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Plant trees for hunting?
So I’ve looked at properties in Kansas for deer hunting. Most have pasture or fields on 50-75% of it, then some trees/brush on the other.
How long would it take to convert unproductive pasture back to timbered/brushy land? Would I have to plant and protect many trees? Is it even fiscally practical?
I planted a few trees on my west central KS property I did not protect them. The deer rubbed and ate all of them. I planted more about eight years ago, and protected them. They’re doing fine, and are 6-8’ tall now. I did water them several times a summer the first two summers. How long will it take to get from pasture to brushy. That depends on some variables. What kind and size of trees you plant, soil condition and what part of the state. East and south east get more moisture, west and northwest get less rain and have a shorter growing season. I think it would take quite a few years, ten or so before you see trees/brush that are deer habitat. That’s my opinion.
I think you’d be much better off planting native grasses like switchgrass and some others. They are good for bedding areas. Then, put in some food plots in strategic locations. Much quicker return on your time and money. Fruit trees might be a good idea though. The reason midwest deer are somewhat easier to hunt is because of those creeks and drainages that have the brush/timber. Deer movement follows those features for the most part, at least in daylight.
It’s going to take a while. Here is why.
As Dale posted, your site index is paramount. And, Your plant spacing will depend on your species. But, most hardwoods are going to have to be planted a long ways apart to minimize mandatory thinning lose. But, Too close and they will compete to the point it will retard their growth. If you plant space to minimize that, it’s going to take a while to fill in those gaps because grass will negate tree seed sprouting and out compete most of the seedlings that come in naturally.
If you do it, research the crown percentage needed for the species you plant. Meaning, tree species have a crown to height ratio. It translates to how much dominant canopy space a mature tree will have in the dominant over story canopy. In order to thrive.
Plant accordingly and protect them until they get big enough that deer and such can’t kill them with browsing or rubbing. It’s going to be expensive and expect a 20-25% mortality die off before crown closure.
Good luck and God Bless
I think it’s going to take 10-20 years if you have adequate moisture
I’m in agreement with switchgrass. Deer need side cover not overhead cover to feel safe. Don’t see many attacks on deer from above, well except from us humans. Once the switchgrass gets established, clear diversity pockets and plant some native woody browse in clusters with a few hardwood, conifer, and quick growing softwood trees mixed in. Check with your state forestry department for bare root saplings. Avoid creating any areas that would be a monoculture, or that is dominated by any certain planting. Once you get theses islands up and going (the trees/shrubs to not need to be over 5’ to 6’ tall), cut trails that lead from one thicket to the next. Frost seeding clover and overseeing with broadcast cereal rye on the trails at predetermined ambush points wouldn’t hurt either. If you join two pockets that are 100 yards apart, lay the trail out so it’s not a straight line. You can make a 100 yards destination 150 yard journey for the deer. Keep them feeling safe within this type habitat and your daylight movement will be noticeably higher than what someone might think a deer moves.
Good luck in your endeavors!
Dream big. Aim small. Miss small.
I live in central MT, and area with about 15" moisture and periodic drought. Big issue here is getting water to trees for the first few years.
I've been planting regularly since 2000 and my biggest issue is deer. During the first years they will kill by over browsing and later they rub them to death. For protection I've been using the 2 row electric fence method since I started and its worth the money. For smaller patches I use 47" height field (sheep) fence. 330 feet for about $160.
About the only thing they won't eat is Juniper and they rub that but after about 15 years it's big enough that they leave it alone.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
There are many factors to consider when planting trees, especially in marginal areas. I view the future without regard to “how long” and realize this fact...if I don’t plant trees, nobody will enjoy them. What I am getting at is; someone has to plant the tree, it might as well start now. Future generations count on US to start!
Yes, freefarm has it right. I just turned 73 and have 50 silver buffalo berry and 24 juniper on order for this spring. I'll never see these anywhere maturity and most won't be providing a lot of cover but someday they will.
Leave your land better than you got it.
For protecting trees, I bought rolls of concrete reinforcement mesh. It came in 100’ rolls, 5’ wide is about 6” square mesh. I cut it in about 20’ pieces, made a circular cage and staked it down around trees. And I put down water permeable ground cloth around the trees to reduce water evaporation and stop weeds.
I have converted alot of farm ground back to NWSG and trees,shrub plots.As mentioned that deer doesn't need cover 10ft tall.I have said many time when hunting ground was selling for more than farm ground here in SC Kansas that I bet I could hold deer on that 80 of bare wheat field in just a couple years.Plant switch and shrub plots along with trees in tubes and with decent soil you could have a heck of a place.Another thing to look at depending on if there is cover next to you is growing food to pull deer to you while your cover is growing.I think it sounds like a great project to do.
Plenty of good advice from the previous responses but I'm doing pretty much what you are talking about now. For ideal Kansas deer habitat you want all of the above. Plenty of timber or shrubs, thick and tall grass and ag fields with wheat, beans, alfala, corn and milo or at least 2 or 3 of those. Fruit trees and food plots are great too. I think you could see results in 10 years, even short trees are cover, but it will probably take 20 years before you have what you want. 10 years goes by really quick.
