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Habitat Improvement Following Clearcut
Hi all, my family owns property in Northern Wisconsin and a large piece of the parcel was clear cut this winter. Before the cut it had nice mix of mature hardwoods. The size of the parcel is about 200 total acres and 120 just got cut. Over the next few years I anticipate a lot of aspen growth to the point I will be lucky to be able to walk through it, let alone hunt it. I know over the new 5 years it will be a great food source, but after that I am not too sure what it will become other than an inaccessible mess for 20 years. We plan to keep it for the long term and I am viewing it a little as an empty canvas. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to manage the freshly clear cut land while it is still open? Would anyone try to plant new oak stands? Burn or doze some areas to prevent the aspen growth in some regions? Create travel corridors? Or do I just let it be?
I'd keep some out of the growth. Aspens are really tough to stop with their expansive root system but can be maintained with herbicides to some degree. Have a plan now and stay at it or those trees will take over.. especially after a burn (if that's what you do)
You should go through the areas you would like to have roads/trial with a cat and push the trail clear about 20' wide. After that you must go through with a brush hog almost every year until about 10 years. Then the taller popple on the sides will help and you might get by with 2 years. I don't think you should spray the trails since popple tend to be rizominous and you will kill back too far.
Popple comes back at about 100,000 shoots per acre and cutting trails is not an option without power mowing.
You can try the same thing for small plots but if you have a primarily popple landscape it's very tough.
Was born and still hunt near Int'l Falls, MN. Some terms you might know are: Doghair - the first 5 years. Pecker Pole - from 5 until they get to about 3" across.
I had great success keeping a shooting lane open for about 10 years after clear cutting but it was right at the edge of a spruce/tamarack swamp on what we called a popple island.
Have fun. It will keep you fit.
We bought a northern Michigan cabin with 45 acres in 2013 that had been mostly clearcut two or three years before our purchase. It had primairly been planted in red pine prior to that. In the first three years we owned it I planted 4000 Norway spruce seedlings and several hundred hybrid willow, speckled alder, red osier dogwood, chestnut and assorted fruit trees. The Norway spruce that survived a couple of drought summers early on are just now starting to take off. The tallest are about 3' and bushing out. Of the other species I planted only the fruit and chestnut trees that were caged survived the deer browse after the first year. There are some stands of popple but the natural regeneration of white and red pine , oak and cherry are by far the most common species on the landscape. If I had it to do over I probably would not have planted nearly as many trees as I did and just let nature take it's course.
The first question I have is why did you clear cut hardwoods? If it was red maple, that may have been appropriate but you likely won't get much aspen. If it was northern hardwoods, you may have a lot of years to decide what to do because all you'll have is brush for a long time.
^^^^This^^^^. Clear cutting hardwoods is something that is reserved for starting it over. And, a tool that has little value for future hunting unless the 120 acre stand had been high graded to the point,m it no longer had wildlife beneficial trees in the over story.
The property is owned by several people within the family, a few of whom needed the money from the timber harvest. I was overruled with my desire to leave it strictly as a recreational property. I appreciate the helpful feedback from the first few comments. "You may have a lot of years to decide what to do because all you'll have is brush for a long time" isn't exactly helpful...albeit likely true.
The stand was primarily maple and cherry with some scattered oaks. Other than a few pockets of alder, the piece wasn't the greatest deer habitat. There were some aspen, but they were definitely not the primary species. Bowjack, should I have some hope that the regrowth won't all be popple because it wasn't all popple before? From what I am hearing, it would probably be a waste of time and money to try to plant hardwood saplings but maybe not such a bad idea to try to get more conifer? Other than a few scattered red and white pine, the property really lacks conifer.
I’ve been doing 8-12 acre clear cuts, spraying and planting white spruce and Norway spruce for thermal cover which is lacking on my farm
If you don’t have thermal cover it could be an idea to consider
If you had some aspen you will get small pockets of it but the rest will likely be alder, berry brush, hazle brush, etc. If you had any invasives, it will explode and managing that should be your only concern. There is no such thing as thermal cover. Evergreens like spruce can provide some shelter from wind but has no thermal benefits.
