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The Deer Stand Improvement thread.  I encourage you to hijack it into your own info/image dump and show what youve done or want to do.

I started almost 2 years ago.  Ive only got about 4 forested acres to play with but there are several thousand unfenced acres of timber around it. The hunting could be great.  Poaching and coyote predation of fawns are the biggest issues, sanctuaries are needed to counter them.  Im trying to make my patch provide as much cover and browse as possible for fawning season.

On the timber side of it, the goal is to reestablish the dominance of oaks and hickories in the top canopy, make up openings for the best seed trees remaining to regenerate, and handicap the shade tolerant rubbish until new hardwoods regain an advantage.  I have no forestry credentials, just my own research, experiments and observation.  If i can fix this mess, so can you.

 The whole "neighborhood" was one timber tract with the typical case of sequential highgradings, subdividing and new landowner non-management that really defines my region as a whole.  Compounding the issue was a severe ice storm about 5 years ago that snapped off maybe 20-30% of the tops, pinning down sapplings into arches that vined in. 

Some random before shots.  This is what local realtors call "some timber."

county extension forestor said cull 70% of it.  I think he was being kind!

I started with this patch shown below, lets call it 'Clearing 1.'  I am standing on dozer roof looking south on the main skid trail which will one day be a driveway to my final home. The seed trees shown are about 11-13" dbh white oak.  Not perfect form but best i had. 

Panning to the right in place, is a clearing i made for an eventual foodplot.   just natural regen so far but it works. This section was almost entirely red maple sapplings, any oak was a waist high bushy runt starving for light so they all went. Limbs come out for firewood, brush tips get piled for critter housing.  I find that the squirrels will plant seed for you and the brush keeps deer off them when they do finally pop out.  They dont like the loose noisy footing very much.

This is the same clearing a few months later in spring 2017, looking north across it now instead of south.   The antler shaped trees above are actually one of my hunting stands, its a very sloped tree with a limb staircase and railings up the back..  Left side sourwood right side gum.  Its a great illustration of how both species will serpent all over for any patch of light. 

This is the stump regen in the clearing that brings the does in.  Shows that sourwood and red maple are very prolific coppice sprouters with a fast growth rate.  Today those are pushing 10 to 12 feet.  Straight up.  I am using the clumps for sidelight shades so that my hardwood sprouts must go straight up to compete.  The deer also love the visual wall it provides while they munch.

Its a little hard to tell here but this black gum coppice patch was mowed down to hard stems from 3ft tall. It appears to be a favorite flavor, ill be keeping tabs this year.  Havent seen them browse on the sassafras at all.


This is an image of a transition zone from feeding area to bedding thicket taken from the antler stand looking north.  Ive hinge cut the worthless sun hogs so that theyll live on the ground and provide cover and browse.  It gets much thicker a little further in and ive created one guardrailed trail around my stand  from here to the clearing with great shooting lanes.  That spot pictured has water flowing under ground, with drinking holes throughout.  In winter it floods.

Closer look at the white oaks to the right of the antler stand.  Someday.

This is my main skid trail and future driveway.  Image is also from spring 2017 after dragging logs a few months prior during a very rainy winter.  Its why i advocate dozer skidding if one can tolerate it.  Much easier on our very thin topsoil.  Summer logging is horrible with ticks, snakes and heat, but winter is all rain without much freeze if any.  A skidder will wreck a place fast under those conditions. My machine has 24" pads and weighs 16k or so.  Its like 4psi or something crazy low.  That jap paddy pusher sinks less than my foot in mud.  Compaction round here is already bad enough with all the sharp sand mixed into our clay.

More recently i cut the area back further.  I had left some cull trees standing to reduce windthrow on the keepers until they acclimated. 

Id found that bigger openings with a long photoperiod really hatched the hickory and oak much faster and straighter in single leader format vs the spots i thinned more mercifully.  The shady thinnings seem to favor the shade tolerant species so ive been cutting with a heavy hand where shade intolerant is what i need to promote.  Lots of straight hickory stems coming up.  Stave hickory is bringing 850/mbf here.

Thats all for now. I hope these images can raise some awareness and encourage a few others to grab a saw and go fertilize even a little patch of their own woods.  The response is pretty quick and results are fulfilling. Its a fun way to make sure the grandkids arent allergic to dirt or meat.  Ill try to get phase 2 pics up fairly soon.

While our forests are very different, I can see what you are trying to achieve, and long term it should pay off well. The "leave" trees are the ones that should produce some useful sawlogs, some time in the future, without the competition from the "junk".

Left alone it would probably take a couple of generations of trees (centuries?) for things to settle back into some "old growth" scenario.

With a bit of management you can speed up that process  :)

Mike roughly how many sides of the canopy are open? What kind of spacing are you shooting for?

Skeans, I dont have a fixed recipe.  Most of the woods had a closed canopy of mature hardwoods, some with not one sawlog in the whole tree. Other patches had a previous clearing bush in and then turn into archy tangles. The black cherry is particularly bad when mixed with SM and Sourwood. Not one straight cherry yet but i think i can eventually recover them.   

Anyway whole place all kinda differs from one patch to the next and im treating it in different ways for the education of it all.  I cant add trees, i can only subtract them to reveal what good specimen may be buried in shade.  Where there is no good hardwood specimen there is bound to be a pile of my 4 problem children.. Sourwood, red maple, gums (mostly black) and sassafras. So what i do is kinda clearcut that box to let all sprouts pop even aged, then hinge cut a wall around it.  This makes a feeding room.  The experiment is, if i bring in a bunch of deer, what do they eat the most at a sappling buffet?  And which hardwood sprout do they bother?  If they always mow down the gum and sometimes bug say scarlet oak, then i will know to lop off every gum for max sprouts, and brush fence any scarlet oak.   The idea is how to do best TSI and best DSI at the same time with only a saw.  No fence, no chemicals, no feed.  Just sun.

 The sun is actually out today for a change from rain.  After church ill probably go play for a few hours and get more pictures of my current work.  What i really need is to draw out a sketch of parcel boundary and topo/water features.  It has taken me many many walks to understand the forest pattern and the deer pattern, then how they intertwine which im trying to maximize.

Congratulations Mike! That looks like you're doing a excellent job


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