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Timber management also helps habitat

Outdoor activities come in many forms. Some people like to camp and hike, which is fine for them. I prefer to have something more than a few sore muscles to show for my outdoor sports.

I prefer hunting, fishing or cutting firewood. A person generally has something to bring home from these activities. I have tried hiking for the entertainment of it but have come to the conclusion it is easier to ride a horse or a four-wheeler to remote locations. If I am going hiking, it will be during deer or pheasant season and I will be carrying a gun. If I do not get anything, we can call it hiking, otherwise it is hunting.

Some people may not consider cutting firewood a sport, but I find it quite entertaining as well as giving a person that satisfaction of having accomplished something. Fortunately, I have two sons that also enjoy a nice outing into the timber to cut wood. With three people working at it, we can make a heck of a pile of firewood in short order. We also have the added benefit of clearing the timber of undesirable trees and removing the dead wood.

Most of my timber consists of hickory, ash and oak. There are a few honey locusts, also known as thorny locust because of their horrible, long thorns. There are a few other non-native species that compete for space and nutrition to the detriment of the hardwoods.

A locust tree will grow extremely large, shading the young trees near it, stunting their growth. They will also put out a million or so seeds per year. If not controlled, locust trees will take over an open pasture as well as choke out and ruin an established timber.

I have found locust to be very desirable firewood. It has many of the characteristics of red oak in both appearance and heating value. Within a year of removing a huge old locust, nearby trees will be straighter, taller and healthier. A big tree like this will also yield enough wood to heat the average house for a couple of months.

One of the great rewards of this type of timber management is shown the next spring. Where the big tree was removed, new fresh grass is growing in the middle of the woods. These areas become magnets for deer, turkey, and other wildlife that have spent the winter digging through the snow for acorns and hickory nuts. They can feed on the new growth undisturbed and protected by the remaining trees.

Several trips per year to cut and clear will make a remarkable improvement to a timber. Trails are cut through the brush and non-viable trees to get to big dead trees or locusts. What remains is cleared trails that could be used for hiking if a person so desired, but work really well for Gator trails or horseback riding. More food and habitat is available for wildlife. It is also a wonderful physical fitness program.

By fall, the trails will have young trees sprouting up providing fresh browse for the deer. Nuts will fall into these open areas making the following winter just a bit easier on the wildlife that has to scratch away the leaves and snow to find a meal.

If a person is able to get a few friends or a couple of sons together for an afternoon outing, it is hard to beat timber management for good clean fun.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.