Habitat in the Making

I may never convince a Sierra Club member, but a clear-cut is a thing of beauty. Of course you can't sugar-coat the initial mess; there are log-sections lying about, tree tops strewn like jack straws, and a whole lot of chaos where shortly before a forest once stood.
Not many years ago, a tornado blitzed the main street of a nearby town, leveling pretty much everything. The aftermath resembled a clearcut, minus the appliances and household furniture.

But clearcuts are a whitetail hunter's best friend, and I witnessed the making of one just last week on my northern Wisconsin turkey hunt. My hosts, loggers Tom and Jeff Van Doorn, were working on a nearby timber sale and invited my father and me to see their handiwork. Tom even fired up his "Timber Jack" harvester--a half-million dollar automated implement that cuts, peels and stacks logs--and gave us a half-hour demo. The photo above shows some of the results of his handiwork.

This is deer heaven in the making, folks. By this summer, new growth or "re-gen" (short for regeneration) will be sprouting all over the place. And in the years to come, young aspen (in Wisconsin we call 'em "popple") and maple will provide abundant browse and mohair-dense cover for whitetails, black bears, ruffed grouse, woodcock, turkeys, rabbits, hares and too many songbirds and small critters to count.

Pheasant, quail and waterfowl hunters adore CRP acres, but if you hunt deer--or any of the other species mentioned above--you should be clamoring for clearcuts with equal passion. Naturally, not all tree species are best managed by clearcutting, but for those that are, we need to keep this practice robust. This is getting increasingly difficult on federally-managed forests, where protests and lawsuits by anti-management folk can hamstring sound forestry for years…if not stop it altogether.

But where I hunted with Tom and Jeff, state- and county-owned forests are managed vigorously. The logging industry is a critical cog in creating healthy forest stands, better wildlife habitat, finer hunting, and a more robust economy. To the uninitiated, the photo above may resemble a natural disaster. To me, it screams "whitetail paradise!"