Throughout the year, hunters and land managers are always looking for ways to boost the quality and quantity of game on their properties. While managing wildlife is important, managing habitat will make the greatest impact, and forest manipulation is the best way to influence habitat without having to make a withdrawal from the bank. 

Forest manipulation can be achieved in several ways, but the best and most economical is strategic timber harvest, which can also be one of the most-economical methods to improve wildlife habitat diversity and hold wildlife year-round. 

Silviculture is the term coined to define forest- or timber-management activities that control the establishment, growth, composition, health and the quality of forests. Harvesting timber is a necessary evil on any stand, and thinning and clear-cutting are sound management tactics that must be incorporated into every timber-management plan. 

To scale, silviculture activities have the greatest effect on wildlife habitat, a form of change where wildlife benefits. From clear-cut harvests to site- preparation treatments, deer and their habitat are tremendously affected. Luckily, these treatments create massive foraging opportunities with the growth of tender forbs, grasses and other tasty treats well within reach of deer and other wildlife. 

As a renewable resource, forests are planted and harvested over the course of many years, drastically changing the habitat at the time of final harvest. But a forest produces a variety of cover types during its lifespan. From clear-cut terrain to the mature forest, each of these stages encourages various plant communities to thrive, and wildlife benefit in one way or the other with creation of bedding area, protected corridors and/or forage production.

Logging activities stimulate succession and growth of grasses, shrubs and saplings within the area of disturbance. Sunlight penetration kick-starts natural succession, allowing dormant seeds to germinate and grow. Grasses and forbs emerge first, followed by shrubs and small tree saplings. As soon as the first sprout erupts from the soil, deer will begin to flood the area, munching on the tender, young vegetation. This brushy, early succession phase provides three to four times the bio-energy production of a mature stand. 

So what does this mean for wildlife management? It’s simple. Every time a portion of a stand of trees is harvested in some manner, wildlife benefit. Intensely managed forests create benefits. 

While strategic timber harvests provide wildlife with food and cover, hunters will also benefit from  opportunities that are created. Selective and clear-cut harvests give hunters places for stands with better vision into clear cuts and down thinned lanes. 

Additionally, hunters can create new food plots; sites need to be chosen that have the best potential. The areas on a property that produce the best timber have fertile soils and are moderately well- drained are ideal for new food plots. Areas that produce the best timber will produce the best plots.

While not always immediate, deer and other wildlife benefit every time a logging crew enters the forest. Timber management and silviculture activities are recommended to keep forests and wildlife happy.

Get professional forestry advice that fits your goals and objectives. By state law in North Carolina and South Carolina, only professional foresters registered with licensing boards as a consulting forester may give forest-management advice such as reforestation, thinning and harvesting practices. Also, choosing a forester is also as a certified wildlife biologist will insure sound management advice to meet both wildlife and forest-management objectives.