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Late Summer Habitat Chores

Published on: Oct. 1, 2009

Looks like most folks were spraying invasives, preparing winter food plots and to my surprise... edge feathering!

I wonder how many people were edge feathering or had it on the list of things to do this winter? We had a mild summer in Missouri, but running a chainsaw any time the temperature is above 70 degrees takes a dedicated person... maybe a little nuts too. By the way, I did some chainsaw work in August!

image of prescribed burnI'm disappointed that more people aren't burning warm-season grass fields in late summer. Talk about a great time to burn. Just the other day we burned about 40 acres at a friend's farm. We did three different burns (each was about 5 to 20 acres in size). We finished all three burns in less than two hours and never used a gallon of water or lifted a rake. Summer burns can be "rake leaners" when you have nice firelines. For example, one small warm-season grass field was surrounded by a volunteer stand of white clover. We finished the burn in 15 minutes. The burn really hammered the warm-season grass and autumn olive sprouts. The next burn was a glade complex that had a sprout problem. It looks like woods in the picture above, but you can't see the open glade because of all the smoke. In 2005 all the cedars were cut off the hillside (see picture below). We then burned the glade one year later. What a fire! The site looks much better but was in need of a summer burn to set back woody sprouts and the big bluestem and Indian grass that sprouted after we removed the cedars. There's also some fescue on the glade. This fall we will come back and spray the fescue. It would have been impossible to spray the fescue through the tall warm-season grass. Burning is a great way to prepare a site for a herbicide application.

Anyhow, the glade/woodland burn went great. Again, we had great firelines and used the edge of the woods as the primary fireline. We had a secondary fireline (a trail in the woods). The fire went great. The fire went out as soon as the flames hit the edge of the woods or the shade of a big oak tree. We never needed the secondary line.

The next burn was an old warm-season grass field that was last burned in August 2006. Two wet summers have resulted in a rank stand of grass and lots of sumac. This was an incredible fire. The sky turned black with smoke and flames were jumping 10 to 15 feet high! It was pretty impressive.

Oh, we never used a gallon of water. As you can see the burn really hammered the sumac sprouts, but they will be back next year. This field is divided by a flood plot (under the powerline in the picture) so the other half of the field still has some great cover for wildlife.

By the way, here are the complete poll results for what landowners were doing this summer for quail.

Planting winter browse food plots - 9 (52 percent)

Conducting prescribed burns - 2 (11 percent)

Spraying invasive plants like sericea lespdeza - 9 (52 percent)

Mowing rank stands of vegetation - 3 (17 percent)

Strip disking fields - 4 (23 percent)

Disking firelines - 8 (47 percent)

Mowing game trails - 2 (11 percent)

Conducting TSI - 1 (5 percent)

Edge feathering - 6 (35 percent)

Building deer stands - 6 (35 percent)

Spraying invasive grasses like fescue, brome or bermuda grass - 10 (58 percent)

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