The people's voice of reason

Pine Trees Can Be A Great Management Tool

I find that the most interesting things in the outdoors are the unexpected surprises. Those bits of knowledge you come across that you just plain weren't expecting. Ever since I started working with QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association), I've confirmed a lot of the things I already knew, but I've discovered a heap more of things I didn't! Today, I want to talk about trees. Pine trees, to be exact.

I recently came across an article put out by Stephanie Mallory of Great Days Outdoors Magazine, and I want to share some of that paradigm-shifting knowledge with all of y'all. Some of you may not have a warm place in your heart for the mighty pine, as they're not the number one source of food for deer, but you can take heart knowing that they are #2. Deer will occasionally munch on some young, green pine cones, the needles, even the twigs. Heck, even turkeys rely on a good stand of pines for habitat. There are also more than a few other kinds of critters that rely solely on pine trees for habitat, and without proper care, we could lose them, Eastern Rattlesnakes and all.

Of course, there's more to it than just hunting. Pines are serious business in Alabama, as they're used in furniture, wood pulp, land management, construction, and all sorts of other stuff. Of the pines in Alabama, there are 6 different varieties of Southern Yellow Pine, including longleaf, loblolly, slash, shortleaf, Virginia, and spruce. Longleaf is the state's official tree, as it turns out.

Now, I'm not talking about pine plantations, as some of you might be thinking of. Those aren't terribly great for animal habitat, but if done right, pines are wonderful for natural habitat. As pines grow, they start out thick and numerous. So thick that people can't really go through them, but that doesn't stop deer. It gives them a nice space to lose a predator on their tail. Pines also like a good burning; it helps clear out the underbrush and weaker trees. Deer can't work with 10 foot tall trees, after all, so keeping the low growth closer to the ground helps them and other critters out a great deal.

Naturally, the best setup you can have is a mosaic of pines and hardwoods, but if given the opportunity or choice, you should settle for what grows best in the soil you have available. Some trees do better with soil that has higher moisture content, while others, like a lot of pines, do well with dry and sandy soil. There are always exceptions, but it pays to plan ahead for the long term.

There's a whole lot of information about forestry and the different applications it has online, with the article written by Stephanie being a prime example. And as always, if you're interested in setting up a prescribed burn, always plan ahead, take every safety precaution, and consult with a local burn expert. You also will need a burn permit, which you can find more information for at Fire is serious business, and just like using firearms, should always be respected and handled with great care.

Summer's still hot, with plenty of rain to keep it muggy. QDMA's got me hitting the road, visiting all sorts of fine folks and learning more and more about excellent management practices. I hope the rest of you are getting some good work in this summer, because before you know it, deer season will be back again, in full swing. So get out there, check out those trees, don't play with fire, and go get'em!


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