John's Journal...

What to Do on Your Hunting Lands Before Deer Season Starts

Day 3: Burn Land to Improve Wildlife Habitat for Deer, Turkeys and Quail

Editor’s Note: For the most success in the upcoming fall deer season, you need to take some time to plan now. By taking steps now, you’ll have better deer hunting in the future, a more-bountiful deer herd and improved turkey hunting.

Click for Larger View“During the spring of the year, I’ll sit down on the ground to hunt turkeys after a burn, as soon as I know I won’t get my butt scorched, because I’ll see so-many turkeys then,” says Dr. Grant Woods, a nationally-known wildlife biologist from Reeds Spring, Missouri. Once considered a devastating event that destroyed wildlife, fire, when used properly, will benefit wildlife greatly and improve hunting lands. Before the days of rapid response and high-tech fire fighting, lightning strikes often caused portions of woods to burn each year. But because landowners for a long time viewed fire as a destructive force affecting timber and wildlife, someone generally put-out forest fires almost as quickly as they started. Click for Larger ViewIn recent years, foresters and wildlife managers both have learned that controlled burning and sometimes the use of herbicides will increase timber and wildlife production.

According to Ron Herbster, the forest-fire-management officer for USDA Forest Service in Alabama, the US Forest Service only does prescribed burning in national forests, including ranger districts, areas open to the public and regions open for hunting. “We only burn under specific conditions,” Herbster says. “If the humidity falls too low or if the winds blow too hard, we don’t burn. We must have a list of weather parameters in place before we decide to do prescribed burning. The people in charge of setting these fires have received training for several years both in the classroom and through experience; therefore, they can recognize risky situations.”

Advantages of Prescribed Burning:

Click for Larger ViewBy executing a prescribed burn, you dispose of hazardous natural fuels. Herbster explains that, “Whenever fallen leaves accumulate faster on the ground than they can decompose, that build-up can fuel a hard-to-control, intense wild fire.” Also burning keeps much of the underbrush killed-back, so it doesn’t compete with other vegetation. “Through prescribed burning, we can cause edge effects, which positively affect wildlife,” Herbster reports. “Wildlife uses the edges of fields and timberlands for travel routes and habitats. Click for Larger ViewBird species, like quail, doves, turkeys and songbirds, nest in dense areas but prefer to move to open areas to feed, and a number of wildlife species must have burned places to survive. “Too, deer will occupy the burned edges of fields and timberlands more so than other species,” Herbster mentions. “As a deer hunter, I set-up my stands near edges where the deer seem to congregate.” Herbster explains that a burn releases nitrogen back into the soil, thereby increasing plant production. “The burn knocks-down much of the vegetation to a level the deer and the turkeys can feed on it. After a prescribed burn, the vegetation becomes more palatable to the deer. Turkeys love burned regions. In early spring, they can find bugs easier in there. I don’t know for sure, but they seem to love to eat the acorns they find under the ashes after a burn.”

Herbster says a prescribed burning also helps the quail population in an area. “Quail need a more-frequent burn program than other species do. The Forest Service recommends a 2-year-burn rotation for the most-productive quail-habitat management.”

To learn more about Dr. Grant Woods, visit his website at

Tomorrow: Species that Benefit from Prescribed Burning

Check back each day this week for more about "What to Do on Your Hunting Lands Before Deer Season Starts"

Day 1:Install Stalking Lanes in Pine Plantations to be More Successful Hunting Deer in the Fall
Day 2: How to Install a Stalking Lane to Hunt Deer Better
Day 3: Burn Land to Improve Wildlife Habitat for Deer, Turkeys and Quail
Day 4: Species that Benefit from Prescribed Burning
Day 5: Have Healthier Deer and More Quality Habitat by Using Trail Cameras


Entry 570, Day 3