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Natural Forage and Cover

87894 Views 331 Replies 57 Participants Last post by  Neal
Food plots are fun and helpful in attracting and holding whitetails but sometimes I get concerned that landowners put to much emphasis on them and not enough on the natural sources of food and cover that whitetails really rely on.

If you have timber or even brush...it can be improved and if you need trees and screens they can be planted and if you need cost share assistance it is usually available.

Managing our land for whitetails and wildlife in general covers a broad spectrum of things of which food sources from crops are only a small piece of the pie.

Right now is the perfect time to start inquiring about cost share assistance and I have a complete list of federal, state and private source of cost share programs that I would urge you to be aware of.

Conservation Cost Share Programs

Contact your NRCS office or private lands biologist and find out what programs are available because $$'s are tight these days and the supply is not unlimited.

Planting trees and shrubs is something I have been doing for nearly 50 years and I am passionate about this subject. At my age I will most likely never see the fruits of some of my labors but I do it anyway because I see the results of what others before me have accomplished.

The 80 year old white pines on my place are full of turkeys every night and when I hear the winds softly blowing through them I imagine the people who planted them years ago and silently thank them.

I concentrate mostly on mast production and especially on hybrid oaks and chestnuts in my hardwood plantings and many different varieties of soft mast producing shrubs that provide screens, travel corridors as well as food sources for wildlife large and small.

If you have an interest in planting trees next spring regardless if it is a 1/2 dozen or 10,000 seedlings take a look at my informational threads that will help you better decide which trees, the right herbicides and other planting information might be best for you.

Tree Planting

This thread is longer but covers everything including direct seeding of acorns and ideas to start your own seedlings from top producing trees in your area.

Tree Planting 101

Those threads include a list of some great nurseries and sources of all kinds of supplies and herbicides as well regardless if you plant by hand...



or with a tree planter...




I have hundreds of pictures that make it interesting and helpful as well.

Most likely you have timber, woodlots or forest on your property and managing it properly can be both profitable and help you attract and hold whitetails at the same time.

Begin by truly understanding what Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) means and learn to identify the trees on your property. Utilize your area forester and learn all you can before cranking up the chainsaw!

TSI is primarly releasing crop trees by killing cull trees close to them and doing so also allows oak seedlings to grow and replace shade tolerant less desirable species.

I put together these threads to help everyone understand how to better manage their own timber and get paid to do it!

Learn TSI

Understanding Timber Stand Improvent



Once you have learned to properly identify your trees then your in a position to decide where to create bedding areas or which trees to edgefeather.

Hinge cutting is a great way to create both cover and new browse at the same time and opening up small areas will increase both bedding and feeding areas.

All of these things make your property more attractive then the neighbors and you can see not only mine but others who have shared their successful work in my thread on edgefeathering.

Edge Feathering and Bedding Areas

A number of knowledgeable landowners share their own pictures and experiences in these threads to provide a great deal of information to landowners eager to learn how to improve thier property.

Ideas that share how to funnel deer, which trees produce the sweetest acorns the quickest, what shrubs provide the best screens the soonest and what timber is valuable and which is not are all in those threads.

Plant food plots but don't forget your greatest natural assets...your trees! :)
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My property was formerly a brace beagle club. Unfortunately with no check on the redtail hawks, they had trouble stocking rabbits. Fortunately when the membership was younger and had more energy, they planted lots of cover. Autumn olive, Amur honeysuckle, spruces, white pines, red osier dogwood, highbush cranberry, crabapples, elderberry...you name it.

I'm going to post two posts so I can post a few more pictures.

The former club left me some good things and some challenging situations.

Good here is some nice thick shrubs:




At the far end of this field is some good screening from a stand of spruces:




Here some not so good screening where it was more important to run their dogs through. Spruce pruned by saw: :sad:






This picture is actually kind of humorous. I know I should do something with it, I just don't know what it is yet.:

If anyone has pictures of your own hinging projects I would urge you to contribute so that others can learn more about this great habitat improvement tool...;)

If you don't know how to post please feel free to email me at [email protected]
And now to the point relative to this thread. I got busy with the chainsaw this week. I'm going to leave up some of the white pines in groups, but cut the red pines. I'm looking to particularly let some sunshine through.

A lot of the 25 to 45 year old pines are showing their age and devoid of lower branches and shading out the potential shrubs below them. There are lots of sprouts of ash on the floor in the last picture.

This is looking into the center of scattered red pines, dead ash and half dead elms. This is looking Southwest.



Here looking south I am providing some lateral screening. The road is to the left and the fencerows have a dense canopy of oaks and hickory along the road blocking the morning light from the east. Here I laid down two red pines



Looking east trying to thicken up the view



Two large red pines down looking east provide a good screen for the road. This fence is not a border fence





I don't know if red pines can live a bit if hinge cut. The cut is nearly through.







I'm going to chop these up to allow a little movement along lanes










A few half or fully dead elms are mixed in. They might provide morel habitat.




Lots of ash sprouts.







