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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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Those who already know everything and and are independently wealthy probably don't need to read this thread nor require the assets of a forester but for everyone else I hope the following will give you some options to consider.

This is a teaching thread where landowners come to read and learn about various options that might be helpful to them. Many do not know a black locust from a black walnut so a forester can be extremely helpful to learn how to identify your tree species.

I have two landowners for whom I am doing TSI projects...one wanted me to hinge every tree I can to create the thickest mess possible. The other landowner however wants his timber to look like timber when I'm through and doesn't want me to butcher it. So each landowner may have different goals and it is not up to me or anyone else to tell them what they should do nor should anyone anywhere ever advise others not to utilize the services of a forester.

Foresters are like farmers in a way, they are trained to help you maximize the yield and value of your timber and that clashes with our desire to create a thicker understory sometimes....or does it?

First let me say this...do NOT call your forester and tell him/her "I want to butcher my timber by hinge cutting everything in sight". Instead tell them you would like to learn more about your timber species and any available cost share opportunities that might pay for TSI, weed tree removal and interplanting trees into a stand that may have no conifers or oaks.

A forester can help you learn which crop trees are the best specimens to save and which to cull. They will help you understand why the trees with a full crown are the ones to save.



and to kill the ones with spindly thin crowns



They can point out trees like these two, help you understand which species and which one might be more valuable then the other.



You may have a stand of primarily weed trees...foresters can help you understand what a weed tree or invasive tree is or you may have a stand of high quality white and red oaks. A forester can help you decide if you should do a harvest, help you mark trees to harvest, recommend and monitor logging interests and make sure they don't destroy your stand and property while working.

They can help you determine how many Crop Trees trees per acre you should have and give you further advice on which ones if any to cull.



In the end...reducing canopy will encourage a thicker understory and by wisely managing your timber you can also improve timber and mast production, so even though a forester isn't crazy about hinging...they still have much to offer. Use what information you can glean from them and then go ahead and hinge or girdle the cull trees to create more bedding and browse.

Many states have cost share programs but ALL states have federal cost share that can pay for almost anything you need to do in the timber. If you have a stand of low value trees...wouldn't it be nice to get $113 an acre to hinge those trees and then nearly $300 an acre to plant oaks and conifers?? That cost share is usually enough to pay for seedlings, tubes, stakes and any herbicides if needed.

The following is a list of some practices I use and obviously the Iowa cost share is not relevant in other states but worth checking on with your forester and NRCS off ice.
Be certain to read the EQIP practice link carefully and note that simple wording can double a payment per acre!!

Iowa only....REAP Practices must be approved by IDNR Forester and paid once inspected by the IDNR Forester and bill submitted.

TSI - Timber Stand Improvement 5 acre minimum - allowed $160 an acre X 75% =$120

Tree Planting - 3 acre minimum $600 allowed per acre X 75% = $450

Tree Planting/Weed Tree Removal - $160/$600 x 75% (weed tree removal may be less acres then total planted)

Federal Programs...these two have identical practices but EQIP practices allowed are different by county/state while WHIP is nationwide.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
Check by State

The following is just a brief list of a few of the options available...check this link for the complete list and the payment rates.

2011 Iowa EQIP Practices and Payments

314 Brush Management (weed tree removal)

647 Early Successional Habitat Development/Management (Timber Edge Feathering)

490 Forest Site Preparation

666 Forest Stand Improvement (TSI or Weed Tree removal)

422 Hedgerow Planting

338 Prescribed Burning

391 Riparian Forest Buffer

612 Tree and Shrub Establishment

380 Windbreak or Shelterbelt Establishment

In all cases either the forester or NRCS Tech will need to inspect the finished practice before the operator/landowner can be paid. Usually a simple bill will suffice (10 acres TSI X $160 for example) but in some cases they will want an itemized (seedlings, herbicides, fuel, labor etc) that add up to the total cost share.

The federal programs are not cost share, just a payment per acre so slightly different then the state programs.

Talk with NRCS and your local forester/private land biologist for more details but even they get confused, so look over the links and be informed yourself!
So why do I need to involve a Forester anyway?
Just a few pics of the hinges themselves from the job I have been working on lately...









I work fast and furious because I have so much to do but those who have more time and help can play around and experiment with different cuts, heights, direction of fall etc. and see what works best for them and then...check back next winter and see if any of that really made a difference to the deer or not? ;)
Excellent info on why to use a forester. If nothing else you will have a peace of mind that you didn't just flush thousands of dollars down the drain by hinge cutting valuable trees.
Absolutely! :)

The Protex tree tubes are still holding up well despite bitter cold and high winds at times and they are all intact except for the occasional victim of a marauding buck this past fall. A friend had some of his come apart last winter so I have been watching ours closely this winter.



