By David O. Heishman –
Trees. Which to plant. Where to plant them. Dilemma.
You folks who read my columns regularly, know I had timber cut late last summer, early fall. My stand of Pin Oaks had contracted disease and foresters recommended I cut them out rather than let them die willy-nilly and be wasted. I made a deal with a logger and he cleaned them out in short order.
I’d like to let nature decide what to let grow where. I’d like a woods thick with native shrubs and small trees. I’d like the transition from first growth species to dominant upper story trees. I’d like to just let it grow back natural.
But I’m afraid. Deer won’t let that happen. My place is loaded with the four legged creatures and they’ve kept my woods trimmed out for years. Only things that seem to grow undisturbed are invasive species. Only one of those that deer seem to like to eat is Ailanthus (Tree Of Heaven) and nipping off the tops of Ailanthus simply triggers growth of more shoots from roots.
Perhaps my problem is worse, because for many years Pap grazed cattle in those woods. No fences between pastures and wooded ground, cows roamed freely within outer fenced boundaries. I don’t think he realized cows were doing then same thing deer are doing today. He remembered when much of that same woods was cleared pasture where cattle grazed and saw no reason not to continue grazing when he came back to farm the home place himself.
One of first things I did when I took over operations following his death, was to separate woods from pasture. I did it mainly to hold livestock up closer where I could keep a better eye on them and not have to tramp thirty or forty acres of woods hunting newborn calves or missing cows. Fence maintenance was a lot simpler on a couple hundred yards of smooth high tensile wire than on several thousand feet of old rusty patched woven wire.
Deer took up where cows left off. Years ago when cows grazed there deer herd was much smaller. Perhaps that was partly because cows ate their browse before deer got to it. Whatever the reasons, now cows are gone, deer have proliferated and there has been no under growth or regrowth around fallen mature trees.