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A clearcut timber tract in Edgecombe County

A clearcut timber tract in Edgecombe County

I’ve been blessed to have seen quite a bit of wildlife on my recent hunting trips. A few of the sightings include a nice buck milling through a stand of pines, a group of does feeding in a cut corn field on a frosty morning, and a group of jakes strutting in the midst of a foggy morning on rolling hills. I have seen black bears travel edges between pine and hardwood stands also.

While most hunters are not a fan of clearcutting timber, the truth is at some point or another either the land you hunt will have the timber harvested, or you may even decide to log your own timber. Many hunters claim this is the end of decent hunting for a few years. They couldn’t be more wrong…the fun is just beginning!

The succession of vegetation is as natural as the wildlife that benefits from it. For hundreds of years, hurricanes, wildfires, snow storms, and other natural occurrences have had their influence on our hunting properties, dictating their future uses. When timber is cut, the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor is increased. This promotes the growth of grasses, forbs, and shrubs. After a few years, if not reseeded, the natural regeneration of saplings will occur. Until then, forbs and shrubs that take root are more palatable than your typical understory plant species. Also, the crop production of hard mast trees such as oaks and soft mast such as persimmons will increase in production due to more sunlight and nutrients. As it turns out, a thinned forest is much more proactive and useful than a mature stand of timber with little to no understory vegetation, even though the scenery isn’t as pleasant.

Thinning: Thinnings are ideal for the hunter who owns or leases the land simply because timber is typically logged in straight lines, creating great shooting lanes. They also leave plenty of standing timber. I’m sure you have seen at least one box stand peering down a lane cleared by logging…and more than a few deer have probably been killed from it. Timber thinnings create great hunting tracts. Thinnings are typically more productive immediately after logging than clearcuts simply because the still retain some timber to act a security cover while the understory vegetation regenerates.

Clearcuts: A clearcut is when timber is completely removed, such as the photo above. Loggers follow property lines which are usually not in straight lines. This means you could be hunting irregular edges adjacent to tall timber. While the aforementioned wildlife sightings were awesome, I’ve been fortunate to have had the task of loading up a buck after hunting a clearcut more than a few times. The productivity of clearcut properties lasts for years. Even after the volunteer timber reaches a height that shades out the understory, there is still a great deal of bedding cover created. These properties are wildlife magnets and a great place to tag a trophy.

Just because a tract of land doesn’t look exactly like what you see on TV or in hunting magazines doesn’t mean they aren’t hunting hotspots. No matter what game species you pursue in North Carolina, I can assure you they are much more adaptable than you realize. Bears, deer, turkey, and other species don’t mind calling a clearcut part of their home, so why would you not hunt it?


Andrew Walters