Invasive Plants That Can Ruin Your Deer Hunting | How These Plants Impact Your Hunting Strategy
If you are involved in the outdoors, regardless if your passion is hunting mature whitetails or angling on one of the Countries Blue Ribbon streams you have probably heard the term “Invasive Species”. Invasive species and plants and even animals are becoming a real issue all across the Country, and can really through a wrench in your overall hunting and land management strategies. Luckily, in many cases there are way to overcome the challenge of invasive plants that can ruin your deer hunting and continue to enjoy successful days afield and the fruits of your labor.
While the topic of invasive species is very broad and could easily require an entire series devoted to the topic, this article will focus specifically on invasive plants that can ruin your deer hunting and that can have an impact your whitetail deer population and have the potential to even impact how you hunt your property. This article will cover a couple simple and easy steps that you can take to evaluate your property and hopefully address any invasive species you may have.
What are Invasive Species?
So, you have heard the term “Invasive Species” but what does that really mean? The short and dirty definition is: “Invasive Species is a plant, fungus or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species) which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to environment, human economy or human health” (In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 23rd, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasive_species).
So, by this definition it is probably fairly easy to think of one or two invasive species regardless of what part of the Country you are from. Before we dive too far into the topic of invasive species, it important to point out that not all “non-native” species fit the definition above. For example, many folks around the Country enjoy chasing rooster pheasants every fall, however, by definition a pheasant is a non-native species but does not have the tendency to spread uncontrollably or is believed to impact the environment in a negative way. Likewise, there are several plant species that are actually beneficial for wildlife forage that are technically non-native, but again, do not meet the other requirements of the definition. So, long story short, not all non-natives are bad or are considered invasive.
This article is going to touch on why invasive plant species can be a detriment to the overall habitat on your property, and/or can become hindrance to how you hunt your property. These are invasive plants that can ruin your deer hunting. The number one mistake made by property owners when it comes to invasive species management is not identifying and addressing the issue early on, before it becomes truly problematic. This article will discuss how you can avoid making this mistake.
What are the Impacts to Wildlife?
Invasive species of plants can vary greatly from one part of the country to another. In fact, there can even be variation in terms of what is considered invasive verses native within the same state. Regardless of the species that you are dealing with, invasive species have many things in common with one another. First and foremost, they are aggressive growers. There is a reason why invasive plants are considered invasive in the first place, that is they can simply out-compete other forms of native vegetation. Many times this has to do with the physiological difference between the invasive species of plant verse the native species. An example of this might be the difference in blooming periods or it could simply come down to the number of seeds produced by each plant. Whatever it is, it tends to favor the invasive. Some excellent examples of species that fit this category would Sericea Lespedeza, Teasel and the famed Kudzu!
The fact that these species tend to establish and grow quickly means that they take up usable space and resources that could be utilized by native species. Many times, it is these native species that provide critical habitat and forage that many different species like whitetail deer require throughout the year. If left unchecked, these are some of the invasive species that can ruin your deer hunting and have a detrimental impact to the overall quality of the habitat on your property.
In cases where invasive species are too established, wildlife such as whitetail deer can begin to seek out other areas where the forage and habitat are of higher quality, which can greatly impact your whitetail hunting experience and the overall success of your whitetail deer management efforts.
While invasive plants can negatively impact the quality of the habitat on your property, they can also greatly limit your ability to hunt your property. While many whitetail deer hunters enjoy spending time in a tree stand on a field edge or on a hardwood ridge top, invasive species can quickly establish and remove these areas as deer hunting options on your property. For example, while a shrub like Bush Honeysuckle may seem like a lush, forage base for whitetail deer it can quickly spread and completely fill in the mid-story of your favorite hardwood ridge or woodlot. Once established, it can block any and all sunlight from reaching the soil, preventing any beneficial plants from growing. Additionally, a woodlot infested with an invasive shrub such as Bush Honeysuckle can be almost impossible to traverse, let alone hunt. The same can be said for old field habitats. These areas are prime candidates for invasion by unwanted species of plants and shrubs. Species like Eurasian and Autumn Olive are shrub species, much like Bush Honeysuckle, that can quickly spread and over take your favorite small field or poor man food plot.
What Can You Do?
Although having the invasive species that can ruin your deer hunting on your property can be very concerning, it is not a death sentence. There are several things that you can do to help control the spread and possibly even eradicate these plants from your property!
The first step in addressing any invasive plants that you may have is to first educate yourself on the invasive species in your area. You can generally figure this out by contacting your local fish and wildlife agency, and speaking with a biologist. Once you have educated yourself on the problematic plants in your area, and can identify them you are then ready to begin to scout. While scouting is often a term associated with deer hunting, it is also a term used when actively looking for invasive plants. The absolute best way to begin addressing invasive species of plants is to identify the issue early, before the plant is well established.
The growing season is the absolute best time of the year to identify the potential for invasive species. Scouting can occur at any time, and can easily be done from your Bad Boy Buggy or ATV. Scouting for invasive species should occur anytime you are in the woods, no matter if you are checking your Bushnell Trophy Cam’s or putting out some Big & J Attractants, you should also be actively looking for any invasive species on your property.
If you unfortunately locate an established population of invasive species on your property, then it becomes time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. Managing an established population of invasive species can be a delicate process. Many times, invasive establish due to a lack of management on a particular area, however, one they are there active management can sometimes make the situation worse. That being said, the easier method to begin treating your infestation is to take a two stage approach of active removal followed up by an herbicide treatment. The type of removal can often depend of the species you are addressing, however, removing the existing cover mechanically and then following up with an application of herbicide approved to address the plant is often best approach to address the issue. Many times, spot spray treatments are often required to continue to keep the infestation in check throughout the following months and even years.
Invasive plants that can ruin your deer hunting can certainly put a damper on your whitetail hunting experience and your whitetail deer management strategies. While dealing with invasive can be very disheartening and often frustrating, luckily with a little elbow grease and know how you can get a handle on the issue. Remember the key to addressing invasive species is identifying the issue early, so it is never too late to begin scouting your property for invasive species.