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Discussion Starter #1
My property is in big woods with no ag for 60 miles in any direction. It has been very productive for black bear, which is my main interest. The property was logged about 25-30 years ago. What, if any, whitetail improvements should I consider that don't compromise my bear hunting.
 

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What do deer want that you don't have?

Security
Food
Water
Bedding
None of which compromise bear hunting. We have been managing our property for deer for 25 years....and we have too many bears. Unfortunately, we can't draw enough bear tags.

And...if your property was logged 25-30 years ago, it is probably time for at least a TSI cutting. Timber harvests make for healthy forests...and far better deer habitat.
 

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Discussion Starter #4

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Just my opinion... I'm still learning to be a "farmer"..my experience is from my camp in western Mackinac County and Kent County.

I really don't think you will compromise your bear hunting. The only way I could see food plots affecting your bear hunting is if you put too high of a percentage of your property into food plots.

By putting in some food plots you may actually funnel the bears into the thicker areas where your bear stands are probably located.

I haven't seen any evidence of the food plots and my increased presence during the off season affecting the bear movement in the fall.

I think you will find the bears to utilize the food plots in the early spring.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
And...if your property was logged 25-30 years ago, it is probably time for at least a TSI cutting.
We're looking into logging it, but there are some problems. The last time it was done, before we owned it, it was high graded. It will need some remedial work that might not be terribly profitable to a logger. Additionally access is difficult, but doable.
 
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Several years ago I was doing some habitat work on our former farm in Mason county. It was done in stages in a basic "jungle" that surrounded two old growth apple trees. The plan called for removing all trees except those two apple trees allowing them to be the central or focal point of a new food plot. This area was just over an acre in size and dead center of the property.

I logged countless poplar, pines, small maples, and everything in between. Outside of the base logs (given to a neighbor for firewood) all remaining top growth was pushed to the outside perimater of the East and south with the use of my skid steer. This was specifically done to funnel deer in to two seperate openings on that side of the food plot.

The plot turned out great and worked as it should. What it also did was provide a haven for a bear to take up residence in those brush piles. She had everything she needed to include food, water, cover, and bedding and would later go one to produce two different sets of twins. That area is all but impossible to draw a tag so she continues to grow and reside to this day as the new property owners have continued to watch her.

Obviously, this was not a case of me trying to produce anything to attract and or sustain a bear habitat. It was just a side effect that I figured I would share. Having had that "success" if you will, I would not hesitate to do it again in another area with a goal of attracting both deer and bear.
 

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Deer food - Deer and bear alike just love thick stands of perennial clovers:

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Of course, corn is a given...

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Deer and bear both love apples. Unfortunately, bears have killed probably 25-30 of my apple trees over the years. If I were you I wouldn't bother planting them unless you are will to take extreme measures to protect them from bears.

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Of course, bears are pretty fond of bird seed when they first come out of hibernation. I can't tell you how many of my bird feeders they have trashed but it has been many.

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Not sure if you have any Beechnut trees up your way TH, but every one of my beech trees have bear claw marks in them. Unfortunately, they don't produce mast more years than they do but if you have beech trees, I wouldn't harvest them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Not sure if you have any Beechnut trees up your way TH, but every one of my beech trees have bear claw marks in them. Unfortunately, they don't produce mast more years than they do but if you have beech trees, I wouldn't harvest them.
Unfortunately no beech here. Balsam fir, white spruce, red maple, white pine, sugar maple, popple, red pine, and cedar predominate in about that order.

My black, pin, and choke cherry trees have demonstrated what the bears would do to any apple trees.
 

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To add onto the things WT said, bear- at least some of them- seem to love oats especially while in the late milk stage. If the loggers want to make a reasonably sized landing or two they could surely be repurposed as small food plots that could be worked with a quad.

