Building a Better Whitetail Habitat: The Importance of Inventorying Your Whitetail Property
In our previous article, we covered a general outline for developing goals for your whitetail property. The next step is to note the existing conditions. You might think this is a basic matching exercise with a tree ID book, but there are several major items you will want to note as you do your inventory.
Range of trees – Get your hands on a regional tree ID book. Knowing if your land is in, out, or on the edge of a range for a certain species will give you a leg up on probable trees and plants on your land
Soils and moisture – Soil maps and historical images can help you see if there were land disturbances in the past that may have impacted the soil or erosion. Wet (even seasonally or historically wet) areas can be clues to forest habitat types.
Slope – The steepness of the slope plays in, not just to the forest, but also to how deer will use the land; noting this will get you a jump start on planning
Aspect – N/S/E/W facing slopes have different conditions, even to the extent of causing microclimates that impact what plants and trees will survive
Make a Plan for Your Land
Have hard copies of topo maps, historical images, and blank sheets for sketches of each area
Stands – Similar groups of trees and plants are like rooms of a house. Each is used differently and offers options to be modified for deer
Stage of succession – As noted in our 'How a Forest Grows' post, trees are clues to the past and future of the stand
Undergrowth – Take detailed note of what is on the forest floor and understory
Health – shape, crown, and trunk conditions of the various trees as well as signs of disease in a stand
Features – These are details, like a certain tree or group of trees, topo features like benches, and other items that will be important for deer. Much like stands are rooms of a house, features are like furniture in the room
Invasives/non-natives – more on these later, but take note of what is there and how impactful it is on the rest of the forest
Now that you have made your notes, you are well on your way to understanding your property's potential for deer habitat. With your observations, sketches, and notes in hand, you are now ready to move on to the next step in the process: evaluating and planning your forest built for deer, which you can read about in our next article.