Author: Emily Courtney
This can be a depressing time of year for hunters. Deer and duck seasons are ending, and the off-season stretches out before us like a desert. Even if you’re a turkey hunter, you may still have a couple of months to wait. I learned a while ago that to keep myself from falling into a pit of despair, I have to shift my perspective. Instead of focusing on the fact that I’m not hunting, I get excited about the opportunity to get some habitat work done. The late winter – early spring period between deer/duck season and turkey season is prime time for some of our favorite management activities, a few of which are listed below. Timing is everything; so start planning now to get these jobs done while the conditions are right.
Burning – Fire is an essential component to healthy forest ecosystems. Prescribed burning is one of the most effective methods of clearing unwanted plant life, and has the added benefit of regenerating the understory. It also reduces the fuel load available for spreading wildfires. Fire scarifies seeds in the soil’s seed bank to promote germination. The new herbaceous growth that results is some of the most desirable forage for deer and other wildlife. The weather conditions and timing of the plant life cycle make this time of year ideal for burning. Planning and safety are the keys to a successful burn. A burn plan from a certified burn manager is required by most states.
Tree Planting – Planting trees is one of the most effective habitat improvements you can make. Anybody can do it, and it can contribute greatly to most any type of habitat. Late winter is the best time to plant trees. Planting trees while they are dormant avoids the possibility of damaging them during growth periods and allows them time to get acclimated to their new environment before they begin spring growth. Your strategy will vary depending on which type of trees (hardwood or pine) and which type of seedlings (bare root or containerized) you’re planting, but across the board, this time of year is ideal.
Wood Duck Boxes – Wood duck boxes are man-made nesting structures. Wood ducks nest in cavity trees near wetlands, but in some areas these natural nest sites are scarce. Widespread use of these artificial structures has contributed greatly to the recovery of wood duck populations. Now is the time to get boxes constructed and in place before nesting begins in early spring. Boxes should be made from rough-cut lumber and placed on a wooden or metal post with a predator guard. If you already have boxes in place, this is the perfect time to clean them and replenish the nesting material.
These are just a few of the most common activities for this time of year. Depending on the vision you have for your property, there may be others to consider. Regardless of what your goals are for the year, now is the time to start planning to make them happen. If you don’t have a management plan or a quality property map, take this opportunity early in the year to get those things in place. Once you get started making improvements around your property, you’ll realize that this is really the fun part. And you’ll be glad you did when the next season rolls around.