Deer habitat management

Deer require diverse plant life in order to thrive in all the weather conditions they experience during seasonal transitions. Therefore, habitat management is a vital component of influencing a given area’s carrying capacity for a deer population.

Prescribed burning can be used to manage deer habitat. In order to achieve optimal conditions for deer, late winter and early spring burns (ideally, in February or March) seem to produce the best results. Burning during the transition between winter and spring increases the diversity and abundance of forbs. 

Photo credit: Herbert Lange

Photo credit: Herbert Lange

In addition, late winter and early spring burns minimize the amount of time that burned areas go without plant cover. Some of the legumes preferred by deer, including smooth seed wild bean, partridge pea, and tick clovers appear to be stimulated by late winter or early spring burns. Prescribed burning is also an effective technique to remove excess woody plant cover in a deer habitat.

Late summer burns can also help to create deer habitat. If burning in late summer, keep in mind that the areas burned should be small and scattered. Areas burned in late summer usually do not provide much cover or forage in the fall and winter following the burn. Avoid areas with a high potential for erosion. As a general rule, do not burn greater than sixty percent of a given habitat area within one year in order to maintain sufficient forage and cover for the deer population. Burning a variety of smaller scattered areas is preferable, as this will promote diversity of plant life.

The full article discusses other habitat management strategies such as grazing, direct supplemental feeding, and planting.

View deer habitat management article >