By Steve Borel
Understanding habitat needs of a particular species will help determine which wildlife practices should be put in place in a particular area. All wildlife species are associated with various plant succession stages and most use several stages to meet various life requirements. The structural changes of plant communities following disturbance events are fairly predictable within a given region.
Let’s take a look at wildlife practices that can benefit white-tailed deer. Note: The following information comes from the 4-H Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP).
Edge Feathering: to increase forage availability around fields and enhance fawning cover Field Borders: to increase forage availability (forbs and brambles) around crop fields Forest Management: Forest Regeneration (Clearcut, Shelterwood, Seed-tree, Group Selection) will provide increased browse, soft mast production, and dense escape cover; Forest Stand Improvement can provide increased browse and soft mast production and stimulate better cover in stands with a poorly developed understory Leave Crop Unharvested: to provide additional food resource, especially near escape cover Livestock Management: livestock should be excluded from forests managed for deer to avoid destruction of the forest understory; livestock should be excluded from riparian areas, should prevent overgrazing in woodlands livestock should be excluded from food plots Plant Food Plots: when naturally occurring food sources are limited, food plots may provide additional nutrition, particularly in late summer and winter of most ecoregions Plant Native Grasses and Forbs: where early successional cover is limiting and planting is necessary for establishment Plant Shrubs: where needed to provide additional soft mast, brushy cover, and browse; often useful in ravines, field borders, other idle land areas and across large open areas to provide travel corridors Plant Trees: in large open areas to maintain at least 30 to 40 percent forest cover; where mast producers are lacking, particularly oaks Set-back Succession: Prescribed Fire and Disking is recommended to maintain herbaceous openings; Prescribed Fire is recommended to stimulate the forest understory for increased forage and soft mast, Root-plowing combined with seeding grasses and legumes may be the best way to increase herbaceous groundcover; Chainsawing, Dozerclearing and Root-plowing when converting forest to early successional cover to increase forage and enhance fawning cover, and to kill or remove undesirable trees in woodlots and other areas Tillage Management: eliminate fall tillage of grain crop residue adjacent to cover to make waste grain available as an additional food
For a complete description on any of these practices for white-tailed deer management you can contact me at 336-2416 in Port Allen or 687-5155 in Plaquemine.