Will Logging Hurt or Help Your Whitetail Deer Hunting Ground
There are many ways to enhance your whitetail hunting area which range from food plots, to quality deer management programs, to the age old question, ďWill logging my timbered whitetail deer hunt land enhance or decrease my whitetail populations and quality of my deer herd?Ē As a whitetail outfitter who leases over 60,000 acres in 5 states I have watched properties get logged that were ruined as a result and I have watched properties that were enhanced by logging efforts. Many landowners who lease their ground or landowners who own ground talk themselves into logging and reaping the monetary rewards of logging by using the justification, ďLogging helps the property by providing more bed area for whitetails.Ē The fact is that this isnít always true. Whether you choose to log a property to enhance whitetail activity has everything to do with the size of the property, the amount of timber on the farm, the amount of food sources on the farm, surrounding property terrain, bulldozing ditches, passive versus aggressive logging strategies, as well as many other things one must consider before turning a logger loose on your farm.
The Amount of Timber on the Farm is Critical in the Decision to Log
Currently I lease one particular farm in Missouri that is around 200 acres. The farm is mostly agricultural farmland and normally planted in corn and beans rotating every other year. On the East side of the farm is a heavily timbered draw but its width is only about 60 yards wide despite the fact the draw is 400 yards long. On the West side of the field is an identical draw that is 60 yards wide and its 400 yards long as well. No other timber exists on the farm. Just days ago the landowner called me and ask me what I thought about him logging the ditches on the farm. This farm despite a mass amount of timber always coughs up monster whitetail bucks every year as it serves as a travel corridor to other tracts and holds many deer in the two timbered draws on the farm itself. In fact we have harvested Boone and Crockett Deer from this land tract.
Initially when the landowner asked me what I thought of him logging the farm, and the effects it would have on the whitetail herd and my interest in releasing it, as is tradition, I almost got sick to my stomach. I thought to myself. ďHow do I tell a landowner not to log his farm, and explain to him how much it would hurt the quality of its hunting?Ē Obviously the question posed by the landowner when my answer was going to cost him the amount of money he would earn from timbering made me feel bad. The truth is logging farms will either enhance or decrease your whitetail population and quality of whitetail bucks. In this situation, whitetail activity would have decreased dramatically.
When the logger hits the farm it is quite normal that the logger would take all the big trees leaving the tops of the trees lying on the ground. Some hunters and landowners believe in every situation that a logged property provides denser cover for whitetail deer which will improve the farm. This is true on farms that hold a great amount of timber, however on farms that have little timber to start with you donít want to log. Rather than having two draws on the farm with mature timber surrounded by agricultural crops I would have had two ditches full of treetops in the middle of a couple fields. Of course the landowner is always tempted to log timber to make money. While the landowner might have made a few quick thousand dollars in the long run this landowner would have lost money by losing hunt lease money on a long term basis. As a general rule if you donít have at least 40% of the land tract you wish to log in timber then donít log the farm, especially on farms less than 300 acres. If you have to log the farm then at least do it selectively and donít turn a logger lose allowing him to rape the farm as most loggers will cut all they can. Always go out and see what trees the logger has marked and count them to make sure you are being short changed when the check comes. Also remember lumber prices fluctuate much like the stock market. It takes decades and decades for trees to grow. As a landowner you donít want to allow logging to take place when the price on lumber is down or below the average buy price.
The Size of the Farm and Amount of Timber on the Farm are Critical Factors
In the aforementioned scenario we forbid the logging of a 200 acre farm that had two long draws consisting of around 15% of the farms acreage as the end result would have been a handful of treetops in two ditches on a farm without any other timber. After concluding the reading of the example one might think I am against logging, but far from the truth. Often times logging a farm will enhance the quantity and quality of the whitetail deer herd on your farm or lease.
Just miles up the road from this particular farm lays another piece of ground that is around 500 acres with about 80% of it being big black and white oak timber. Typically this has been a farm that has also always produced big deer. In fact itís one of my favorite farms I lease in Missouri. The landowner had the piece logged without warning during the middle of a five year lease with me. At first knowledge of the logging effort I was half sick to my stomach again. Loggers simply scare me as I have watched many properties ruined in regard to whitetail deer hunting. This farm doubled in whitetail numbers and whitetail trophy bucks in a mere 9 months. The farm went from great to unbelievable as it attracted all the areaís big bucks by providing the perfect bed area for them to hide in.
The key factor here was the farm was larger and held a majority of timber thus by logging it a sanctuary was created of dense cover to hide big deer. The logger didnít rape the farm but rather selectively logged it leaving several big oak trees on it that would continue to produce acorns each year. Now the farm is a literal deer magnet. The landowner that times the logging efforts at the very beginning of whatever year he or she elects to log is wise. You want to log at the beginning of the year so when Spring rolls around fresh new dense foliage can grow.
