Friday, November 27, 2020

Thoughts on improving the deer lease


Belladonna and I were hunting out at the deer lease tonight.

I was eyes-and-ears. Bella was the designated shooter. She saw seven. I saw zero. The seven were too far off for any kind of shot.

I was thinking about something I had recently read:

In different studies separated by nearly the span of the last decade, Dr. Marcus Lashley from UT (2011) and Mark Turner from AU (2020) showed us the value of opening the canopy for beneficial deer forage. They learned that girdling and spraying trees and large shrubs with a mix of herbicides with a goal to reduce the canopy by about 30% can realize more than 500% increase in biomass of deer forage! Both studies included low intensity fire at different intervals.     Source
The lease is about 25% wooded. Much of that is subject to flooding. The primary species is Silver Maple. A sixty-foot tall Silver Maple is not very attractive to deer. The female trees do produce seeds at a time when young wood ducks are foraging...if there are any wood ducks nesting nearby.

Some of those trees are "wolf trees". That is, they have huge crowns and are probably hollow. Basically, widow-makers.

In a perfect world, I would be able to convince the land-owner to cut those trees for firewood and to allow me to plant species in the newly opened up, sunny spots that offered better timber or more wildlife benefits.

One option would be to plant shade tolerant species ahead of time and let nature take its course. Unfortunately, most of the best mast producers are light demanding. Beech and pawpaws are exceptions and some sources claim that persimmon is not light demanding as a young sapling.

Beech nuts are difficult to come by but I have an abundance of persimmon seeds. Persimmon has the additional benefits of dropping fruit during Michigan's firearm deer season and being tolerant of wet feet.

Hope springs eternal.


  1. In the 80’s I liver on a farm in the Catskills of NY and most of the beech were dead or dyeing from a blight. Don’t know about Michigan woods.

  2. At your age isn't long term forest management, particularly on leased land for hunting purposes, a bit ahhhh optimistic ? ---ken

  3. "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~ Nelson Henderson

    Even if the landowner won't go for felling those 'wolf' trees, perhaps you could sell him on girdling and poisoning with basal herbicide application - opens canopy, improves surrounding timber stand, and enhances wildlife habitat in many ways, ranging from release of shaded understory, to use of standing 'snags' by woodpeckers and other cavity nesting critters.


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