When you mentioned in post #6 about profitability a light went on. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) cost shares management plans and with a plan in place a multitude of other cost share opportunities are opened up. One of them, at least in some counties, pays landowners what I consider serious cash to encourage them to have a forester selectively mark marginal areas instead of allowing a "choppers choice" type harvest. That opportunity is seldom used with today's markets and I do not know what the payment/acre is today but when I looked into it a few years back I would have been happy to mark the particular area merely for the cost share. Unfortunately for the landowner he had me mark the trees before he applied so they turned him down.

Also, since you are contemplating a harvest consider having the loggers leave some high stumps whenever feasible, especially aspen and poor quality maple. You won't be out much dollar wise by leaving a foot or so more wood on scattered stumps of low value trees and it won't help (nor hurt) your deer but knowing how much bear like eating ants it should help them out once the wood begins to decay and the ants move in. Butted ends and cull logs left along trail roads always attract a lot of bruin attention too. FM
 

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deer do wind up in food plots if you decide to go that route. We routinely have bears utilizing ours for one reason or another.
 

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Clover on trails should do well if you don’t have openings. Apple trees protected with caging and a 1/4 bar of Irish spring soap to help the get to size years down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Clover on trails should do well if you don’t have openings.
This idea might work well here. Food plots as we usually think of them would be difficult. One acre is roughly 70 yards square. There are only two spots I could put one this size that aren't too steep, too rocky, or too wet. One of the spots is where the popple are, but the other one is a mixed bag of nothing in particular. Access to that part is easy by foot or 4 wheeler, but any kind of tractor like vehicle couldn't make it due to a year round wet spot.

Whatever I do or put in will have to be something that doesn't require periodic maintenance with motorized equipment.
 

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Everyone of my plots were cleared of popple, tag alder and willow. It took about 80 hours of work to clear an acre with a chainsaw, tractor with brush hog or box scraper with scarifiers. Popple stumps take about 4-6 years to disappear, urea helps with decomposition. After a few years I could run my disc over the stumps to speed up stump composition.

I took a piece of land that would take days to just see a deer to one where day light movement is a common occurrence. I expect to see a 3-1/2 year old or older buck every sit. Some get a pass some don’t.
 

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Everyone of my plots were cleared of popple, tag alder and willow. It took about 80 hours of work to clear an acre with a chainsaw, tractor with brush hog or box scraper with scarifiers. Popple stumps take about 4-6 years to disappear, urea helps with decomposition. After a few years I could run my disc over the stumps to speed up stump composition.

I took a piece of land that would take days to just see a deer to one where day light movement is a common occurrence. I expect to see a 3-1/2 year old or older buck every sit. Some get a pass some don’t.
X2 - Every one of my 16 acres of food plots were landscaped with forest when I purchased my property. I elected to have it logged first and then cleared stumps and debris with bulldozers but I did a lot of rock picking and small pieces of wood and roots myself before they were ever planted. Nobody ever said it was easy but it can be done if you have the will to do the work.

Popple and smaller conifer stumps were not much of a challenge for the dozers (only those equipped with a landscape rake if you want to save your topsoil), but the hard maple stumps really should have been removed with an excavator as they did provide significant challenges for the dozers.

On the positive side, all of the work (except for my labor) were paid for with proceeds from the timber sales.
 

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This idea might work well here. Food plots as we usually think of them would be difficult. One acre is roughly 70 yards square. There are only two spots I could put one this size that aren't too steep, too rocky, or too wet. One of the spots is where the popple are, but the other one is a mixed bag of nothing in particular. Access to that part is easy by foot or 4 wheeler, but any kind of tractor like vehicle couldn't make it due to a year round wet spot.

Whatever I do or put in will have to be something that doesn't require periodic maintenance with motorized equipment.
Soil test can be telling. And help determine your options for short and longer term plantings.
Adding lime and fertilizers takes time. As does the results.
Getting sunlight to your planting(s) will affect your success.
You need to decide if you are going to spray weed killer to reduce competition.

All can be done by hand. With chainsaw work perhaps the only machine . Well, a hand crank or push spreader is a machine. (?) A maniac with a rake can prepare a good seed bed with patience.

