What is in this article?:
- Fire a key to wildlife management
- Wildlife benefits
- Fire has always been a natural part of our ecosystem. The earliest known Native Americans burned the land as they moved around to create fresh grazing and new browse for wildlife.
Prescribed burns benefit wildlife by keeping the browse under the 3-foot range, which allows wildlife such as deer to reach it. Burning also stimulates new growth and keeps that growth young, tender and palatable.
Burning is essential to quail and turkey production by opening up the understory and encouraging plant growth for both seed production and bugging areas. The year following a burn you will notice a definite increase in wildlife utilization. Quail and turkey will be using the burn areas within a few days.
I have seen turkeys move into burn areas while they are still smoking, looking for insects, lizards and small mammals that did not escape the fire. Whitetail deer will migrate to the area for the fresh young browse and new forbs created.
Fire also scarifies seeds such as partridge pea, honeysuckle, ragweed and other forbs that have lain under the soil for hundreds of years into production. Fire helps open up the tree canopy to allow sunlight to penetrate the ground for plant production.
Site preparation is essential for a proper controlled burn. Fire lanes must be constructed between different forest types or different age types to restrict fire. These fire lanes also allow you to burn different areas in different years. Usually three-year rotations are the norm -- in other words you will burn the same area every three years.
Fire lanes need to be 12 to 20 feet in width, kept clean and planted in cereal grains if possible. Care should be taken when constructing fire lanes on hills to avoid erosion.
Prior to the burn date consult your local forestry agency for any local laws or permits needed and to seek advice they can provide. Make sure you have the proper equipment and personnel to handle the fire and only burn the amount of land you can safely handle.
After the burn is complete, make sure all fire is extinguished along fire lanes. I like to do this at night when very small fires are visible. A 25-gallon sprayer on the back of a 4-wheeler is the best tool to shut down these hotspots.
Prescribed fire is the best tool available for wildlife management and helps grow a healthy forest. Be safe and let your local fire department know when your burn will be taking place.