Managing Hunting Properties With Fire – A Proven Cost-Effective and Productive Management Strategy

Prairei Fire 1Fire has been a naturally occurring process in nature for millions of years. Both naturally occurring and man induced fires have helped to shape and define our landscape and the wildlife that depend on it. Native Americans intentionally set fires to stimulate plant growth in grasslands and forests for wildlife and sustenance. Early European settlers utilized fire to keep pastures open and healthy. Without these fires the world we know today would look drastically different.

Prescribed burning is the controlled application of fire to a confined area of land under closely monitored environmental conditions for wildlife habitat management purposes. Wildfires, on the other hand, are by definition uncontrolled and often occur under the most hazardous conditions and can cause damage to both property and the environment. Not only does prescribed burning provide a multitude of wildlife habitat benefits, it also reduces or removes excess fuel loads and helps prevent wildfire.

Fire has unique habitat enhancement qualities that can not be replicated with other man induced methods such as mowing, disking, or herbicide. Because of these qualities, prescribed burning is one of the most cost efficient and effective wildlife habitat management tools we have at our disposal on recreational hunting properties. Under the right circumstances, prescribed burning can be equally beneficial on all types of habitat including open prairie grasslands, wetlands, brush-lands and forest-lands. Some of the wildlife habitat benefits of prescribed burning include:

  • Prairie Fire 2Promotes diversity, quality, and quantity of valuable wildlife food plants.
  • Opens up the vegetative over-story to allow sunlight to penetrate to the soil surface for germination and production of wildlife food plants.
  • Burned vegetation provides a natural fertilizer, returning nitrogen to the soil.
  • Increases moisture filtration into the soil.
  • Removes overgrown ground litter to allow wildlife access through an area.
  • Helps to control non-native invasive plant species.

Prairie Fire 3The focus of any prescribed burn should always be on safety and achieving preplanned wildlife habitat management goals. There are many factors that must be addressed to insure a safe and effective burn including: weather, wind, relative humidity, fuel load, and fire breaks. For this reason it is a good idea to always enlist the services of a professional that is experienced in wildlife habitat management and prescribed burning. A well planned prescribed burn should establish the conditions and manner under which fire will be applied on a carefully defined area to accomplish very specific management objectives.

In these times of high fuel costs, prescribed burning is hands down the most effective and cost efficient wildlife habitat management tool for recreational hunting properties. This proven wildlife habitat management technique can produce superior results at a fraction of the cost of mechanical treatments such as mowing, disking, or herbicide applications. A properly planned prescribed burn with specific wildlife habitat management objectives can significantly reduce your operation and maintenance costs while at the same time improve the quality and value of your hunting property.

Ed Ritter
Owner / Certified Wildlife Biologist / Licensed Real Estate Broker
Wildlife Management Enterprises, L.L.C.