I had a really enjoyable week with the chainsaw. I got about 1/4 of the project done. The ground needs a bit more light than I have given it so far. I'm going to take it slow, as its like a crossword or jigsaw puzzle trying to cut these trees and not have them hang up.
I happen to be in the same area of OSXer and think this post is right on target. Our properties are in suburban areas that have extremely pressured whitetails. Less than 40 acres in Michigan is tremendously different than 160 acres in Iowa. We have to micromanage our properties in order to have a reasonable semblance of a hunting experienced that we see posted in the Whitetail Deer Hunting forum here.

When the subject of micromanaging 50 acres or less in Michigan for bowhunting comes up, there is no better resource to go to than Tony Lapratt. The idea of his ultimate buck bed being bandied about on MSF is really quite humorous over the last couple years. He literally devotes about 5 minutes to it in his bootcamp--I kid you not. The other 149 key factors he teaches in micromanaging are just as important. His bootcamp is a comprehensive plan for the small land owner who bowhunts to improve his habitat with cover, water, food, travel lanes for bucks, welcome areas for does year round and techniques for increasing the density of deer on a small property.

What Dbltree does on 160 acres, he tries to do on 50. If I were to translate all the knowledge that can be gleaned from Dbltrees posts and discuss how to do it on small acreage I would have a mirror of Tony Lapratt's teaching. It's the same stuff just tweaked for the small property--with a few other dozen or so observations he's made from an extraordinary amount of time spent on stand.


And his success is spectacular. It's not gimmicky or a fluke. It's the same stuff that I see on Dbltrees fantastic threads, just on a smaller scale. I have no doubt that Dbletree or Alpha Doe on QDMA forums don't need the micromanaging that we do in small heavily populated areas of Michigan. It is successful here and I have no doubt would be a royal pain in the ass in Iowa on 160 acres.


I think that it's really just different strokes for different folks. ;)

Paul, you've mentioned before that properties in the vicinity of yours hold mature deer in park-like woods while the owners do no improvements. They are able to do this because they have hundreds of acres of woods.

You have less, so you feel the need to do improvements that will encourage deer to use your property such as you've suggested in this thread and many others. You do not have time to rake beds, ect, so you set aside larger areas you've cut and let the deer sort it out for themselves.

... I, for example, have far, far less. If I wanted I could fell every tree on my property within a weekend by myself. This is where people's interest in building "beds", AKA specific locations comes to greater interest. I have limited acreage I can do changes to, so I prefer to focus on the finer details because I don't have space to waste or let the deer figure it out for themselves. I also live on location, so it's perhaps easier for me to get to take care of finer details than you are able to, raking for example.

Now, if I had an 80 or a 160 acre parcel, I'd probably not focus on the details as much because I wouldn't have the time! But on a broader landscape you can get away with more, such as your neighbors with hundreds of acres of mature forest with mature bucks. Does focusing on the finer details guarantee success - heck no! I do however feel that it increases the odds!

Now I'm not in the TL fan club, but thought I should point out why some people have such interest in executing down to specific details to increase their odds verses those who have a much larger canvas to work with. ;) :)
Yes...I understand and completely respect that!! The part that I feel you (or anyone) is missing is that during the rut when that buck is most vulnerable...he isn't going to be sleeping period...let alone in a bed you built him.

That's the whole problem with this....the beds become useless when bucks start moving so it troubles me that some of you have been lead to believe that a bed is going to help you kill a buck?

Friends...I do not want to disrespect you as individuals and if you feel that "bed building" is in your best interest then by all means...do so. That being said however I would strongly encourage you to really study whitetail behavior during the rut and then decide if a "bed" will really be in your best interests.

OSXer..I do very much appreciate your respectful way of sharing your personal reasons and desire to pursue what you feel is a beneficial tactic.
Stipulating that bedding areas are only one small part of the comprehensive plan of wildlife habitat improvement for whitetails, the absolute rut is not the only hunting opportunity. We still have seeking, chasing and the rut. A valid tactic is to set up on a trail where a buck is returning to his bed at dawn. At this time as he travels to his bedding area, he is vulnerable to a bow hunter. A bedding area for bucks is not as useless as you describe. Northjeff and Tony Lapratt employ this tactic with fine results--i.e. morning hunting along a trail to a known bedding area.

Any one in our situation--Michigan small property hunters--and especially those who have attended Bootcamp are indeed highly offended, despite your protestations that you don't mean to disrespect us as individuals subscribing to the micromanaging of small properties. I've seen your recent aerial of yours and your neighbor's property in a Lay of the Land thread. These properties you guys have are fantastic! Unbelievably great whitetail habitat. And your improvements are nothing short of fantastic. We have a lot of great things going in Michigan, but managing the whitetail population with a balanced population or distribution is certainly not one of them.

This thread and all of your others Paul are a fantastic resource for learning habitat improvement. Please keep them coming as you have. But please stop the disrespect for another way of thought that some have found valuable. I respect you a lot. I disagree with you a little.

