements

Wildlife has a certain requirement for cover.  Cover provides a sense of security from disturbance and protection from inclement weather and predators.  The amount and kind of cover vary with the species.  A stand of herbaceous plants may provide adequate cover for some bird species and small mammals, while other species require woody cover (trees and shrubs) in lieu of or in addition to herbaceous cover.  The best cover for a large species such as white-tailed deer is a pattern or mosaic of woody brush and trees interspersed within open areas.  Clumps or strips of brush should be wide enough so that an observer cannot see through them from one side to the other during the winter months when deciduous species are bare of leaves.  Cover strips should be as continuous as possible to provide travel lanes.  A habitat that provides several different types and arrays of cover benefits more species of wildlife than a habitat that has limited types, amounts, and distribution of cover.  Management of vegetation, whether it be deciduous post oak woodlands, ashe juniper woodlands, mesquite brush land, or open grasslands, requires long-term planning.

Any vegetation manipulation practice will have an impact on resident wildlife species, either good or bad, depending on the type of treatment used, the degree of use, and location.  Before implementing vegetation control techniques, determine what the long-term effects will be for each concerned species and minimize the negative impacts.  Consider the location and size of sensitive wildlife habitats that provide important nesting or roosting sites, feeding areas, desirable wildlife food producing plants, cover, water, and space needs.  Wildlife can be displaced by disturbance from an area without adequate escape or security cover, especially on small properties.

 

The long-term goal should be to maintain a very wide variety of browse plants (trees, brush, and vines).  They are important food sources for white-tailed deer and quail, and a source of cover for many species of wildlife, game and nongame.

The more “edge-effect” you can create, the more diversity you create.  The more diversity you create, the higher quantity and quality of wildlife you will attract and hold.  The old adage, “measure twice, cut once” is never truer than in brush manipulation practices.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Prescribed Burning for Better Wildlife

Wildfire and prescribed fire are similar to illegal drugs and prescription drugs. The first can destroy your home and possibly kill you while the second will improve your wildlife habitat and cure your ailments. Wildfires and illegal drugs carry heavy negative impacts while prescribed fire and prescription drugs carry positive and healing impacts.

Popular throughout the last century, Smokey the Bear had a major influence on many young lives. His overall message was well-meaning but often misinterpreted. Children grew up fearing fire of any kind because Smokey said fire was bad. In wildfire conditions, he was correct, but under controlled conditions, fire can be the best tool used to help turn a property around– to increase the overall herbaceous production, to add weight gain to the animals, to rejuvenate new growth, to remove thick layers of thatch that prevent forbs/weeds and new grasses from growing, to even encouraging new plant species to grow and prosper. Prescribed fire is the answer to old, tired, rangeland that has become stale and stagnant and in need of a shot of production. Prescribed fire adds fertilizer—thru the combustion and restructuring of nutrients—back into the soil where it belongs and becomes usable again. Prescribed fire “opens up” the short herbaceous canopy, thins out invading brush and grass species, removes the young, old, and dead plants and improves sunlight, rain and nutrient penetration at ground level. Prescribed fire stimulates soil micro-organisms and begins the natural food chain from the earliest of stages and thereby creating a much more stable, vigorous and healthy habitat.

Prescribed burns generally occur during two times of the year–summer reclamation burns and fall cool season burns. A summer burn is considered a “hot” fire used to kill large trees (cedars, huisache, mesquite) primarily to reclaim overgrown pastures that need to be returned back into long-term production. A summer burn is very aggressive and destructive and extreme care must be used when using it. A winter burn is considered a “cool” fire and is used primarily to top-remove any debris, set back (not necessarily kill) invading brush species and encourage a quick regrowth response. The fire temperature is hot enough to do the job yet not so hot as to kill large trees or mature brush species — targeting primarily the short brush and grass canopies. Cool season burns are best used to generate browse plant regrowth and forb/weed production—forages that wildlife highly prefer.