On the other side of the coin I know a man from New York that leases a farm in Pike County, Illinois that phoned me in late October that was leasing a farm from a landowner. My friend that was leasing the farm was irate as he had learned logging was occurring on the farm in late September and Mid October on a farm that didnít have much timber to begin with. This is a valid complaint as he knew that new foliage would not have a chance to grow and loggers were yelling and running machinery on the farm he would hunt in two weeks. When logging always make sure your logger does his job prior to Spring as a courteously to your animals needs habitat during the winter months as well as your hunters or you as a hunter. Never log a farm late in the Spring or Summer. The first year it will be hurt badly and whitetail deer populations will almost always fall dramatically.
Thus when comparing farm sizes and timber amounts it would be farm to say if you possess a farm in excess of 500 acres with at least 30% of it being timber itís safe to log it selectively to enhance your whitetail habitat if done at the right time. In fact my leases state that if a farm is logged just prior to whitetail season I can void payment as I know how bad it can hurt the farm.
Also while I wish we lived in a perfect world no poaching would ever occur but in fact it does thus when logging I would always leave a few rows of trees by any easily accessible roadways to provide a wall for the deer against poachers that may shoot from the road.
Bulldozing Ditches (Good or Bad)
It is very typical in Kansas and Iowa for landowner to bulldoze any ditch where more crops could be planted. I absolutely hate bulldozers. At least with logging some treetops and cover is left behind for the deer to hide in even in poorly chosen logging situations. When bulldozing occurs of ditches just to plant more crops a minimum amount of money is made by being able to plant the ditch and no cover is left for wildlife. This is one explanation for vast reduction in the amount of pheasants and quail in some Midwestern States.
Several years ago I had a farmer that bulldozed what I thought was the best whitetail bed area in Northern Missouri. While it didnít ruin the farm it severely hurt it. I was sick as I watched him bulldoze the greatest bed area known to me in Missouri. It was all in an effort to plant 6 more acres of farm ground. That side of the farm used to be the best of all 2500 acres the landowner owns. Now it is the worst section of the farm for big bucks and whitetail population.
Some landowners just donít understand more money can be made off hunt ground than agricultural ground due to the massive growth of the hunt industry. Stay off those bulldozers. Leave your small knarly ditches and bed areas as all animals need them to survive the brisk winter months. I know another landowner who owns thousands of acres in Missouri which was some of the best ground in the region. Years ago and still today he bulldozes any tree that even thinks of sprouting so he can maximize crop harvests. Months ago he called me and wanted to lease to me. It didnít take me long to look at the farm and decline leasing. My theory is farmers who own bulldozers canít stay off them as they are fun and expensive thus the farmer thinks he must utilize them without forethought to the effects of animal habitat. One should consult with a knowledgeable whitetail outfitter prior to logging. After all you know what a logger or bulldoze operate is going to tell you. They want your money and logs.
Surrounding Property May Dictate Whether Logging will Improve Your Whitetail Deerhunting Farm
Whenever I consider leasing a farm I always look at the farmís aerial photographs in detail. Every time I analyze the farmís aerial photographs I always look at what the terrain on surrounding farms looks like as well. After all itís the surrounding terrain that either forces whitetails onto a farm or draws them away from the farm you are considering. Often times when thinking about whether or not to log a property in an effort to improve your whitetail deer hunting the properties that surround your farm will tell you if it makes sense or not to move forward with logging.
This may be the most difficult facet surrounding your decision to log to solve. If the farm you wish to log is not surrounded by any timber and your farm is holding all the whitetails in the area, due to the fact you have the only timber then you want to leave well enough alone. A friend once said, ďDonít try and fix something that is working.Ē There is no need to log to make things brushier as you are already holding all the whitetail deer in the area because surrounding farms donít have timber.
In opposition to this concept, if your farm is mostly timber and is surrounded by mature timber on all sides that hasnít been logged then you might want to log right now. Your farm will quickly serve as the bed area or magnet for the neighborís big bucks drawing them into your property especially with a few well placed food plots. An example of this is again another farm in Missouri that is surrounded on all sides by mature timber. The landowner went in and logged all 800 acres of his big oak timber. Within a year or two it became one of the best farms in the entire county. It literally drew the whitetail deer herd into his farm and served as the core bed area. In fact this is a scenario where one might want to consider an aggressive logging effort to leave many treetops on the ground for bedding areas of whitetail deer generations to come.
I hunted an 80 acre tract of ground 3 years ago during the Missouri 1st Gun Season which had gone unnoticed however it was what I call a ďhoneyholeĒ. That means itís a property that intercepts many other deer travel routes, including bottlenecks, funnels, and ditches which just happens to be sitting in the right spot. It was a farm where 6 different timbered corridors from other farms fed or forced whitetails to pass through the 80 acre tract. I was on stand for a total of 15 minutes before I pulled the trigger on a great whitetail buck. Why? All the other farms were ďfeedingĒ whitetail deer travel through it. This types of farms should never be logged. Deer are lazy by nature and donít like trying to travel through honeyholes that are a mass of treetops. Never log a ďHoneyhole FarmĒ as your again, trying to fix something that is working. Most often times this types farms donít hold enough timber to mess with anyway. If you are forced to log one of these farms only selectively log it. Never be aggressive on this type of log event.
