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An exciting step in quail habitat management


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It has been a lifelong dream to work with land and to help bring habitat to its potential.  Quail, of course, takes a focused effort, but it's rewarding throughout the year, with some of the cycles taking many years. 

 

There are several key components to improving or managing quail habitat, and much that involves opening up the landscape and annually burning parts of it. Several years ago a friend of mine from Michigan was helping us on Burn Day.  While burning he was calling a friend of his back home and saying "Yes, we're just going around burning the place up!"  Anyway, after Covid canceled a scheduled February field triaI, I decided about 2 weeks ago to begin a new round of timber thinning. I've been planting trees and managing habitat for the past 22 years; a few of the things I try work; could write a book on those that haven't! 

 

The prices ended up being decent for the pulpwood, chip & saw, and lumber, and with the availability of a crew I’ve used before that are good about helping me protect quail habitat, I decided to give it a go. Anytime I think about cutting timber I worry about the timing of it, particularly in relation to its impact on wildlife. Bringing in a crew, for example, during the summer nesting season is painful to imagine.  Doing it now gives me hope that we'll be all wrapped up by the end of February, which will allow the native grasses to get established in the spring and summer growing season as the sunlight gets to spots it recently hasn't reached much. 

 

This will be the first thinning of some longleaf and the 3rd thinning of some 24 year-old loblolly.  Overall, this should improve some habitat and quail numbers in these sections over the next two years.

 

After they finish the areas with the bigger timber, they'll get after the longleaf. Looking forward to seeing the first thinning of these trees that I planted about 18 years ago. 

 

On day one, we got 14 loads of timber; excited to see how the rest of the effort unfolds so we can return the loading decks to bird habitat and continue improving the landscape for wildlife of all kinds. In the meantime, this timber harvest will be making boards, plywood, and even energy in Europe. 

 

 

 

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Here’s an area before the crew started thinning.  It has some quail, but the ground cover is thin due to the tight canopy overhead, which limited the carrying capacity. We're taking out about half of these 24 year-old trees. The timber crew is carefully leaving strips of undisturbed ground cover throughout the stands. There are several similar stands of timber we'll get to in the days ahead. 

 

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Here's the same spot after the timber was cut.  See the difference? 

 

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You should be able to see the ground cover that was avoided by the crew:

 

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This is from another area of the farm; hopefully soon we'll have more like this:

 

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These are some of the first longleaf I planted.  Areas like this should be beautiful soon:

 

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It's fascinating to watch the teamwork of a timber crew, from cutting to trimming to loading to transporting.  These trees will be going to three different mills, depending on the sizes.

 

 

 

 

Several big cedar trees were cut; will be taking them to a friend's mill to have them cut into boards and planks for some sort of undecided project. Nothing like a cedar-lined closet, for example. 

 

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Even as the trees were being cut and the saws blaring, my pups still found some quail to point.  These disturbed birds don't know it, but hopefully their home will be much improved!

 

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WI Outdoor Nut

Thanks for taking us along.  Keep us posted how it looks in spring, summer and fall.  

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ScottGrush

It's like cleaning out a farm pond where all the fish are stunted. Those remaining trees will benefit from the sunlight, water, and soil nutrients that they DO NOT have to share anymore. Very cool project, enjoy the rewards. 

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Pretty cool to see some longleaf pine being harvested as there’s such a relatively small amount of it still growing across the south. I had these trees planted about 18-19 years ago when the process of learning how to do it was still being fine-tuned. Seedlings were being “containerized,” and how deep to plant them in order to get the best survival wasn’t clear. We had to replant a lot of the trees in the following years in this tract in order to get it right. 
We’re only cutting 20% of the trees now, but as they grow in the years to come, it’s rewarding to know that we’ll eventually help restore some of the longleaf ecosystem that used to dominate this part of the world. 
By the way, they’ve pulled out 43 loads of timber over these first 3 days.  Norboard, a huge international timber company, needed some pulpwood right away for their nearby plywood plant, so we switched gears from the larger lumber today and started getting them some. 

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Huntschool

That really looks great.  Question....  what are you doing with the slash....  I saw a grabber get some from the limber.  Are you going to burn it of shred it for mulch ?

 

Some of that long stuff looks like it could be pole size but I have no idea if there is any value there.  

 

Looks like you have a really good crew working for you.

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52 minutes ago, Huntschool said:

That really looks great.  Question....  what are you doing with the slash....  I saw a grabber get some from the limber.  Are you going to burn it of shred it for mulch ?

 

Some of that long stuff looks like it could be pole size but I have no idea if there is any value there.  

 

Looks like you have a really good crew working for you.

 

The bigger trees are loblolly; selling them primarily to Georgia-Pacific. Trees like this are sold by the ton and reach their highest value when they get to about 30-35 years old. You can let them grow larger, but once they get to around 34" in diameter, they're about too big for the mills these days. These trees aren't yet big enough for poles; should be some that are the next time we thin this tract in 6 or 7 years. 

 

At the moment, the trees will about triple in value as they go from pulpwood size to lumber. 

