Simple Steps to Improve Wildlife Habitat

Brian R. Chandler  |  6/2/2009 7:55:46 PM

The first step in improving the wildlife value of your property is to determine your wildlife management goals. Are you primarily interested in deer, quail, rabbits, bird watching or a combination of these? Do you also have some specific goals like quality bucks or more bluebirds? Specific goals usually determine the level of management needed on your property.

Once you have established your goals, you will need an assessment of the property. This assessment will help determine the strengths and weaknesses of the property as related to your goals. The intensity of management and a timeline for reaching your goals will depend upon how much you need to do and how much money and time you can devote.

The next step is to develop a list of management activities to address the limiting factors that were identified. This list may include timber harvesting, food plots, herbicide applications, fertilizer applications, increasing habitat diversity, increasing mast production, prescribed burning, field edges, bedding or nesting cover, etc. This list could be short or very long and overwhelming.

Due to limited time and money, many landowners cannot tackle all the limiting factors in a short period of time. Some management practices may take several years to implement. To help compensate for this, you can develop some "hot apots." Hot spots or honey holes are small areas on the property where management practices are concentrated. These spots allow you to add wildlife value to the property within a short period of time and with limited expenses. These spots should be centered around a food plot.

Here is a list of management practices that can be used to enhance the area around a food plot.

-Plant and manage quality year-round food plots. Year-round quality food plots consist of annual (summer and fall) and perennial plantings.

-Provide daylight for and fertilize native habitat around food plot edges or along roads. Identify and concentrate on quality vegetation like honeysuckle, briars and weedy areas. This will increase the production and nutrient value of this vegetation and increase cover for wildlife.

-Install honeysuckle patches, if needed. This is where you plant honeysuckle and protect the plants with a wire tent to prevent overbrowsing.

-Do some timber stand improvement. Remove undesirable trees by cutting them and spraying the stump with herbicides or killing the trees with herbicides.

-Fertilize mast producing trees. Fertilizing these trees will increase mast production.

-Plant hard and soft mast trees and shrubs. Hard mast trees include sawtooth oak, white oak, cow oak, cherrybark oak, water oak, Nuttall oak, Shumard oak, live oak and pecan. Soft mast plants include plums, mayhaw, crabapple, persimmon and French mulberry.

-Create mineral licks. Licks will provide additional minerals and nutrients. There are several commercial products available or you can mix up your own.

-Prescribe burn some pine stands. Fire creates habitat diversity and increases browse. Divide the stand into several smaller patches and burn different patches every two to three years.

Creating and maintaining hot spots or honey holes on your property will not only enhance the quality of wildlife but will help you attract and hold more wildlife on your property.

For more information on these or related topics, call Brian Chandler, area extension forester , at 225-683-3101.

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