We used fiberglass electric fence posts on these so that combination makes these tubes nearly indestructible and both tube and post should last for years.

Remember Practice 612 under EQIP/WHIP will pay $270 an acre for tree planting to help defray the cost of seedlings and tree tubes so check with your local forester and NRCS right away because deadlines are nearing for this spring. :cool:
Excellent info on why to use a forester. If nothing else you will have a peace of mind that you didn't just flush thousands of dollars down the drain by hinge cutting valuable trees.
Paul,
Congratulations on your article published in Quality Whitetails!
Very nice.
Thanks! Mine hasn't even arrived yet! :)

Here is a point of view from a forester on the subject of hinging, obviously different but with some valid points that landowners should consider. Hinging offers instant cover regardless if the trees live or not but the "mess" it creates is a forester/loggers worst nightmare. It is important to not destroy valuable tree species and also important to recognize that properly done TSI (girdling cull trees) will also make a profound difference in the understory with a marked increase in cover and browse.

I share this article simply to offer another view (not my own) to help landowners understand the options, especially those who prefer not to have their timber look like a tornado went thru it as most of mine does....


Paul,
Congratulations on your article published in Quality Whitetails!
Very nice.
HINGING –

Hinging is the term used for the practice of partially cutting through a standing tree until the tree crown falls while leaving as much connective tissue intact as possible between stem’s portions above and below the cut. The objective of the practice is to develop quick cover while retaining a partially live crown resulting in a ‘green brush pile’. This is a useful tool for field edges, and when used in moderation and with knowledge aforethought, within the interior of woodlands. I have seen this practice misused so many times, though, that it makes me cringe. Believe me, any fool can buy a chainsaw and make a mess and this seems to happen most often when a landowner reads some magazine or other reference which refers to hinging as THE way to make cover. The real problem is that there is usually no foresight and little knowledge used when applying the practice.

Oftentimes, only a portion of the crown of a hinged tree remains alive because too small a percentage of tissue at the hinge remained intact and undamaged. Then only sprouts from the cut surface, bole and base of the tree remain. The sprouting capability of a tree stem decreases as it grows larger in diameter. The sprouting capability of a 3-inch diameter stem, for example, is roughly 3 times what it is for a 10-inch diameter stem of the same species. Also, sprouting vigor varies from one tree species to another. The sprouting properties of trees are used as a tool in some forestry applications. However, when sprouts are touted as browse material for deer, one important consideration is usually forgotten – with hinge cuts, the sprouts will soon grow above browse height unless the deer concentration is exceedingly high and the number of hinge cuts is low. Once above browse height, the sprouts present a problem. Sure, they’re still making a mess but they soon grow into larger stems which serve little purpose for any wildlife species and adversely affect any desirable tree regeneration which may develop. Sprouts growing from the edge of a cut surface are weakly attached and as they grow in diameter they are increasingly prone to breaking off. Any portion of a crown which does remain alive usually declines over time. The lifespan of these damaged trees is shortened by disease and breakage and seed production is undependable. A site which has been laid waste to hinged trees resembles an early succession stand of young trees and shrubs (thick cover) but it is much less likely to succeed into a desirable stand with desirable tree species. It is also difficult to go back into the hinged site and correct the situation.

Timber stand improvement is the term used for a collection of woodland management practices used to alter a woodland for a multiple of landowner objectives. Thinning, crop tree release, weed tree removal, site preparation for natural regeneration and crop tree pruning are the t.s.i. practices most commonly used in southern Iowa. Application of some or all of these practices is the alternative to making just hinge cuts when quick cover is an objective. T.s.i. will result in a greater variety of groundcover, a thicker understory (cover) resulting from increased exposure to sunlight, increased regeneration of desired tree species, increased mast production for wildlife, reduced regeneration of undesirable species, and increased income potential. An example of a t.s.i. practice: Selectively release desirable species, e.g. white oak, black oak, by deadening competing trees of less desirable species. Some of the smaller competing trees and weed trees could be hinged during the dormant season while others could be felled during the growing season to provide some thick cover for bedding and turkey nesting the following season. The rest of the trees to be deadened, especially ones larger than 10 inches d.b.h., could be double-girdled or frilled and left standing to serve as snags for woodpeckers as well as other insect-foraging birds and for secondary nesters which use excavated woodpecker holes such as nuthatches, chickadees and flying squirrels. These activities still result in thick cover but the t.s.i.-treated stands, as opposed to hinged stands, will continue to develop into desirable stands. Timber stand improvement practices, when coupled with a multiple of objectives including wildlife, benefit a lot more species of wildlife than just deer and turkey.