Your first plantings might be rye. Or maybe better if you don't kill weeds off , buckwheat.
Clover wants a higher P.H. which brings us back to soil test findings.
When you are trying to increase P.H. for clover , you still don't want to buy or haul or spread more amendments than you need to.

IF you can get your hands on Ed Spinazzola's Ultimate Food Plots book you'll find everything I've mentioned and much more. You could contact Q.D.M.A. and see if they have them currently. (There was mention of another printing or something coming up last I knew).
They were my source , and kind enough to sell me one without a membership.

A quad can suffice for even fancy plots.
Or ,your legs can.
Start small and expand.

Natives worked around fresh stumps. Why fight them type reasoning maybe. And deer don't care if stumps or weeds exist around your seeding's.

You might find mowing changes things in a test area. Even weed whipping. Sunlight and competition again...
Fertilizer and or lime can make an area have more appeal too. Even in sparse results from your early plot attempts , better mineral uptake of plants or better forb production and growth can make a difference..
 

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Logging, hinge cutting, water sources and multiple food sources. Cover heavy area like you have needs food just put it in the spots that benefit your access and stand sites. I don't know much about bears but I'm sure it won't run them off.
 
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Discussion Starter #18
There are a lot of good ideas here, and I need to put more thought into it.

In order my priorities are:
1) Bear management.
2) Timber management. I've read some habitat stuff, perhaps from Jeff Sturgis, that denigrates timber management as being detrimental to white tail management. If this is actually true, then I'll take the timber. The stuff was something like keep the basswood and all the other junk for cover. I don't need more cover.
3) Whitetail management.

Soil test can be telling.
Clover wants a higher P.H. which brings us back to soil test findings.
When you are trying to increase P.H. for clover
With ferns and sweet bracken growing everywhere there is sunlight I've already got a fair idea of the soil P.H. What food grows best in acid soil without having to add a lot of lime?
 

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There are a lot of good ideas here, and I need to put more thought into it.

In order my priorities are:
1) Bear management.
2) Timber management. I've read some habitat stuff, perhaps from Jeff Sturgis, that denigrates timber management as being detrimental to white tail management. If this is actually true, then I'll take the timber. The stuff was something like keep the basswood and all the other junk for cover. I don't need more cover.
3) Whitetail management.



With ferns and sweet bracken growing everywhere there is sunlight I've already got a fair idea of the soil P.H. What food grows best in acid soil without having to add a lot of lime?
I'm not aware of any food that will out-compete ferns. They are like mini-canopies. And...they don't mind a bare near sterile mineral soil/sand once rooted..

I'd be hauling bags of peletized lime each visit after soil tests.
When ferns are mature ,or before fall planting time for your area to have seeds grow enough for hunting season , you could cut/knock down the ferns and seed rye.
I'd be Leery of growing on such poor soil without adding amendments and risking exhausting it further. Blow sand is about the next step when even ferns don't tolerate the lack of life.
Ferns grow where they do for good reason. A niche that needed something able to endure the soil , and its condition. By shading poor soil , they keep it from drying to dust and blowing away.
 

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I'm not aware of any food that will out-compete ferns. They are like mini-canopies. And...they don't mind a bare near sterile mineral soil/sand once rooted..

I'd be hauling bags of peletized lime each visit after soil tests.
When ferns are mature ,or before fall planting time for your area to have seeds grow enough for hunting season , you could cut/knock down the ferns and seed rye.
I'd be Leery of growing on such poor soil without adding amendments and risking exhausting it further. Blow sand is about the next step when even ferns don't tolerate the lack of life.
Ferns grow where they do for good reason. A niche that needed something able to endure the soil , and its condition. By shading poor soil , they keep it from drying to dust and blowing away.
I don't know if this always works, or if I just got lucky one time. I planted white pine in the ferns. The ferns kept the white pines hidden from the deer until they could make it, and then the pines shaded out the ferns.

I was afraid that the soil might need more help to grow anything else.
 
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