Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Craig Harper

Committee Members

Gary E. Bates, Patrick D. Keyser

Abstract

Thinning, herbicide release, and prescribed fire have been used to increase forage availability in pine forests for white-tailed deer, rivaling that available in warm-season food plots. Related data are lacking for hardwood forests. I measured forage availability following 7 silvicultural treatments, including controls (C), forest regeneration methods, and Timber Stand Improvement practices in 4 upland mixed hardwood stands, July–September 2007 and 2008. I also measured forage availability in 4 paired warm-season food plots, including soybeans, lablab, and iron-andclay cowpeas, July–September 2007, and three varieties of soybeans, July–October 2008. I compared nutritional carrying capacity (NCC) of selected species and species from the literature at 3 crude protein nutritional constraints (diet) between forest treatments and food plot plantings. For both years of the study, retention cut with fire (RF) and shelterwood with fire (SF) tended to have the greatest NCC, regardless of species list or diet constraint. Understory triclopyr applications killed woody species following retention cut with herbicide, but relative biomass contribution of woody and herbaceous species returned to original levels two years post treatment. Herbicide applications did not increase NCC. Production of forage plantings exceeded forest treatments in 2007, but RF production was similar to 4.6 and 5.6 soybeans in 2008. Lablab, cowpeas, and later-maturing varieties of soybeans maintained production longer than the early-maturing soybean. Lablab and late-maturing soybeans were the most cost effective plantings. Forage plantings were inexpensive compared to forest treatments (excluding shelterwood) in the short-term, but RF was comparable when using species from the literature after 2 years, and becomes more cost effective after 4 years. I encourage landowners interested in increasing available nutrition for white-tailed deer to manage upland hardwood forests using canopy reduction and prescribed fire. When coupled with population reduction, food plots can be an important management practice where deer exceed NCC.

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