How to ... invite more wildlife to your forested property

  • Updated: March 27, 2014 - 2:23 PM

A timber stand improvement (TSI) opened up the overhead canopy on this forested property, allowing sunlight to reach the ground. The results include a resurgence of new vegetation and more wildlife.

Photo: Bill Marchel • Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

It was a long and cold winter. The deep snow and subzero temperatures have delayed my normal forest management practices.

Now, though, is a great time to catch up. The snow is receding, yet the ground is still frozen, easing access to the lushly forested corners of our properties. Making matters all the more pleasant, the bugs aren’t out yet, and it’s a joy to work in the cool weather of early spring while the world around us comes to life.

For the past two decades I’ve implemented a variety of habitat practices on my 70-acre property near Brainerd. I’m always looking to attract more wildlife to my acreage. So, each winter, I do a timber stand improvement (TSI). My projects are small, usually covering only about a half acre. And I use simple tools — usually just a chain saw and a hand-held brush cutter.

Here’s how TSI works: I start by analyzing a small section of property during winter, when the trees are still bare. This gives me a better view of which species of trees I’ll cut and which ones I’ll leave.

The main goal is opening up the forest canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the ground. I can tell it’s time to “rejuvenate” the forest by quickly assessing the understory: If I can see for 50 yards or more, with no new growth to obstruct my view, I know it’s time to eliminate some trees.

I don’t remove all the vegetation as one would if performing a clear-cut. Instead I thin the area, cutting less desirable trees and shrubs, but always leaving a variety of species to grow. By opening up the overhead canopy, I’m actually encouraging new growth of trees, shrubs and forbs at ground level. In a few years, my TSI will be so thick with new plants that visibility will be reduced to roughly 15 yards. The resurgence of plant species not only provides food but also protective cover for wildlife such as deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and a variety of songbirds.

During my TSI efforts, I don’t just randomly destroy trees and shrubs. I’m biased toward plant species that provide food for wildlife in the form of nuts, fruit or buds. Therefore I don’t cut any healthy oak trees unless they’re crowding each other. Deer, bears, turkeys, squirrels and even wood ducks feed on the acorns.

I also leave most birch trees because their catkins are fed upon during winter by ruffed grouse and a variety of finches. Fruit-bearing shrubs like dogwood, chokecherry, nannyberry, serviceberry and high-bush cranberry are also allowed to prosper.

I’m continually amazed at how modest TSI projects — as small as half an acre — can, in just a few years, draw new wildlife to my land. Just because you don’t own heavy-duty logging equipment, or can’t afford to hire a logger, doesn’t mean you can’t micromanage your forest with a simple TSI project.

The results will amaze you.

Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • MORE Tips on TSI

    1 Ideally, a TSI project should free desirable trees and shrubs from competition, allowing them to prosper.

    2 Logs and brush can be piled up to provide hideouts for rabbits, ruffed grouse and other wildlife.

    3 Brush and logs can also be gathered and arranged to present a “natural fence” — or a barrier directing deer past a deer stand.

    4 Be sure to follow all the safety recommendations when using power tools. Eye and ear protection are always a must.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question