Advantages of Logging Your Timber
It's About Value
Logging can benefit you and your timber resource in many ways. Timber is renewable, and like any other crop, it will flourish and increase in value if managed well. Poor management can compromise the overall value of your timber stand. The advantages to logging your timber include:
ē REVENUE - Timber harvesting helps you increase revenue. Your timber's value depends on a variety of factors. Sometimes it makes sense to wait until the timber market is up to harvest. If you have infestation or disease attacking your trees, it may be better to harvest more quickly to protect the health and vitality of your resource for the long term. Another consideration is fire-damaged trees Ė different species of fire-damaged trees may need harvesting at varying intervals.
ē PROPERTY TAXES - The state of Montana assesses property taxes based on the potential of your land to produce timber. It's in your best interest to realize that potential through the revenues that harvesting your timber can generate. The greatest value is obtained by proper management. If not managed, the owner pays higher property taxes without the advantage of increased revenues from the timber.
ē MINIMIZING FIRE DAMAGE - Almost two decades ago, Yellowstone National Park was ravaged by a fire that consumed thousands of acres. Many experts agree that if the forest had been under a timber management program, including logging, the damage would have been minimal. Timber management can reduce fire damage by:
o Increasing access to the timber
Roads are constructed and access to the timber is readily available. Without this access, a fire can start and spread through hundreds of acres before being contained.
o Reducing burnable wood
Timber that is not managed becomes too thick and can quickly turn into an uncontrollable fire that burns at extremely high temperatures. The higher the temperature, the more extreme the damage. Managed timber has a significantly lower chance of being destroyed by fire.
ē IMPROVE LAND VITALITY - Properly managing a timber stand will:
o Substantially increase grass production
o Increase stream and spring flow
o More than double the growth of the remaining timber
Disadvantages of Logging Your Timber
The environmental effects of clearcutting are often cited by activists who are trying to put a stop to the practice. They include a range of negative results, from loss of habitat to an elevation in stream temperatures which can cause fish to die off, but all of them reflect major changes that will take decades to correct. Numerous activists have suggested more environmentally sustainable alternatives to clearcutting, such as selective logging, and it is the hope that as more consumers become aware of the dangers of clearcutting, they will seek out sustainably-harvested timber.
Clearcutting, or clearfelling, is a logging practice which involves completely clearing an area of trees, regardless as to their size and usability. Remaining scrub and brush are usually burnt in large burn piles that can cast a smoky haze over the area for several days. A clearcut area may be relatively small, or may span for miles, and is clearly visible through the air, along with the scars of logging roads cut to access it. The abrupt deforestation has a serious environmental impact on the surrounding area.
Clearcutting profoundly alters local rivers. If logging comes close to the banks of the river, as it often does, it eliminates the shady shield of trees, which can cause the temperature of the river to elevate. Even a few degrees can make a huge difference to native plants, fish, and amphibians, and can cause a significant population decrease. Numerous organizations monitor global rivers and have warned that extensive clearcutting could result in the extinction of some fish species, as they are driven out of their native habitats. Clearcutting also softens the banks of the river by enabling erosion, which can cause them to collapse into the water.
In addition to harming rivers, clearcutting also alters the water cycle in general. While trees are growing, they help to trap and retain water, along with precious topsoil. When trees are removed, water runs over the surface of the earth rather than filtering into the aquifer. The water runoff can cause flooding, taking valuable topsoil with it. As the water trickles downhill, it carries the topsoil into the river, turning it brown and muddy and carrying the useful nutrients out to sea. The excess of nutrients in the marine environment can be harmful to marine organisms, and cause further population damage, which can sometimes extend for several miles offshore.
Clearcutting also destroys habitat for a wide variety of animals, including many endangered species. Birds, reptiles, and mammals all face habitat destruction due to clearcutting. Many of these animals have difficulty seeking out new habitats because the surrounding areas may be clearcut or filled with human inhabitants. Some animals have adverse interactions with humans, especially large predator species and animals such as raccoons which adapt readily to human encroachment on their habitat. Others are simply incapable of adapting and quietly die off. While this alone is tragic, the effects extend into the surrounding ecosystem as well, by removing a link in the local food chain.
The results of clearcutting are not only felt in the immediate area. Clearcutting also has an impact on the quality of the atmosphere, beginning when the trees are cut down. Trees help to filter pollutants from the air, and are also an important part of the carbon cycle. Removing trees has a direct impact on the environment, especially when combined with slash-and-burn practices which result in scorched earth and in a serious increase of environmental pollutants.
Because of the numerous negative effects of clearcutting, many people concerned about the environment are trying to educate consumers about the practice. It is possible to obtain sustainable lumber, such as that labeled by the Forest Stewardship Council. By purchasing sustainably harvested lumber, consumers send a message to logging companies that they want healthy wood from healthy trees, and an environment which is healthy in the long term.
Regardless of what your decision may be surrounding timbering your hunting ground remember whatever you decide may negatively or positively impact your hunting. Many things need to be considered before making such a decision. One thing is for sure. Once you decide to log your timber you can never get it back.