Early successional habitat

Discussion in 'Native Habitat Management' started by weekender21, Apr 25, 2018.

  1. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    I've inherited pretty awesome early successional habitat on the property we purchased last year. It currently has a very high stem count and will provide excellent forbes and browse for deer as well as great fawning cover in the spring. Approximately 70% of our ~100 acres has been logged recently (today-2 years ago).

    I will allow the majority of the clearcut areas to return to hardwood forest but would like to maintain some of the property in this early successional stage. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the best way to maintain this habitat and the frequency you would apply your preferred method.

    Best way to maintain early successional habitat in an upland hardwoods ecosystem:

    1)chainsaw

    2)fire

    3)both

    IMG_1546.JPG
     
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  2. dogghr

    dogghr Well-Known Member

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    I don't/can't but fire is best way to promote acorn producers and limit shade tolerant growth that competes as well as releasing the natural existing seed bank. . Controlled burns are becoming very common on the National and State forests in my area. Chainsaw or spraying or hack and squirt also gives decent results. One technique I've never used but I think is good idea, is in Neil Dougherty's book Grow em Right, where they use a dozer and push over pole size trees to maintain secondary growth. I like that idea. You are like me, hill sides and forests dictate to some extent your options.
     
  3. David

    David Active Member

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  4. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    That looks to probably be too steep and rough to bushhog, but mowing can be a good tool. Not the only tool, but a good one.
     
  5. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I’ll take a look at the recommendation resources.


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  6. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    The particular area pictured is pretty rough terrain, especially considering all the tree tops on the ground you can’t see. This picture was taken last July and at this stage is pretty optimal cover for a young fawn.

    Some of the other areas I’m considering keeping in this early stage could be bush hogged eventually; after the first burn or two.


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  7. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    This area was cut a year later and is showing its first “green up” after logging.

    IMG_1614.JPG


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  8. David

    David Active Member

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    The farther along I work on my early successuinal field managment the LESS I bush hog. Mowing is not your friend for long term managment.



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  9. Triple C

    Triple C Well-Known Member

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    David is spot on. For early successional habitat fire and late winter discing is your friend. Both fire and discing releases the seed bank in the soil. Fire will kill the hardwood saplings that sprout in cleared land and release additional seeds from the seed bank. Late winter discing enhances the release of the seed bank in your soil. As for mowing early successional, I was instructed by my NRCS rep not to mow which I thought at the time would be the primary tool for maintaining early successional habitat. I was told that fire and discing were the best practices for releasing the seed bank and maintaining ESH.
     
  10. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    That’s consistent with the MSU deer lab professors as well.

    I don’t think mowing is a realistic option for me anyway. Unless someone offers rollover insurance.


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  11. Eshoremd

    Eshoremd Member

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    That terrain doesn't look like its going to lend itself to disking either. Id try a mix of fire, chainsaw and hack and squirt.

    In that first pic are all those lumpy bushes stump sprouts?
     
  12. Tap

    Tap Well-Known Member

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    I developed successional cover on my property and have been maintaining it for 20 years or so. The critters love it. I have hundreds of crabs and hawthorn trees in it, not to mention thousands of raspberry bushes. That's the upside.
    The downside is that successional growth is also ripe for invasive species to take hold.
    Here's a list of the stuff that's trying to take over my place...
    Multiflora Rose
    Grape vines
    Oriental bittersweet
    Mile-a-minute
    Japanese stilt grass
    privet
    Autumn olive
    bush honeysuckle
    barberry

    I would advise maintaining access routes for maintenance purposes. My property has become so thick that some areas are really difficult to work in.
    And the grape vines have make keeping alive crabs and other valuable trees a nightmare. Grapes, bittersweet, Mile-a-minute will smother and kill everything. And the berries that those invasives produce will be spread onto neighboring areas so it's critical that you limit invasive berry producers from making seed.
    Successional habitat is great but don't let the crap take hold.
     