Many of QDMA's most vocal and fund raising supporters including Ed Spinazolla, Tony Lapratt, QDMAMAN and BIOACTIVE have shown the most impressive results of micromanaging whitetail habitat in Michigan.

And back to the topic of natural forage and cover. Hinge cutting techniques for whitetail deer habitat are one subject that I have found are impossible to google search for and find valuable information. Proper, innovative and different techniques of hinge-cutting are a valuable discussion in this thread.
These are all valid whitetail habitat subjects, and should be open for discussion, however there should be very little tolerance when these debates become personal. This includes snide, rude and condescending remarks.

I would suggest that some of Paul's threads be broken up into new threads, or that he blog the didactic portions of his threads. The stuff he is posting is just too important as a primer for habitat improvements to have posts like the previous. It's not a popularity contest it's a habitat forum.

It is evident that Michigan Sportsman's forum is big and having trouble handling some of the longer posts, so Steve the Administrator must be working furiously to find more server power and bandwith (which I'm sure he has to pay more for).
See here:http://www.michigan-sportsman.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=22

Currently many features (such as multiple quotes, clicking on new posts has now limited the number of pages viewed, etc.) are being disabled to conserve resources.


"Every time a thread is viewed, a lot of information has to be called from the database, both to build the page you are looking at and the 'Next'/'Previous' page links. The bigger a thread gets, the more information that has to be accessed to build the pages. After a certain point, which is dependent on how busy a site is and how powerful the server hosting the site is, a single page building process can take so much time that it backs up other processes. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, the resource-hog processes can crash the MySQL server or even the whole box."
OSXer, What about new ash trees sprouting up on the floor? These out to be good for a while. I don't know if the ashes that were stressed out or dying sent out a lot more seeds, but I'm getting tons of shoots and these will probably give some viable saplings in the next ten years. By then the EAB might have passed through.



These little shoots around this bed are ash shoots:

I see a lot of ash sprouts in a few heavily shaded areas on one small area of my property. Fortunately, I only have a small percentage of ash to begin with. I can foresee these sprouts growing for eight years or so and then getting to the threshold of about one inch caliper where they are then vulnerable to the EAB. I see those eight years as a blessing for browse and "a very high stem count".

In these areas I will simply let sunshine rule.

The best firewood is ash. You have ash on your property? Cut and use for firewood. Sooner rather than later.
Last time I checked, there is a seeking, chasing and rutting phase in the mature deer's fall schedule. And pressured bucks do occasionally bed in Michigan.

One of the great things about Tony Lapratt is that he sat in observation posts for a good number of years observing what mature deer would prefer to do given a choice. He then developed habitat and hunting tactics to parlay knowledge of deer preferences into successful habitat manipulation. The fact that I came to hunting late in my life, I find this knowledge invaluable. It helps that I am not price sensitive.

Funny thing, a lot of the things that deer prefer, other crepuscular animals do also. It's quite funny knowing the Lapratt system and seeing cats make sure they exit by passing under a chair, they lay under the Christmas tree for bedding. They prefer sitting under the chaise lounge. Overhead cover from predators and weather is not such a small thing to prey animals. Kind of like a Bruce Willis movie where he is hunted excessively and seek cover from gunfire.

The knowledge that Michigan deer like the overhead things and the Iowa deer don't need it is quite laughable. The Iowa deer simply don't need it, the Michigan deer need it.


Excuse me if she doesn't have a log on her ass:

I was trying to connect two concepts. Hinge cutting on one hand and giving the deer brushy, shrubby overhanging cover on the other hand.

CBMlifemember is right:

Jim has posted some great stuff on here about TL bedding you just need to read between the lines.
To clarify, Jim might be saying that instead of taking angled cuts on small hardwood trees in a random fashion, why not take precise techniques on small 40 to 50 acre properties and create bedding areas that emulate the brushy, shrubby overhanging cover and conifer-like areas that deer love so much. Making really nice bedding areas out of hardwood substrate.
Deer love overhead cover....never once said they didn't! What they love more then hinge cut trees however is brushy shrubby overhanging cover and conifers. That's why I encourage landowners to plant shrubs and conifers...they absolutely love that kind of cover!
Sure it's annoying as heck that Lapratt disciples aren't overtly divulging habitat tactics. That's just the way it is. But some are throwing concepts without the details out here. Jim is specifically alluding to hinge cutting to provide overhead cover. We are all smart enough to take a concept and work with it. And not dismiss some things without any other thought.
Because we have our own frame of reference:
-We have 40 acres, not 120.
-We don't have mature deer around, because the annual harvest is 70% yearling bucks.
-The deer are more pressured into nocturnal movement and bed during the day.
- etc.

And because Tony Lapratt concepts are quite unique, innovative and for some successful. They are a great framework in which to begin one's plans for natural forage and cover. Successfully hinge cutting areas for cover and natural forage is a huge component of TL concepts.
Why are some people constantly trying to push TL concepts onto these threads. We are creating hinge cut areas for "cover and natural forage".
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