Getting back to the subject of hinging, if you are going to make a hinge cut under any circumstance, be sure you know your tree species so that you retain those species which are of the greatest wildlife and commercial value. With that in mind, also be aware that a woodland with a good diversity of tree and shrub species is much more beneficial to a wide variety of both game and nongame species than one which is predominantly 2 or 3 tree species with a thin shrub understory. Don’t target a tree species for reduction or elimination unless it is a problem species such as ironwood or black locust. I commonly see shagbark hickory deadened through a woodland because the landowner ‘learned’ that hickories are worthless and that getting rid of hickory is the way to help out the oak resource. This rationale uses too broad a brush. Hickories serve a lot of wildlife species, too, though not so many as the oaks. Instead of targeting hickory in general, release oak crowns as they need it and make openings where less desirable species such as ash and elm dominate locations next to oak seed trees.

When making a hinge cut, the percent of stem circumference which remains intact will determine how much, if any, of the felled crown will remain alive. The greater the lean of the stem from a vertical plane, the greater the success because a greater percentage of the total circumference will remain intact and unruptured. The smaller the stem, the greater the success. Timing is important, too. The tree must be dormant. Mid to late winter is better than mid to late fall. Avoid making the cuts when the temperature is really cold because the tissue is more likely to fracture rather than bending at the ‘hinge’.

If you plan to hinge some trees along a woodland edge to favor upland game, consider a two-step approach. During the spring or summer before the winter in which you’ll do the hinging, identify the trees you plan to hinge. Identify where a tree’s crown will fall and then, using any glyphosate-based postemergent herbicide (e.g. Roundup, Cornerstone and others), spray an area at least 50% larger than the crown size. The resulting weed growth which will develop after the grass dies will be much more useful to quail and pheasant chicks than the dense grass cover would have been. Broadcasting some ladino or red clover seed into the sprayed areas would also benefit chicks because they require high-protein insects for early development and insects are attracted to legumes.

Duane Bedford
Retired District Forester
Chariton, Iowa
Congratulations as well on your published article. Also I showed the forester we use for the property in the thumb and he was glad to see the useful info here. Its alot easier for him to work with a well informed customer. That way he can understand the customers needs better, when they have an actual idea/understanding for what they really want to accomplish with their parcel.
Kudos for involving your forester and utilizing his knowledge!

There are many reasons to hinge trees or open up canopy to increase the density of lower understory, but providing safe bedding is perhaps one of the more important reasons. Where then do deer like to bed? What common denominators are there that cause them to choose and particular spot to lie down?

Working on TSI projects across southern Iowa gives me a broader view of such things then we might normally get from just our own land and the following are beds I stumble upon while marking crop trees.











Congratulations as well on your published article. Also I showed the forester we use for the property in the thumb and he was glad to see the useful info here. Its alot easier for him to work with a well informed customer. That way he can understand the customers needs better, when they have an actual idea/understanding for what they really want to accomplish with their parcel.











So what do all of those beds have in common?

Elevation and in almost every case they preferred to have their backs against either a tree or a small downed branch or log. A couple were under a cedar tree but I suspect they were more interested in the tree trunk itself rather then the overhanging branch.

Those are just natural beds and these deer did have plenty of other options. Observe the natural bedding habits on your property this winter to keep some perspective on your hinging projects and note their choices after you hinge as well. After years of observation and hinging trees I have found only one bed under the trunk of a hinged tree while all others (depending on the slope) were backed up to the downed tree or laying above it (overlooking the downed tree)

When confronted with danger deer must be able to leap to their feet and make a hasty and unimpeded escape, laying under something might be akin to us trying to escape from under the kitchen table....just food for thought but as always, make your own observations on your property and then make the habitat changes you feel will be most effective.... ;)
I have seen literally hundreds of deer beds under overhanging trunks of hinged trees. You simply have to do it at the correct height, in the correct location, with the correct orientation, and the correct structure. You are right though Paul, if you just randomly hinge trees you will seldom if ever see deer bedding under them.

These are examples where I am aiming the camera straight down at the impressions left in snow by deer. If you don't know how to do something, it does not mean that it cannot be done by others. I could go out and take many pictures like these on my 190 acres if I wanted to. Deer will lie under overhanging trees, in fact they far prefer it, but it has to be done with some care and effort.








