Oneida County, Northcentral Wisconsin

First Steps Toward Improving a Property for Wildlife

Curt Klade, of Brookfield, owns a wooded tract in Oneida County near where he grew up. He and his family and friends often make the 250-mile drive north to spend time on the 74-acre parcel, where they can soak in nature, through hunting, hiking, and looking out for wildlife.

Recently, a mailing from the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership got Klade thinking about what he could do to attract more wild animals to his land.

Aspen regrowth

Harvesting timber in aspen woodland leads to great cover for golden-winged warblers, American woodcock, and a spectrum of other wildlife that use the same young forest habitat./C. Fergus

“I wanted to create and improve habitat to make our hunting and wildlife-viewing experiences more enjoyable,” he says. With that in mind he contacted Callie Bertsch, a key member of the WYFP team. In September 2014, she came and walked the property with him.

“We looked at some nice mature aspen,” Bertsch says, “with good commercial potential. A timber harvest on that forest stand would ultimately make great golden-winged warbler and American woodcock habitat, plus help a whole spectrum of other species that use the same young forest habitat.”

Next step: Jake Bonack, private lands forester, and Curt Rollman, wildlife technician, both with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, came and explored the property with Klade.

“We talked about the land,” says Klade, “and what my goals are, and they gave me some options on what could be done to improve the habitat. They also wrote out an extensive analysis of the property, describing the different tree species and forest stands and the number of cords of wood that could be harvested in the various stands. I’m very pleased with what they produced.”

The WYFP does not charge for such evaluations, since they often lead to habitat projects that make conditions better for wildlife, including many Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Reports Rollman, “Mr. Klade has a good stand of aspen. It’s about 9 acres, and the trees are around 40 years old, which is getting pretty old for that species.” Rollman thought it would make sense to do a timber harvest in the near future. “We suggested a 5-acre cut to regenerate the aspen on about half the stand. That will get stand diversity started and break up the stand into two different age classes. A few years down the road, the rest of the aspen could be harvested.” The Klade property also has around 25 acres of white birch and aspen that “aren’t ready to be cut yet but could be harvested in the future,” says Rollman. “We outlined all of those options in the stewardship plan that we developed for the property.”

Great Lakes grouse hunters

Upland hunters know that ruffed grouse need young forest habitat, which can be created through timber harvests in aspen stands./D. Kenyon

As of late 2015, Klade is studying those options and planning to move forward with a timber sale. “I turkey hunt on the property now,” he says. “I don’t hunt partridge, because there aren’t that many of them, and I want them to come back.” He understands that regenerating aspen in the 40-year-old stand will create the dense young forest that ruffed grouse need for food and cover. “I’d start hunting them if we could boost their numbers through a timber harvest,” he says.

It also goes beyond hunting: Klade has a deep and abiding appreciation for the land and wants to do what he can to expand both hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities for himself, his family (including his grandchildren), and his friends. “I appreciate the fact that making more young forest will improve conditions for many kinds of wildlife, not just game,” he says.

He adds, “When I’m bow hunting or hunting deer in rifle season, I very much enjoy seeing other wildlife, like chickadees, blue jays, lumberjacks—that’s what my dad and his hunting partners used to call gray jays – and more. When I get into my tree stand and quiet down, I love seeing the woods come alive.”

He continues: “I’ve embraced the concept of the Wisconsin Young Forest Partnership, and I’m ready to start making habitat improvements with their continued assistance.”