Cutting timber sounds simple, but start with a good plan.
QUESTION: I recently purchased a woodlot for hunting and recreation, and we’re going to be cutting some firewood this year. Can you offer some tips on when/how to cut that will help the deer?
ANSWER: It’s difficult to be too specific without more information, but I can offer some general advice. The optimal time to cut is when natural food is at it’s scarcest in late winter. Assuming you’re cutting hardwoods, the downed tops will represent a bounty of coarse woody browse for the deer. And as that’s their primary food source that time of year, it won’t upset their complex digestive tracts. Stump sprouts or suckers should grow from the stumps, representing additional browse the following fall.
As for where, you should look at the entire lot and develop a plan that benefits you as a landowner and the deer. In general, the more diversity and edge habitat you create, the better for deer. For example, if you have 100 acres, you might want to divide it into 10-acre sections and thin one each year. By the time you get to the last, the first will be filling back in nicely.
How much to cut depends on your needs and what you’d like to accomplish. Again, thinning provides an instant food source in the form of downed tops, and latent source from stump sprouts. Plus, by allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor, more herbaceous growth will naturally take place. Cut what you need, but leave plenty of overstory, especially with mast trees, and leave ample dense bedding cover.
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