Hire a forester to come evaluate what you have and recommend how to repair the damage done.
The two comments you didn’t appear to appreciate were from foresters. If you’ll take what I’m about to tell you as non condescending, then I’ll try to tell you what you face from afar. Without ever seeing it.
Aspen is a Young succession tree that will seed sprout well So is cherry. So is red maple. They love canopy disturbance. However, the cherry, few oaks, and maple will stump sprout and hold off seed regeneration of seed sprouts. Just like the aspen stump sprouts will hold off seed sprouting from the other species. Red maple is shade tolerant too. So, eventually the understory will be dominated by red maple once crown canopy is reached. Which isn’t horrible. Deer eat the leaves like crazy in the fall. But, that’s a ways out.
Stump sprouts will kill all planted saplings as well. So, it sounds like you’ve got what you got. And, time will reveal that same mature stand again. Albeit, not in your lifetime.
If you want to keep young succession in the understory, select cut it line LKH said once canopy closure is reached. It’ll be you and a chainsaw as it will have no market value. But, it’ll get you in shape and allow you to release the saplings you want to try and grow. While doing so, when you do find the occasional oak seedling, protect it and cut to grow it if possible, while growing an over story with your hand picked specimens. If you can get the oak to acorn stage in your lifetime, then that’s the only way you are going to potentially change stand composition.
I wouldn’t plant a spruce within 50 Miles of it. It’s very shade tolerant, invasive,,and will change understory species composition. What stand composition you have isn’t horrible. It’s just a time game now.
Good luck and God Bless
Skookumjt and WV Mountaineer, I apologize for the negative comment. The situation with our property has been frustrating and seeing it cut was heartbreaking, although ultimately I think the deer won't mind. I suppose I came onto the forum hoping to read only comments that the future was all rainbows and butterflies when I know it is not. I really do appreciate your expertise and thank you for sharing!
NWWISMAX, when I purchased my property it was nearly void of having enough cover to hide a deer. The deer bedded on the adjoining properties and mostly traveled across mine to destination farm fields and oak wood lots across the road and usually during the cover of darkness. I established a few food plots but I was primarily interested in creating bedding areas and travel corridors so the deer would spend more daylight hours on my small parcel. By planting Norway spruce I hoped to create as much bedding cover as I could in the least amount of time. While the Norways haven't exactly taken off as fast as I hoped the natural regeneration of other trees has started to fill in nicely. They haven't farmed the 80 acres across the road in two years and now my food plots are receiving the brunt of the pressure from deer bedding on mine and the surrounding properties..
The deer are going to love it until canopy closure is achieved. It’s going to be a void wasteland for a while after that if you don’t get in there with a chainsaw and make the stand uneven aged.
That’s the negatives of such a large portion of clear cut versus other forest types you have. Half of your acerage is going to be very productive then, very unproductive until nature thins stem count. That’s where you and the chainsaw can make a difference if you have the time, strength, and fortitude to see it through.
All is not lost. But, it’s very labor intensive to change what the clear cut created. Good luck.
I have a farm in SW Tenn, so my deal may be different than what goes on up north. But I have a forester working with me and we are about to clear cut 60 acres. He tells me it will look horrible, but will provide the healthy browse that deer need over the first few years. He says deer managers he knows in this area then like to burn it every 2 years to keep it in early succession. He said in his experience, there's not enough fuel on the ground to burn in the first 2 years, and I might have to burn at 5 years, and then every 2. You might consider trying this with half or a quarter of your clearcut. Spray glyphosate several times a year in a circumferential path around the test area so you can make a firelane.
I would contact the state forester and biologist to walk the land. It is no cost to you and they can provide some examples of what to do.
Not trying to be a smart guy, but tripods and ground blinds work to kill deer out of. The deer will be there you just need to get creative on how to kill them.