Fire Up The Chainsaw for Better Whitetail Habitat

Food plots are all the rage these days, but if you really want to make deer happy, cut some trees. Recent studies show that 41 percent of a whitetail's diet consists of browse, which is gleaned largely from young trees that sprout up following logging operations, or natural events, like fire, windstorms, or tornados. Also, deer seek out second-growth cover for bedding and security cover.

In short, young trees equal prime whitetail habitat, and I spent the better part of my March spare time working on a small clearcut in the woods behind my house. My neighbor owns the property and lets me hunt there. We didn't fire up chainsaws and just start randomly whacking trees. We focused our effort on a rugged ditch where a mature stand of aspen (we call them "popple" here in the Midwest) grew, along with a smattering of other species.

My friend, hunting buddy, and professional logger, Tom, served as our advisor-by-phone. He told us to drop the popples and any other low-value trees, sparing only potentially-valuable or beneficial-to-wildlife species. I've seen enough of Tom's work to know things were going to look messy when we were done, and the photo above serves as evidence.

But as hunters know, deer detest parks. By the end of summer, I'm predicting the jackstraw appearance of our chainsaw work is going to resemble the photo below.

This is another clearcut which was completed about one year ago. I shot this picture just before hunting season. The popple stems here are over 6 feet tall--and there was plenty of deer sign.