Thursday, April 21, 2016

Growing Season Burns- One of the best Forest and Wildlife Management Tools? I think so!

Growing season burning is one of  the best forest and wildlife management tools you can employ. Unlike winter burns which are geared more toward aesthetics and fuel reduction, growing season burns enable undesirable trees and plants to be attacked more effectively when foliage is developing and transpiration is in full gear. The potential for killing or setting back undesirables in the under story is far better than winter burns.
The picture above shows an old friend setting a flanking fire during a winter burn but firing techniques are the same.
Some lower gulf coastal plain sites are hard to burn in the winter due to dispersed fuels to carry a fire and heavy upland hardwood leaf matter which does not burn well. This tends to produce more smoke which is the greatest risk in prescribed burning to start with, in my opinion. During the growing season the daily temperature is higher and humidity levels do not vary like they tend to do in February and March. The green foliage tends to hold down the fire thus creating greater resident times for the fire to stay on the unwanted species longer.
In some rougher spots that haven't been burned for a while it may take several burns but eventually the under and mid stories can be altered. There will be great change in the herbaceous layer and grasses and plants that are more beneficial to wildlife will emerge. Predators will have a much harder time threatening turkeys and small game and there will definitely be a reduction of risk in the event of a stand killing wild fire event.
What are your experiences with growing season burns? Do you plan on doing more of them in the future. I know we are! Let me hear from you!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much for responding. Glad you liked the blog post!

  2. Growing season burns are hands down the most cost effective fire prescription for effective understory management. Late season burns are also a catalyst for quality wildlife forage production !

  3. On a wildlife stand point, growing season burns allow you to convert a habitat from a poor herbaceous layer filled with woody, poor nutritional value food to a site, rich in quality food plants such as legumes and forbs, and favoring grasses.
    Woodlands which are kept open (lots of sunlight on the ground), fire keeps the sapling hardwoods under control but still allows resprouting. This allows some "hard" cover to be retained close to the ground giving birds some protection from predators. Fire also removes buildup of dead vegetation (duff) on the ground exposing seeds there and allowing quail and turkey access to food and allowing easy movement through the growing vegetation. By stimulating hard seeded plants such as legumes to sprout, fire actually increases the production of seeds and food plants on which quail rely through the year. Fire promotes grasses to grow (by controlling taller hardwood saplings) in the understory and, by leaving portions of the woodlands unburnt for a year, allowing to increase coverage of quality nesting cover. Research is indicating that burned woodlands rival fallow fields for insect production, and quail and turkey cannot be raised without good quality brood rearing range containing high insect densities.
    Some of the biggest body sized and racked deer can be found on areas managed for quail. Deer may not need the open ground to feed and move about, but the promotion of legumes and other forbs helps increase quality food supplies for deer. Amazingly, the majority of food deer eat year-round are these "weeds" which are strongly promoted by fire. Deer select foods in these burned woodlands which tend to be the same legumes, etc. which are so important for quail and turkey foods. Regularly burned open piney woods may not look like the best deer woods due to its low herbaceous understory, but you would be amazed at the deer densities that this habitat type can support due to increased food supplies.

  4. Great for cruising and marking too. Most landowners have never been educated to the benefits they are just scared of the upfront costs they don't realize how much they saving on the backside when it comes to the reforestation because you have controlled the compitetion early on. If they learn of the benefits to be wildlife they may be more receptive to using this cheap forest management tool. It is still our cheapest form compitetion control. We just need to convince more people.

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