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Controlled Burns Rejuvenate Whitetail Grasslands

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April 22, 2011

Controlled Burns Rejuvenate Whitetail Grasslands

By Scott Bestul

In one of my recent posts, I discussed using a chainsaw to create deer habitat. This time our tool will be something equally effective; fire. Whitetails are, of course, primarily woodland animals, but they’ve also adapted marvelously to prairies, marshes and other treeless environments. And even where forests grow, deer will use tall grass for bedding, fawning, and escape cover.

Just as logging maintains the young-growth forests where whitetails thrive, fire is what rejuvenates prairie grass. In earlier times, prairie fires were a fairly common natural occurrence, and Native Americans also set them on purpose, realizing full well the benefits that fire held for grasslands and wildlife.

These days, smaller “controlled” burns are used to manage and maintain stands of prairie grass, and I was lucky enough to tag along with my friend Ross Greden—a habitat and food plot expert—as he did a small burn near my home. This video illustrates that enjoyable day. By the way, if you’re contemplating a burn and have no experience, please get some professional help first. This is hot, deadly business, and there are few small mistakes.

Comments (9)

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from jamesti wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

couldn't get the video to come up. good advice about getting a pro to help. you don't want another texas episode.

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from jakenbake wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Yeah, please make sure you know what you're doing or you hire someone who knows what they're doing. Also it probably wouldn't hurt to check with local authorities to make sure you're allowed to do such a thing. I have no idea if there are laws/regulations that would cover this, but it's better to find out before the fact rather than after.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

The video worked okay for me. Interesting process but the one thing I noticed is that they had a wide area of just green grass surrounding this. Also he did just what he could handle.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fromthepeavine wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Do the federal agencies ever do any controlled burning on the public hunting grounds anywhere?

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from Kenton wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Ohio does controlled burns on public lands. As Jakenbake noted you better check local and state laws before trying it yourself. I have several acres of CRP land and occassionally Soil and Water will recommend a burn but you need someone licensed at the sight with equipment to control the fire should it get out of control.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioboy wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

One recommendation for anyone who is interested in burning- contact your local fire department, they will often do the burn for free as training for themselves. That way it's a win win for everyone and you can burn safely.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from crawfish.cody.50 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

That's a nice use of a Drip Torch.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Controlled burns are wonderful tools for game/land management. Just make sure your firebreaks are adequate (and then some) and that you burn into the breeze and downhill to keep the fire from getting too hot and active. Ditto on the professional help, and if you do it yourself, make sure you have the right equipment and enough help to take care of any problems.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Some people think of Kansas as being flat and barren, no trees. My family is from Hutchinson, Kansas and the surrounding area. Photos from 80 years ago show few trees. Some of those same areas, today, are covered with trees and are practically woodlands. The land has always been capable of maintaining that kind of environment, the difference is that we have stopped the prairie fires, which used to keep the land clear of trees.

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from jakenbake wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Yeah, please make sure you know what you're doing or you hire someone who knows what they're doing. Also it probably wouldn't hurt to check with local authorities to make sure you're allowed to do such a thing. I have no idea if there are laws/regulations that would cover this, but it's better to find out before the fact rather than after.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

couldn't get the video to come up. good advice about getting a pro to help. you don't want another texas episode.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kenton wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Ohio does controlled burns on public lands. As Jakenbake noted you better check local and state laws before trying it yourself. I have several acres of CRP land and occassionally Soil and Water will recommend a burn but you need someone licensed at the sight with equipment to control the fire should it get out of control.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioboy wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

One recommendation for anyone who is interested in burning- contact your local fire department, they will often do the burn for free as training for themselves. That way it's a win win for everyone and you can burn safely.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from country road wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Controlled burns are wonderful tools for game/land management. Just make sure your firebreaks are adequate (and then some) and that you burn into the breeze and downhill to keep the fire from getting too hot and active. Ditto on the professional help, and if you do it yourself, make sure you have the right equipment and enough help to take care of any problems.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

The video worked okay for me. Interesting process but the one thing I noticed is that they had a wide area of just green grass surrounding this. Also he did just what he could handle.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fromthepeavine wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Do the federal agencies ever do any controlled burning on the public hunting grounds anywhere?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from crawfish.cody.50 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

That's a nice use of a Drip Torch.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Some people think of Kansas as being flat and barren, no trees. My family is from Hutchinson, Kansas and the surrounding area. Photos from 80 years ago show few trees. Some of those same areas, today, are covered with trees and are practically woodlands. The land has always been capable of maintaining that kind of environment, the difference is that we have stopped the prairie fires, which used to keep the land clear of trees.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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