How Quail Habitat Management Can Help Your Deer Season

Published on: Nov. 5, 2009

several deer hunters who often place their bow stands next to temporary forest openings or clearcuts. Two or three years after the cut, the site is full of nutritious woody and herbaceous growth. Edge feathering also provides green browse and is an effective way to funnel deer past your stand. If you have ever tried to walk through good edge feathering, it is nearly impossible to do.

Here's the plan. Edge feather the entire edge of a field or at least a 100- to 150-yard section. Do not edge feather a 40- to 60-yard section around your deer stand. The edge feathering on both sides of your stand should act like a living fence. The opening around your stand will provide deer an easy access to the field. This strategy should funnel a few more deer past your stand.

Natural Community Restoration

Restoring open woodlands, glades, savannas and prairies is beneficial to deer for the same reasons old field management and timber stand improvement are beneficial--green browse and bedding habitat. In fact, landowners often use the same management techniques--first thin woody cover and second disturb the site with prescribed fire. Typically, glades and woodlands occur on south- and west-facing slopes. During the winter these sites provide better thermal cover (warmer and drier) than north- or east-facing slopes.


Establish Native Warm-Season Grasses with Legumes and Native Forbs

Several years ago I worked with a landowner in north-central Missouri who was a die-hard quail and deer hunter. During our first visit I recommended converting a large fescue field to native warm-season grasses and wildflowers for better quail habitat. I told the landowner that native warm-season grasses provide good cover for quail and excellent bedding and fawning habitat for deer. I recommended planting a mix of little bluestem and wildflowers. What sold the landowner was that the grass would be just tall enough to hide deer and short enough for a deer to see over the top, and, by the way, it would be excellent quail habitat. He converted more than 60 acres of fescue that year.

The other day the landowner called with a few questions about spraying sericea lespedeza. He was amazed by the number of deer beds he found in the warm-season grass field. "Nearly everywhere I look there's deer sign in the warm-season grass field," he explained. In the past the field was a hay pasture that provided little cover during the summer and absolutely no cover during the fall and winter. Now the warm-season grass is about 4 feet tall. Notice in the picture above how most of the warm-season grass is waist high, perfect for loafing deer. The landowner sees a lot of deer in the field during the hunting season. There are also a few coveys in the field. Consider establishing native warm-season grasses and wildflowers for better fawning and bedding habitat.

Deer habitat management is big bucks in Missouri and throughout the nation. Many landowners only plant food plots, when they could be doing so much more. Next year, go ahead and plant your deer food plots, but also consider managing old fields, establishing native grasses and/or restoring natural communities for quail and white-tailed deer. What’s good for quail is good for most other wildlife.

Aaron P. Jeffries

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