Forestry for Deer and Turkey - Paul Kowalczyk

Pocono Forest and Wildlife Service, RR #2 Box 44, Hawley, PA 18428. (717) 226 - 9488


Most landowners in New York State do not take advantage of the many improvements that can be made in carry capacities for turkey and white tailed deer during ongoing forestry practices on their land. With proper planning, these speciesí habitat requirements can be met or improved with little expense if these improvements take place as part of the ongoing forestry projects. This presentation is designed to detail specific wildlife management practices for landowners interested in low cost, effective habitat improvement for turkey and deer. Most forestry professionals fail to help the landowner take the next and crucial step in management of deer numbers once these habitat improvements produce results. This second step in management of deer numbers if not taken will reduce the benefits of the forestry practices and have a negative result in the management of the landownerís forest.

Getting Started

The majority of forestland in New York State is owned by the non- industrial forest landowner. Once this landowner realizes that he or she has a resource worth their attention, either through contact from an individual in the forest industry or other means, the first step is to form a plan of how to manage this resource. This forest management plan is developed around the landowners goals for the health of the trees, income production, aesthetics, and hopefully wildlife habitat improvement. This planning puts wildlife habitat improvement on the ground floor so that all practices consider the affects on wildlife.

Different kinds of wildlife require different things in the forest. As a forest owner, by action or inaction you can provide these things or take them away. The general character of your woodlands will dictate the kinds of wildlife you can expect to support on your property. If you want to make your property attractive to wildlife, your goals must be realistic. Each parcel of forestland has certain limitations. This presentation will consider the management needed for turkey and white tailed deer in New York State.

Forest Management Plan

Planning to improve your forest for wildlife requires a habitat inventory and map of your property. List areas of major forest habitats such as young seedling/sapling stands, pole timber, and mature forest. Brushland, cropland, and swamps and marshes should also be delineated. Indicate approximate acreages of each. This data can be compiled by a forester if you think substantial forest resources are involved or forest cuttings might take place on this tract.

The popular, romantic image of the forest is that of a timeless, unchanging place, but in reality the forest is everchanging. Using the landowners goals, recommendations to keep the forest healthy and productive will be made and a work schedule to implement practices.

Timber Harvesting

One such practice could be the commercial harvest of trees in a particular forest stand.

Remembering that one of our goals here is to improve habitat for turkey and deer, much can be done to accomplish this goal.

Harvest Scheduling Try to schedule the actual cutting of the stand for the dormant season. It is not always possible due to access problems and market conditions, but if it is possible, take advantage of the wildlife benefits. Adding food for deer in the form of browse will help these animals in times of stress during the winter months. Also certain trees like aspen will regenerate much better if cut during the dormant season. This will not only add to wildlife food but help develop a better forest stand.

Trees to be Harvested Mature oak trees are quite valuable for lumber and veneer, but the mast these trees produce are also valuable for turkey and deer. When possible leave enough mast producing trees like oak and beech for wildlife. In dealing with oak, try to retain oaks in the white oak group (white and chestnut oak) since they are the preferred acorn over oaks in the red oak group. (red, black, scarlet, pin)

Prioritize Stands Site quality should be used in deciding what practices take place. In a poor growing site were trees grow slowly and income production is low, wildlife habitat should take priority over timber production. In very productive sites, the landowner might push the timber production over wildlife since income potential is good.

Slash Retention Once the tree is felled, a tree top or crown remains in the forest. For aesthetic reasons, many landowners ìlopî or cut down the remaining tree top so that it lays close to the ground. Try to leave the tree top slightly lofty and not flat on the ground. This will aid in regeneration of young seedlings plus aid in nesting sites for turkey and cover for deer since regeneration has a good chance of becoming established.

Skidder Trails These trails to access the timber should be planned prior to the felling of the trees. Proper road layout and design will provide a trail that can be used well after the harvest has been completed. If the harvest is completed in the winter months, final grading of the skid trails will need to take place in the last spring or early summer. Once the final grading has taken place and water control structures like water bars are in place, what a wonderful time to take advantage of the freshly graded soil. These trails could be seeded with a grass-legume mix to provide a twelve to fifteen foot wide food plot running hundreds of feet throughout the woodlot. A seed mixture of white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and a cool season grass should be broadcast on this site. Also at this time lime, and fertilizer should be applied. If a soil test is not taken, the trails should be limed at the rate of 4 tons per acre and fertilized with 1,200 pounds of 20-20-20 per acre. This spring seeding should take place prior to June 1. Mulching this trial is also a good idea if slopes are steep.

Developing these trails in this fashion will insure the soil remains on the site and will help provide food for turkey and deer. In the first 12 weeks of a turkey poultís life, they survive on insects almost exclusively. What better place to find insects than a grassy area. The legumes will provide a source of high quality food for deer, much higher than is available in the surrounding forest. A study in Sullivan County, New York found that one acre of such a food source provide the equivalent nutrients found in over 100 acres of forestland.

