Planting trees and shrubs is a great way to enhance your land for wildlife. Be sure to cage young trees to protect them from over-browsing. (Bob Humphrey photo)
By Bob Humphrey
Food plots are all the rage nowadays. But they’re not the only way to attract and hold more wildlife on your property. There are other steps you can take, some relatively inexpensive and some that will even generate income for more extensive work.
Cut - Even a small cut can have big benefits. A selective firewood cut opens up the canopy allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor. This, in turn, promotes more growth in the herbaceous layer, which translates to more food and cover for wildlife. Stumps left behind will produce stump sprouts, a great source of woody browse for deer. You can stack limbs and brush to create brushpiles for rabbits, or leave some tops to create bedding cover for deer. Bare areas and woods roads created by skidders can be planted with clover to create mini food plots. Openings created by timber or pulpwood cuts will have the same benefits, and the income can be applied toward other land enhancement projects like food plots or plantings.
Release - Survey the land and look for preferred species like mast producing oaks, apples and persimmons. If you thin out the competition, you “release” these trees and shrubs so they can produce more wildlife food.
Plant - If none currently exist on your property, plant some. Species like apple, persimmon, chestnuts and some oaks will produce mast in a few years. Be sure to put cages around them so deer and rabbits don’t browse them too heavily in the fall and winter.
Establish Sanctuaries - Sometimes simply doing nothing can provide benefits. If you have enough land, consider setting aside certain areas as sanctuaries - places where you never go, and wildlife will be undisturbed. They’ll still travel in and out of sanctuaries, but may be less inclined to travel far from safety, and possibly onto the neighbor’s property.