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  13. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    Yes, those are poplar stump sprouts 2 years after the cut. The deer love them.

    IMG_1627.JPG


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  14. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    Tap,

    Very interesting perspective and something I haven't considered when thinking about designating acres to long-term early successional habitat. Do you think Eshoremd's recommendation of chainsaw, fire, and hack and squirt (really my only 3 options) is a solid approach to limit the unwanted species? The logging clearcuts are probably just as welcoming, or is that an assumption on my part.
     
  15. David

    David Active Member

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    What's the total acerage you will be managing?

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  16. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    The property is ~100 acres (survey due in 3 weeks) and I hope to acquire a neighboring 32 this summer. I have not decided how much will be dedicated to long term early successional. About 70 acres have been or are being clear cut now.


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  17. Tap

    Tap Well-Known Member

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    I have no experience with fire, but my impression from what I read is that fire is beneficial for maintaining grassland which is also great habitat. Ask Don Higgins about his switch grass habitat.
    Yeah, fire will help keep invasives out, but won't fire also limit woody growth?

    My ESH areas started as hay fields. I just stopped mowing it and it turned turned to Golden Rod which is excellent deer habitat. Does love to hide in it like rabbits when bucks are torturing them in the chase phase. Good fawning cover, too.

    After Golden Rod came briars and young crabs and hawthorn which developed into what I have now...thick and producing mast mixed with all kinds of other stuff...some welcome and some despised. So my main approach has been hack and squirt. But H&S doesn't do much for things like Mile-a-minute or stilt grass. Those 2 are quite troublesome.

    It's just a fact that when you let mother nature take over, she's gonna eventually plant stuff you may not want. How you deal with unwanted stuff can be complicated.

    I'd say that regardless of the appropriate method for you to maintain ESH, I would try to create as much edge habitat within the ESH as you can. Not just around the perimeter of the ESH, but also maintain edge WITHIN the ESH areas. Think about what you might need in the future...stand trees within that area. You may want to NOT cut some trees and allow them to mature. I have naturally occurring elm in my ESH that are large enough to hang stands in. Maybe even consider planting some hybrid poplar, loblolly pine or other super fast growing trees. Or protect and encourage naturally ocurring trees.

    Develop and grow your stand trees now and hunt them in 15 or 20 years. Lay them out so you'll have stand trees in a variety of locations to accommodate different wind or access routes. And do that while thinking and maintaining "edge". The more linear edge your property has, the better for everything. Better for deer movement and better for stand strategy, better for keeping bucks occupied on YOUR property and better for compartmentalyzing your land. Property that broken into sections with lots of edges holds more deer and present more stand opportunities.


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  18. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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  19. Mennoniteman

    Mennoniteman Well-Known Member

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    Good stuff, a good read. But hack n squirt is a huge job in thick stuff on large acreages of early successional habitat. I have been contemplating a different method of managing early successional habitat by mowing with a bush hog. I know that mowing has been mentioned already, but not quite the style that I'm envisioning. I am thinking of letting a field grow up in ESH and then mowing the saplings when they hit about six feet high, just before a bush hog won't make it through anymore. But the mowing would be in long strips about fifty feet wide, alternating with unmowed strips about the same width that would then be mowed several years later, as the first strip grows shut again. The advantages; lots of"edge", lots of browse and bedding, plenty of escape routes, fawning cover, fast regeneration of partially chopped saplings, can be done from the tractor seat, all natural with no herbicide, works in areas where burning is banned, only takes several hours every few years to maintain which could be done with rental equipment, What downsides am I missing? Note: This would only be about a four acre project surrounded by a diverse habitat consisting of different stages of cover& mature woods and farm fields.
     
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  20. weekender21

    weekender21 Active Member

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    That could potentially work for me after a few burning events. All the tree tops were left where they fell on my place. It really is about as thick and rough as it gets for a post logging operation.


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