Day Lighting Trails To encourage the grasses on these forest trails, a practice of removing trees within 25í of the trail should be completed. This will open up a corridor of over 50í for sunlight to reach for trail. This distance could be increased if the trees are tall. Specimen trees in the area to be cleared could be retained if they were valuable for turkey and deer for soft mast (black cherry) or hard mast. (oak)

Log Landing All commercial timber harvests have a log landing in which the logs are loaded onto trucks and sent to markets. Try to plan these landings so that they are in the interior of the property if possible. Once the sale is complete, final grade at the correct season and use the same practice as described in the skid trail seeding. You will now have a food plot up to one acre in size with very little expense on your part with the logging provide most of the earth work. A cut back border on the landing could also be completed and shrubs like crab apple could be planted around the perimeter of the log landing. Evergreen trees could also be planted as security cover for deer and turkey on these cut back borders.

High quality spring nutrition is important in the recovery of deer after winter and in measurably improving fawn success. Forest openings should be managed to produce forage in early spring as a high protein supplement to bridge the gap between winter and summer foods. In late spring and early summer, does with fawns have the additional energy requirements of lactation. Fawns become functional reminants at two months of age and that high quality forage should be provided at this time for fawns to reach full growth potential. Late summer and especially early fall are important time for deer to accumulate body fat for the onset of winter.

Two of the most critical times for deer are spring and fall. The management of forest openings for deer should be geared to providing desirable herbage during these periods.

Non Commercial Thinnings

Non commercial treatments in the forest such as timber stand improvement which thins forest stands also need wildlife recommendations. Crop tree prescriptions can include ìwildlife crop treeî values as well as economic returns.

Timing Plan your felling of trees during the dormant season. Not only is it more enjoyable to run a chain saw in the colder temperatures, wildlife like deer could take advantage of the additional browse.

Treated Acreage Break the area to be treated into small annual projects. Instead of treating a fifty acre stand in one year, break it up into 5- ten acre annual projects. This will spread out the benefits for deer.

"Special Trees" Just like we might have a favorite chair, wildlife like turkey have favorite roosting trees. They are usually within 300 yards of a water source. Retain these special trees for your target species.

Tree Plantings

Evergreen and hardwood tree plantations can be developed for wildlife purposes. The most immediate benefit for evergreen plantings is cover. Tree species like spruce will have thick foliage and will allow turkey to get out of a winter storm, as well as provide a place for deer in the heat of the summer to escape the flies. Hardwood planting such as oak or cherry will provide eventual food for turkey and deer. Travel lanes can also be established using these plantings to connect existing wildlife food and cover areas.

Quality Deer Management

A problem has now developed with forest tracts once landowners have taken the advice of forestry professional and have developed their properties for healthy forests and added the aforementioned improvements for deer. The deer herd now responds to the improved habitat and starts to exceed the carrying capacity of the land. Plantings and natural regeneration becomes overbrowsed and the carrying capacity of the land actually drops. By implementing these wildlife additions, the landowners forestry program is in jeopardy. Unfortunately, many forestry professional do not take the next step in advising forest landowners about the next step in their forest management program.

Quality Deer Management is a program designed to demonstrate a balanced healthy population of deer as a result of regulated harvests of antlered and anterless deer, even if that means fewer deer. An emphasis on quality deer, as opposed to quantity should be promoted. Harvest data from the northeast indicate that yearlings make up in most states 80% of the harvest. Most male deer never reach adulthood.

Landowners who wish to practice quality deer management will have to become true managers of their deer herd. They must:

Quality Deer Management is not for every landowner. Some will opt for the tradition management of their deer herd. If overbrowsing is evident, and young tree seedlings are still not found on the forest floor, Quality Deer Management is a viable option. QDM is not trophy management but an effort to keep the herd healthy in a forest that is healthy.

Quality deer management is good stewardship of our deer herd as proper forest management is good stewardship of our forests.


WHITE TAILED DEER Ecology and Management 1984 Wildlife Management Institute

Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

QUALITY DEER MANAGEMENT The why and how of quality deer management Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

TIMBER SALE AND WILDLIFE 1981 Penna. Game Commission , Harrisburg, PA 17105

GUIDE TO WILDLIFE TREE MANAGEMENT IN NEW ENGLAND NORTHERN HARDWOODS USDA Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, General Technical Report, NE ñ 118 P.O. Box 6775 Radnor, PA 19087

WOODLANDS AND WILDLIFE Pennsylvania Forest Resources #68 Penn State,

111 Ferguson Bldg. University Park, PA 16802

DEER MANAGEMENT Pennsylvania Forest Resources # 50 Penn State, 111 Ferguson Bldg. University Park, PA 16802

HABITAT IMPROVEMENT Cornell Cooperative Extension , Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District, 69 Ferdale-Loomis Rd. Liberty, NY 12754


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