Winter Range Quaility

Wildlife Habitat can be looked at for the quality of the forage available.  In the winter time, accessibility of forage is often what most us look at when thinking about elk and mule deer winter survival.  I feel it is also important to look at the quality of the forage available. First, I look at what plants are seeing the majority of the browsing. Second, I look to see how much browsing pressure the winter range is receiving.

When looking at the plants that are being browsed on (I could write volumes on this) I look to see what the elk and deer are browsing on: exposed grasses and forbes; or are they focusing more deciduous woody shrubs (sage brush, bitter-brush, service berry, etc); or if they are eating coniferous trees (juniper, fir, etc).  It has been my basic observation that when there is a good amount of grasses and forbes exposed or enough snow is melting to expose the ground, the elk and deer are getting through the winter in good shape, but if the winter range has been experiencing periods of drought and the exposed ground is bare, then I like to see what woody shrubs are being utilized.  What I hope to find is browsing pressure on the the more deciduous plants and I look to see if just the new growth and buds are browsed or if the elk and deer are starting to get into the stemy portions of the plant.  If the browsing pressure is getting into the old stemy growth, there could be major problems developing, not just for the current winter but for long term damage to the quality of the winter range.  If you are seeing the browsing pressure on the coniferous tress such as juniper, this is typically an indicator of a very sever winter and a good chance of high winter mortality in these areas.

It is good to run out to your hunting area if you can and check on the quality of the winter range and help plan your hunt for next fall. Also remember to use good judgment when in close proximity to wintering animals and be careful not to put any stress on the game with your presence as the winter can be hard enough on our next years bucks and bulls.

2 Responses to “Winter Range Quaility”

  1. Stan Wells says:

    Adam,

    You should put this information into a book and, perhaps, even offer a ‘slide show’ on how to understand the problems of range management. Good stuff!

  2. Adam says:

    Thank you for reading and one day I would like to put a little book together highlighting private lands wildlife management.