 

There will be a lot of limbs and such that get burned. We'll be doing that about a week after they've been cut; seems it will burn better then than if you wait a month or more, according to my forester. The actual top portions of the loblolly tree trunks get loaded separately and will be sold as pulpwood.  

 

Here's a bunch of longleaf limbs from today.  They'll be adding more to this pile tomorrow before we start getting ready to flame it up. 

 

 

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Huntschool
3 hours ago, spring said:

 

The bigger trees are loblolly; selling them primarily to Georgia-Pacific. Trees like this are sold by the ton and reach their highest value when they get to about 30-35 years old. You can let them grow larger, but once they get to around 34" in diameter, they're about too big for the mills these days. These trees aren't yet big enough for poles; should be some that are the next time we thin this tract in 6 or 7 years. 

 

At the moment, the trees will about triple in value as they go from pulpwood size to lumber. 

 

There will be a lot of limbs and such that get burned. We'll be doing that about a week after they've been cut; seems it will burn better then than if you wait a month or more, according to my forester. The actual top portions of the loblolly tree trunks get loaded separately and will be sold as pulpwood.  

 

Here's a bunch of longleaf limbs from today.  They'll be adding more to this pile tomorrow before we start getting ready to flame it up. 

 

 

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Thanks.  Hard for me to get a realistic size from what I was seeing.  I thought they were larger in diam.

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3 hours ago, Huntschool said:

 

Thanks.  Hard for me to get a realistic size from what I was seeing.  I thought they were larger in diam.


 

Just to show you how much bigger they can get, here are some old ones I had cut in 2017. Compare these to that load above in my first post....  By the way, these trees, which were about 75 years old, would actually be too large for a typical mill and have a more limited market compared to the more common “younger” tree. 
 

 

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Huntschool
7 hours ago, spring said:


 

Just to show you how much bigger they can get, here are some old ones I had cut in 2017. Compare these to that load above in my first post....  By the way, these trees, which were about 75 years old, would actually be too large for a typical mill and have a more limited market compared to the more common “younger” tree. 
 

 

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Thanks.  Thats some good looking stuff.

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ElhewAngler

Great summary of your efforts !  Thanks for posting always fun to follow the progression of a project. 

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I was working my dogs this morning in a section that will be thinned sometime in the days or weeks ahead. Winter rains, as we had the latter part of this week, can slow things down, often because the heavy equipment back in the piney woods can leave undesirable tracks and trenches on soaked soil. 
Anyway, it was the first time I’d hunted back in this area this season. You should be able to see that the trees per acre impacts the amount of ground cover. It’s huntable now, but has a lot of room for improvement. The quandary, of course, is that the planted pines over time help with making a go of the place. Probably smart to plant more for down the road, but the better bird hunting is kinda nice... Any of you face that kind of issue? 
For the time being, I’m going with birds....😀
 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

At our club in Richland County SC, there has just been a large cutting of trees for market. Some were thinned but a lot was cleared. In one 90 acre stand they got a lot of pole trees.

 

In other areas trees are going to the paper company just down the road.

 

There will be some burning next month.

 

They have a designated area of almost 50 acres where they burn every so often and they are letting those trees grow for poles. Not much else is there. We released 750 birds in this area early January and have had a number of successful hunts. We have done some planting to help the birds but a lot of sorghum was added.

 

Hawks and owls have eaten too.

 

Just some rambling..... 

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53 minutes ago, R Patten said:

At our club in Richland County SC, there has just been a large cutting of trees for market. Some were thinned but a lot was cleared. In one 90 acre stand they got a lot of pole trees.

 

In other areas trees are going to the paper company just down the road.

 

There will be some burning next month.

 

They have a designated area of almost 50 acres where they burn every so often and they are letting those trees grow for poles. Not much else is there. We released 750 birds in this area early January and have had a number of successful hunts. We have done some planting to help the birds but a lot of sorghum was added.

 

Hawks and owls have eaten too.

 

Just some rambling..... 

How many acres do you have that you released these birds on and how did you go about releasing these birds exp.  covies ?  I’m guessing these were grown birds. 

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2 hours ago, R Patten said:

At our club in Richland County SC, there has just been a large cutting of trees for market. Some were thinned but a lot was cleared. In one 90 acre stand they got a lot of pole trees.

 

In other areas trees are going to the paper company just down the road.

 

There will be some burning next month.

 

They have a designated area of almost 50 acres where they burn every so often and they are letting those trees grow for poles. Not much else is there. We released 750 birds in this area early January and have had a number of successful hunts. We have done some planting to help the birds but a lot of sorghum was added.

 

Hawks and owls have eaten too.

 

Just some rambling..... 

 

Sounds like some good timber management going on. Poles don't grow everywhere and can generally reflect that you've got a good site index --and good soil--on the acreage. Hopefully they sold the poles separately from the regular lumber as they typically sell at a premium. 

 

The time for burning is approaching, or here now if you're burning younger timber stands. I try to burn somewhere around the 3rd or 4th week in March; kills the young hardwoods after the sap has started to rise but before the underbrush starts greening up too much.   Here's a pic from Monday morning; won't look like this in a month or so.... :) 

 

 

 

 

 

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