After years of observation and hinging trees I have found only one bed under the trunk of a hinged tree while all others (depending on the slope) were backed up to the downed tree or laying above it (overlooking the downed tree)
)
When confronted with danger deer must be able to leap to their feet and make a hasty and unimpeded escape, laying under something might be akin to us trying to escape from under the kitchen table....just food for thought but as always, make your own observations on your property and then make the habitat changes you feel will be most effective.... ;
You are absolutely right about this. A human would not feel very comfortable under a kitchen table, neither would a deer. Why would you ever try to create bedding cover that would make a deer fell like he was under a kitchen table?
Those beds are also relatively close to the trunks of the hinged trees. ;)

I have seen literally hundreds of deer beds under overhanging trunks of hinged trees.
You are absolutely right about this. A human would not feel very comfortable under a kitchen table, neither would a deer. Why would you ever try to create bedding cover that would make a deer fell like he was under a kitchen table?
Yep. Deer love to have thier backs up against an object like that. But they also love to lie underneath overhanging cover, which is the point I was responding to.



Now, pull a kitchen chair up to that trampoline and try to eat off it:lol:. Thanks for making my point;).
Those beds are also relatively close to the trunks of the hinged trees. ;)
I don't think you could use a chair, maybe a barstool ;)

One thing I have noticed in dbltree's photos is the relative openess of the bedding areas. In my neck of the woods it isn't typical for deer to bed in such an open area (especially during hunting season). The areas on my property where they bed it is typically thick and brushy, or maybe a combination of brush and tall grass. Maybe its just the ones he chose to take photos of as I am sure some of his hinged areas are much much thicker.
Now, pull a kitchen chair up to that trampoline and try to eat off it:lol:. Thanks for making my point;).
Cool Pics.
I have seen literally hundreds of deer beds under overhanging trunks of hinged trees. You simply have to do it at the correct height, in the correct location, with the correct orientation, and the correct structure. You are right though Paul, if you just randomly hinge trees you will seldom if ever see deer bedding under them.

These are examples where I am aiming the camera straight down at the impressions left in snow by deer. If you don't know how to do something, it does not mean that it cannot be done by others. I could go out and take many pictures like these on my 190 acres if I wanted to. Deer will lie under overhanging trees, in fact they far prefer it, but it has to be done with some care and effort.










You are absolutely right about this. A human would not feel very comfortable under a kitchen table, neither would a deer. Why would you ever try to create bedding cover that would make a deer fell like he was under a kitchen table?
That's the case here in S. MI as well. Beds in areas that open are usually evidence of night time bedding. Daytime bedding in areas that open is fairly rare, although I've seen exceptions to that on tracts that have large wooded areas that are completely unpressured.

Dbltree, I haven't looked at my QW yet. Looking forward to reading your article.
One thing I have noticed in dbltree's photos is the relative openess of the bedding areas. In my neck of the woods it isn't typical for deer to bed in such an open area (especially during hunting season). The areas on my property where they bed it is typically thick and brushy.
:):);)
That's the case here in S. MI as well. Beds in areas that open are usually evidence of night time bedding. Daytime bedding in areas that open is fairly rare, although I've seen exceptions to that on tracts that have large wooded areas that are completely unpressured.

Dbltree, I haven't looked at my QW yet. Looking forward to reading your article.
[/QUOTE]

Those are pics taken BEFORE any TSI when Paul was marking trees.
One thing I have noticed in dbltree's photos is the relative openess of the bedding areas.
the following are beds I stumble upon while marking crop trees.
Paul points out a couple of key things deer look for when bedding, things that can be duplicated in specific places if you pay attention to the details.
Another noteworthy thing to consider is that Paul's pics are winter pics in big timber. Deer will seek out spots of relative safety where they can lay in the sun during the day.
Given the option deer will seek bedding that provides EVERYTHING they desire. If a property hasn't had any TSI or hinging done I don't find it remarkable that they aren't bedding under overhanging trees, JMO.
I was on a property yesterday helping a fellow MSer with some cutting. Most of the timber was red maple (hint) and there were several beds present at the BASE of a hill NORTH of the beds.

Big T
I want to agree with Tony's point that winter time beds may not always be where the deer will be during hunting season. I have seen plenty of beds in the open on the south side of a hill or ridge as deer try to gather the sun's heat during the winter. These are spots deer would NEVER have been bedded during hunting season on my place.
I also agree that the pics above do show some common denominators that deer will "take" to if present.
Great info and great pics!
This pic of several beds is less than 10 yards off the edge of an alfalfa field (visible on the right) and they're on the south edge of the timber edge. It was a very CONVENIENT spot for a doe group to bed between feeding sessions on the alfalfa field. Not much over hanging cover but several beds were under a small branch if one was available. Remember...once the alpha doe lays down the rest of the family will as well close enough so they can watch and cue off the alpha.;)

Big T

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I have bought a couple dozen oaks from morse nursery in michigan. This past year they were 7 years old and I am starting to get acorns. Some trees actully had over 300 acorns. I bought them as seedlings and they seem expensive but worth the money. There is alot of deer traffic in my area and i would make sure you buy tree tubes. I didn't at first and the oaks might of lasted a week before they were nipped to the ground.
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