Marcus Lashley, assistant professor at Mississippi State’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, has figured out why—and developed a simple, cost-effective way to create more good feed for the deer on your land.
Marcus had long noticed that even when forbs and other foods were in abundance, deer still preferred to browse the sprouts from cut hardwoods when available.
“As a kid sitting on a tree stand, I noticed that deer were eating from the stump of a hardwood I’d cut down. I was curious about why, because hardwood trees are nutritionally poor for deer,” he said.
With research funding through MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Marcus and grad student Don Chance cut a range of red maples (a species known for being nutritionally poor), and measured the nutrient quality of the leaves. They also monitored the stumps’ attractiveness to deer with game cameras.
They found that the sprout growth from cut stumps had much higher nutrient levels and was highly attractive to deer.
“Trees maintain an even distribution of nutrients throughout the roots and above ground foliage,” Chance said. “When the tree gets cut, the nutrients get redistributed, and the tree up-regulates the nutrients in its roots into the sprouts on the stump, which leads to nutritious forage for (deer).”
They found that tree cutting is especially beneficial during the summer, when plants begin to dry and lose their nutrients.
Cutting stumps during the summer months stimulates new growth that is 2 times higher in protein and 3 times higher in most minerals than before being cut. This makes the woody regrowth as nutritious as most food plots.
Marcus and colleagues plan to expand their research by select cutting other species of hardwood trees that produce no mast and have little food value for deer, and examining the nutrient loads of the sprouts that might benefit deer.
This new understanding of what they call “mineral stumps” will enable hunters and land managers to create more food for deer, especially during times of lean forage in the woods.
“All it takes is a chainsaw,” Marcus said.
By cutting/clearing some maples and other tree species that have no value to deer, you’ll not only create mineral stumps where animals will browse, but you’ll also open up the forest canopy to let in sunlight, which will generate more weeds and forbs on the ground.
Imagine the deer forage you’d create if you went bigger and select cut/thinned 20 to 30 acres or more, leaving the oaks and soft mast trees. In short order, you’d have a nice mix of highly nutritious mineral stumps and ground forbs, plus high-carb mast for deer.
For more info on MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources, visit http://www.cfr.msstate.edu/wildlife/.