The farther west you get the less moisture so your results will take longer. East of I35 is about where the moisture increases.
I have some good properties with great habitat but not enough cover, just like you are talking about. My tree planting project started in 2011. I started off planting fruit trees which I now consider more in the line of food plots than habitat. In 2014 I signed up for a cost share project and planted 1400 cedars, and shrubs. Plumbs and fragrant sumac. I wanted cedar wind breaks but had to plant the shrubs to qualify for the cost share. The drought of 2014-16 really stunted or flat out killed a lot of the cedars so I had to hand plant about 50% over the next 3 years to fill in. I now try to plant at least 100 or so trees every year, putting them where I want and need more cover. I already have some of the acres in CRP and that has the tall grass. I don't fence the cedars or osage orange trees since there are already a lot of them. I do fence fruit and nut trees. They are too harder to keep alive and I don't want the deer killing them. Fruit tree leaves must taste really good because a deer will eat it up if it's not fenced.
You can purchase native trees from the Kansas State Forest service in lots of 25. They have a nursery in Manhattan.
If you want cover nothing grows better and faster than cedars and osage orange. People will advise trees that the deer like better but you need fast growing and hardy. You do have to be careful though, once cedars and osage get established and mature, they will spread and take over so thinning will be needed down the road and that can be a lot of work.
Anyone planning to do a large tree project should check with the Kansas Forest service and the county FSA/Conservation office. There could be some cost share money to help pay for it and they do have equipment that you can use to plant the trees. They've even helped me do the planting.
Some more great cover is fragrant sumac and sand hill plum,If you have owned longer than a year I would check on CRP and contact state about WHIP
I have been planting and planting over the years and it really comes down to goals, climate, and lay of the land. Certain tree species will grow pretty fast comparatively if you are looking for cover and woods.
I know of a guy out your way that planted a combination of hybrid poplars, pines, cedars, and oaks. The poplars grow quite fast comparatively and they provided cover pretty quickly but are not as desirable for long term benefits. Once the other trees were big enough and poplars started to outcompete/shade them out - he just cut the poplars or used herbicide to kill them. This method gives you cover pretty quick but results in a planting with better long-term trees (maybe not in your lifetime though).
Shrubs and NWSG planting are also great for deer but cant hang a stand in those if you are looking for that. If you are looking for food, planting crabapples or pear trees that are not high maintenance commercial types is best.
Whatever you do......PROTECT THEM, or you are wasting your time and money.
Spruce and cedars provide great bedding cover. If you're planting rows, the absolute best way to make trees grow fast is to eliminate competition from grasses and weeds. The absolute best way to do that is with a weed badger. There is fabric you can put down to help eliminate the weeds and whatnot, but your trees will grow A LOT slower than if you keep them in black dirt. My Dad and I have planted literally thousands of trees on his land, and he weed badgers them 3-5 times per year. It's expensive (you need the weed badger and a tractor to mount it on), and time consuming, but it will give tremendous results. If you're serious about it, and put in the time, you can create a property that will be a magnet for deer, along with upland birds as well. It's hard work, and requires some vision on your part.... but it will start to pay off big time in a few years. It won't happen over night. My dad and I still plant approximately 1500-2000 evergreen type trees per year. What you plant will depend on your soil type. Spuce do well in sandy type soils.... in the wet spots we plant willows, dogwoods, terregana. We have spots we planted oaks, maples, lindens and ash, but hardwoods are slow growing. We planted the hardwoods 25-30 years ago, and you could finally put a stand in SOME of those. Good luck in your endeavor. Once you start, it's quite a rabbit hole.
#1 thing to do in KS is buy good neighbors! Lots of horror stories about the only "giants" seen are the giant feeders just across the fence. Research the outfitters in the areas you are looking to buy in.
#2 - Deer don't need trees here (but they are fun to plant and rewarding). Best cover in KS is often early successional growth. Let it grow up into tall grasses, forbs, shrubs, and weeds in general. Deer will love you for it. You can help that regrowth by adding sandplums, wheat, clovers, alfalfa, etc.
Good luck to ya!
I have sandy ground in Kansas and have 10 year old and younger oaks producing and are 20 ft tall,making it is even more fun than hunting it
Thanks for all the input. Will be a long term project that hopefully my future grandkids will enjoy.
Ive seen big deer in Kansas just living in “pasture”. Just keeping cattle off and letting the grass and brush get tall can have a big effect. Planting trees would be a 20+ year proposition to see results I’d think. I’m in OK and I’ve planted trees mainly just to have a place to hang a stand. Maybe my son will kill a buck out of them one day. ;)
Makes sure you only plant natives and that they were propagated from stock from your immediate area if you can. Most people don’t understand how plant immunity can vary from just 100 miles away. The plant grows well and 10 years later starts to fail from some disease or pest it didn’t have immunity for. Most counties have info on and sources for native plants. I have planted more than 1500 trees in the last 30 years. I experimented with 100 trees of various species not native to my area. I just cut the last 8 white firs down after 18 years because they got a root fungus they were not immune. All my native trees are healthy and disease free.
Plan on 15 years to grow a tree big enough for a ladder stand. Plan on 10+ years to grow fruit bearing trees. More time for acorns.