Obvious safe-guards need to be in place before any burn: suitable fireguards around the perimeter of the area to be burned, a low humidity/low wind day with a favorable wind direction in order to direct the fire and smoke as desired, and ample experienced help on hand to assist. Heavy equipment such as water spray rigs, dozers, or a tractor and disc are always wise. A game plan for the actual burn and a backup plan should something go awry is also needed, not to mention contacting local neighbors, sheriff office and fire departments to let them know your intentions.

Burning is not for the weak of heart. It required much planning and coordination and weather forecasting, but the benefits of a successful burn outweight all the troubles and stress involved. A burned area is the first to green up and animals will walk great distances to feed on the new lush growth. Fire removes the thorns and needles found on aggressive plants, so many animals enter the burn area even before the smoke clears in order to feed on such delicacies.

Tame pastures, rangelands and even brushy pastures can benefit from prescribed fire. Use fire as a tool just as you do with heavy equipment, responsible cattle grazing and selective harvest. It is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of habitat management available today and it will make a believer out of you once you give it a chance.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Now What?

At this time of year, I get many inquiries about what projects there are to help the deer and deer hunting for the fall.  Deer season and growing big antlers happens in a small percentage of the available time and you have to work smart and hard when the time comes. And now is the time.

Timely projects include, but certainly are not limited to:

Keep all protein feeders full and operational. Deer are growing antlers and raising babies, they need all the extra nutrition possible. Check for squirrel and raccoon damage to the feeder wires, spinner plate, latches and lid. Is there a huge hole under the feeder from all the hog activity? If so, either move the feeder over or fill in the hole so that feed doesn’t fall in standing water when it rains. Are the legs spayed out from hogs or cattle rubbing on them? Perhaps building a large pen around the feeder is required. What about those all-important trail/scouting cameras? Batteries need replacing and they likely need cleaning before they will be ready again this fall.

For food plots, take soil samples on those areas not yet sampled, heavy/deep disc now to remove any unwanted grass or in more dry areas, simply spraying might be in order. How many acres are in your food plot system now and do you need more? If so, do you need more warm or cool season forage plants?   Research your options and get informed and ready for the planting season ahead of time. Do existing food plots need fencing from the cattle or enlarged to keep the deer from wiping them out so quickly? Consider exclosures this fall to gauge exactly how the plants perform. Do you need to adjust your planting date or rates this fall? What worked best last fall and what can be experimented with this year?

Predator control work is important this time of year. Remove feral hogs when and where possible, they depredate on everything baby-related.  Snaring and trapping coyote, bobcat, fox and raccoons will help too.  Raccoons and fox don’t predate on deer, but they do impact quail and turkey production and raccoons certainly disturb deer feeders. Traps around watering sources baited with any smelly work very well. There is a difference between predator control and predator eradication. You can’t, nor don’t want to, eradicate predators, but their numbers do need to be controlled.

Analyze the past season’s harvest data to gauge your success.  What effect, if any, did this past winter’s drought have on your deer population?  Does your adult sex ratio need adjusting? Did you see a positive response from your management actions? What worked best and what didn’t work this past season and why? Do it now in order to make better management and harvest decisions this fall.

Is it time to relocate deer blinds in order to keep the deer guessing? Do you need to select a new blind location due to deer movement patterns?  Set up new locations now so that the animals can get used to them before this hunting season.  Are there large blocks of acreage on your hunting grounds that lack water?  If so, now is the time to get water lines installed or call in a dozer to build a new pond. How are the cattle impacting the grass component on the property? Too many cattle can reduce fawning cover and therefore fawn survival. Do you need more cross-fencing to rotate the cattle more often or do you need to simply reduce the total numbers? Does the property have enough valuable “edge effect” or do you need to create more?

How about the group of hunters and the hunting cabin itself? There are always camp repairs and wood to stack. Are all the hunters as educated about deer management as they need to be? Summertime is seminar and convention time, so encourage education and more involvement with the program so that everyone benefits. Are they familiar with www.WhitetailDomains.com and have they successfully passed the Shoot or Wait game to your satisfaction? Is the fall survey already scheduled? Are there any hunting vehicle repairs needed? Remember that unexplainable miss last fall? Perhaps a new scope, a new rifle, a new set of binoculars…………….

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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