Many times, Ozark landowners or those who have forested tracts of land, ask about what they can do with their timber stands to help improve quail and other wildlife habitat. Most quail management information is based on crop field borders, CRP, and other grassland management. There are, however, numerous management practices that you can do as a landowner to improve your timber for quail, as well as many other species of wildlife such as rabbits, wild turkey, and white-tail deer.
One such way is implementing the practice of timber thinning, commonly referred to as Timber Stand Improvement (TSI), on your forested acres. This TSI practice increases the density and diversity of vegetation on the forest floor as well as can improve and promote a healthy forested tract. Contacting your local Private Lands Conservationist (PLC) or Forester for further information and assistance on this type of timber management can be an excellent first step to doing an upcoming TSI practice for quail and many upland wildlife species. This practice can also be used in conjunction with several other practices below if the landowner desires and has the areas of timber to do multiple practices.
Another timber management practice that is becoming more popular with some landowners is doing small 2 to 10 acre regeneration cuts (also called clear cuts), or what we generally refer to as temporary wildlife openings in your timber stands. This type of management practice is vital to species such as ruffed grouse and woodcock, which are early-successional forest specialists and require young, dense forests to thrive. These regeneration cuts benefit many species, including providing excellent food sources and escape cover for quail, as well as providing a diverse food source and bedding cover for white-tail deer, nesting cover for wild turkeys, and excellent cottontail rabbit habitat for many years following the regeneration cut. Again contacting your PLC or forester is an excellent way to begin the process of doing a regeneration cut in the correct location in your timber stand. A small timber harvest is generally the easiest way to create these areas. By removing the trees from the canopy, sunlight is then allowed to reach the forest floor, therefore stimulating a flush of new dense vegetation and growth at a very young age. These can then be left to grow for a period of 5 to 20 years depending on your management goals for the area. For a landowner who still wants to leave a few desirable trees standing in these small openings, a variation of this practice can be done by creating a Shelter-wood cut where maybe 10 to 15 trees per acre are left standing but the rest are removed, thus allowing for a diverse mixture of tree densities and vegetation to flourish in the newly created opening.
As you can see, you can try one or a combination of the above early successional timber management practices to create some quality habitat in your existing timber stands, even if in a small size area you have to work with. This will benefit not only quail and other targeted species of wildlife you are managing for, but also many non-game species which will be utilizing your newly managed timber tracts that you have created.
For additional habitat tips on early successional habitat management, and other habitat management practices that could be beneficial to your lands, be sure to look thru several of the past blog posts below this one for further information.
About the author: Through an agreement between the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF) and Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Nick Prough serves as the Wildlife Partnership Coordinator for Missouri and Chief Wildlife Biologist for QUWF. Before working for QUWF, Nick worked for MDC for over 11 years, 8 of those as a Private Land Conservationist in the Kansas City Region.