Making Habitat for Bob, Tom and Buck

Published on: Apr. 1, 2009

will be good quail habitat. Instead incorporate quail friendly practices such as timber stand improvement, temporary forest openings and old field renovation into your wildlife management plan. You might never see a bobwhite on your place, but I guarantee you'll improve habitat for deer and turkey.

Most oak hickory forest in Missouri are overstocked with trees. Thinning out undesirable and less productive trees (a.k.a. Forest Stand Improvement) will improve tree growth and stimulate the growth of young trees, shrubs and native legumes on the forest floor. The flush of new growth provides excellent deer browse and brooding cover for turkeys (see picture below).

Fifty years ago there were numerous small fields throughout Missouri's landscape. Over time, these fields have been abandoned. Today, these "old fields" are choked full of undesirable trees such as locust, hedge, elm and eastern red cedar. Consider rejuvenating these old fields by clearing or cutting out the undesirable trees. You can use a chainsaw (the hard way), bulldozer, bullhog, or tree clipper. Plant the cleared area to a food plot or native grasses or letting the field grow up in seedy plants. Disturb the field every few years with disking or burning to stimulate even more seedy plants. The rejuvenated field will provide good browse for deer and an excellent strutting area for turkey.

On south or west facing slopes I like to establish 1/4- to 2-acre temporary forest openings. Before starting, make sure you work with a biologist or forester to pick out a suitable site. It may sound drastic but all you need to do is cut down all the trees. Yep, cut them all down or at least most of them. You can use the cut trees for firewood or just leave them. You can save a couple nice oaks or soft mast trees for food sources, but cut everything else down. Over the next five to ten years the opening will grow up in tree saplings, shrubs and herbaceous plants. These food and cover meccas are great places to deer hunt. Turkeys like forest openings too. The abundance of new sprouts and overhead cover provide ideal nesting and brooding cover.

The Proof is in the Picture

The past couple years I've been helping a friend with managing his farm for quail. We've planted native warm-season grasses, edge feathered, restored woodlands, cleared old fields and created forest openings. Quail have returned, and the deer and turkey hunting has never been better!

Habitat is the Key!

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