Brush Piles: Make An Instant Food Source for Wildlife

This is a great time of year to get out there on your property and do something for whitetails. One of our favorite projects is to create living brush piles for wildlife. As you might guess, living brush piles are piles of limbs and brush that still produce stems, buds, sprouts and leaves for wildlife food and cover and are virtual wildlife magnets. Let me explain.

Unlike traditional brushpiles comprised of stacked dead limbs and brush, living brushpiles are made by stacking living trees. You cut three-quarters of the way through 4- to 8-inch tree and letting it tip over without breaking totally free from the stump. We call this hinge cutting and the trick is to create a living hinge that still allows nutrition to pass from the roots to the rest of the felled tree. In essence, it lives on its side before eventually dying.

We like to work in dense stands of low-value, pole-sized timber (poplar is a good choice). Dense stands of pole timber do little for wildlife as they typically have a dense canopy, which will shade the ground from daylight allowing little to grow on the ground beneath. We often refer to them as green deserts. We don our safety gear (chaps, helmet, gloves, eye-and-ear protection) and wade into the stand. A few hours with a chainsaw and the green desert is turned into a green smorgasbord.

The moment the tree hits the ground, it provides instant nutrition for whitetails. Buds, leaves and fresh new growth, that minutes before were 20 feet up, are now chest high or lower. But, because of the hinge cut, the tree will sprout fresh buds in the spring and once again will be a food source for hungry whitetails. The cycle can continue 3 years or more if the tree takes hold and somehow manages to hang on. We have 5-year-old, living brush piles which are still alive and producing food and shelter for deer turkeys and a host of other birds and critters.

So grab your chainsaw and do something good for wildlife next weekend. To find out more about creating wildlife habitat visit www.northcountrywhitetails.com.