Spring Lake Farm - a habitat retrospective

Fast forward 17 years, it now looks like this:
Along the way, we planted around 3000 trees and shrubs, had anywhere from 3-5 acres in food plots per year, and had incredible fun doing it. I don't get much of a chance to do much habitat work these days, aside from fall food plots and the occasional brush hogging and spraying. I'll post a lot of before and after pics, so y'all can see the progression throughout the years. It's amazing what a little sweat and time can do in the long run.
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Thanks George. It's probably the only reason I'm not living in the Rockies. Seriously considered moving west a few years ago (because I love fly fishing for trout and bowhunting elk). One of the primary factors we stayed put is that farm. I'm serious about the fly rod, btw. It's yours if ya want it.
Looking back, it always amazes me how many mistakes we made in our habitat journey. I wasn't into computers back then and didn't have the old QDMA forum to help. After 400 or so man-hours cleaning up the place (miles of barbed wire, tractors tires, car hoods, sawmills, countless bottles and cans), we did what most people do; buy a tractor and start on FOOD PLOTS!! That was our first of many mistakes.

The place was just a habitat desert. The fescue fields were a monoculture of worthless grass, leading right up to mature stands of hardwood and pine. You could see a few hundred yards into the timber from the fields. It was as if there were only two types of terrain, field and trees. We hunted the place for two years prior to buying it, and saw a grand total of 4 deer.
One of the things we got right was the mass tree planting effort. In the first two years we planted sawtooth oak, chestnut, silky dogwoods,
crabapples, plums,apples, cherry, white pine, among others. That and the tree removals, both select cut and clearcuts in small sections have proven to be the two most important factors in making it the deer paradise it is today.
Lol. Yes, we did. We spent about a week hinge cutting them. We didn't realize at the time that they won't hinge, and just die.
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Farm looks awesome. The crimson clover looks really good. What state are you in. I fly fish myself. Heading to the SanJuan in September. That is one of my top 2 places to fish. Gin clear water.
Farm looks awesome. The crimson clover looks really good. What state are you in. I fly fish myself. Heading to the SanJuan in September. That is one of my top 2 places to fish. Gin clear water.

Farm is outside of Roanoke, Virginia. Tucked up against the mountains..
Goin on a Disney cruise with family this year in September, so I won't be heading out west to fish. I've fished pretty much everywhere in the rockies from the panhandle of Idaho to New Mexico. I'm really missing it this year! Good Luck on the San Juan, not that you'll need luck..
Your pictures of your place are great. Do you really have 3 homes on the property or is your property in between all of that?
Thanks Kubota. No homes. the property has another 20 acres of mature timber. Top left of photo. Great neighbors. One is a Sherriff and keeps an eye on the place for me. He also shoots coyotes!
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Figuring things out: The importance of site selection

In 2001, one of our goals was to get as many trees planted as possible. Every weekend for a month we planted trees.
Most of the trees planted were on field edges and through the interior of fields, in order to create a travel route for deer. About 250 trees were planted on slopes that were recently logged. Lesson learned: If you can't keep the competition down, your efforts will be futile.
30 chinese chestnut and 100 apples were planted on these slopes along with dogwoods and shrubs. It is now overgrown in poplar, pine, oak, hickory and sassafras. There are still some living in there, but I think their days are numbered. The chestnuts properly placed and maintained in the fields, however, did great.


4 years later, they looked like this:


and here they are today:


These trees were tubed the first year, planted as bare roots. Within a year, they were up and out of the 5' tubes The tube were then removed and cages were installed.
The milkweed and golden rod are about 7 feet tall in this spot (I need to get on that)


Lost two of these trees over the winter. Don't know if it is blight or not, but they are growing back from the base pretty well. (these are Dunstans)

We also planted 4 different groves of sawtooth oak. 3 of them were in the open, and, like the chestnuts, do much better in full sun


Last year, for the first time, I was able to hang a tree stand in one of these. Its the second tree from left (this photo is 5 years old)
The bears (of which we have MANY) love to climb these and eat the acorns. Especially in years where the natives aren't producing.


But, as you can see, they produce massive amounts of large acorns yearly:

Here is what they looked like this past fall:
The green trees at the back of this food plot:
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