Cutting opens the overstory allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor promoting more, and more nutritious undergrowth. Bob Humphrey photo
By Bob Humphrey
Deer hunting seasons are over or rapidly drawing to a close in most parts of the country, and hunters suddenly find themselves with ample free time for that long list of winter chores, like cutting next year’s firewood. But dedicated hunters know the season never really ends and the more creative ones can find a way to tie even the most mundane task into their hunting agenda. If you consider yourself among them, load the bed of your Side-by-Side up with chain saw, gas, oil and other necessary tools and head for the woods. A properly executed firewood cut will benefit you and the deer in numerous ways.
Woody browse is an important component of a deer’s winter diet, and downed tops provide an unnatural windfall of browse that would otherwise be unavailable to them. You can simply leave the branches where they lay and let the deer feed on them. Or you can clear and stack them.
Don’t just pile brush randomly; pile it strategically. Create natural travel barriers to funnel deer where you want them to go. Place it so they have to walk by your stand, or enter your food plot from a direction other than directly downwind of you. Larger brush piles will also provide shelter for small game like rabbits. Larger tops, especially those of wide-branching trees like oaks, may also provide potential bedding and fawning cover for deer. And in ensuing years the cut stumps will sprout suckers providing still more woody browse.
If you don’t have larger tops, you can also create bedding areas by hinge-cutting and bending over pole-stage trees. Cut the trees part-way through at about head height and pull them over onto their sides. Deer will eat the buds and terminal branches this winter, then use the areas to bed in the future.
Your cutting will also open the overstory, allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor promoting more, and more nutritious undergrowth next spring and summer. If all goes according to plan, a year from now you’ll be sitting by the woodstove enjoying the heat of your own firewood as you sup on a sumptuous bowl of venison stew.