Fight the Lack of Food with Fire

Fight the Lack of Food with Fire
Prescribed fire can be one of the most beneficial wildlife management tools that exists, but it is often the most underutilized, specifically in deer management. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

For many years, the forests of much of North America were maintained in park-like settings. Large towering trees dotted a young, lush forest floor. There were not timber or wildlife managers. Nature groomed itself to provide high quality forage and cover for its animals. The primary force behind that management was fire.

Fast forward to today and the term fire is often associated with something bad. From Smokey the Bear’s “only you can prevent forest fires” to houses consumed in Western wildfires, fire is not something that many want to see outside of the confines of their fireplace, fire pit or charcoal grill. But the fact is, fire, in a controlled or prescribed manner, can be one of the most effective and underutilized tools we have in wildlife and land management, particularly for deer.

When we think about fires burning in the woods, many of us may have flashes of extreme wildfires in the West. This is far from the case for fire in wildlife management. The goal of a prescribed fire is usually focused around burning off (leaf) litter and potentially killing or reducing some shrubs and woody browse to set back the succession. Deer prefer to have access to young, high nutritious forbs in the spring and summer, as well as nutritious woody browse for most of the year. Often these become undesirable or unfound, as the forest ages, canopies in the trees close, and leaf litter covers the ground stifling any new seeds to germinate.

A prescribed fire can be done in late winter to early spring, or during the growing season, like late summer or early fall. The timing is often based on the main focus of the burn. If you are looking to kill off vegetation, then burning during the growing season is best. If you want to top-kill and burn off leaf litter, then the late winter to early spring burn is in order. With both, the fire will often never reach more than waist height. A low fire will get the job done and produce food and cover for your deer and other wildlife.


Policy
(Jeremy Flinn photo)


It’s important to note that you do have to control your fire. This is often done with fire breaks. A fire break can range from a dirt road to a planted or disked lane to a large crop field. Anything that can impede the fires progression will be considered an adequate fire break.


One of the most important burning decisions to be made is weather conditions. It’s obvious that burning on a very windy day is not the brightest thing to do, but it still needs to be said. Humidity is a good thing to have during a burn; it will keep the fire under control and the fuel load from getting too hot.

Though fire might not be for every deer hunter or manager, it can be an extremely effective tool. Add to the fact you can do it sections at a time, on a five to seven year rotation, and a strategic burning program can bring you a great return with little investment.

Recommended for You

If you've been catching catfish with the same method for years, it's time to change it up and learn a new baiting technique. Fishing How-To

Your Guide for the Best Catfish Baits

G&F Staff

If you've been catching catfish with the same method for years, it's time to change it up and...

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat. Guns

MidwayUSA Pro Series Shooting Mat

G&F Staff

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

Berkley

Berkley's Frittside Crankbaits

World Fishing Network show host Chad LaChance had a chance to visit with legendary crankbait master David Fritts about his new Frittside crankbaits from Berkley. LaChance, host of the Fishful Thinker on WFN, also got a few cranking tips from Fritts, the former Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them. Reels

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common reel performance problems and how to fix them.

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

See More Stories

More Whitetail

Learn the lingo to improve your odds in the whitetail woods. Whitetail

8 Deer Vocalizations You Must Master

Mike Marsh - November 26, 2019

Learn the lingo to improve your odds in the whitetail woods.

Can you pattern bucks during the rut? The answer is yes, and here's how. Hunting How-To

Order Out of Chaos: Patterning Rutting Bucks

David Johnson

Can you pattern bucks during the rut? The answer is yes, and here's how.

It's not over after the rut, and your best whitetail hunting may still be ahead. Whitetail

Make Late Season the Great Season

Mark Chesnut - November 20, 2019

It's not over after the rut, and your best whitetail hunting may still be ahead.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.