Question: My ranch is located in South Texas, it has a variety of habitat types and we use it primarily for whitetail deer hunting. The property is about 65% thick brushand about 35% semi-open grassland. We are in a drought so we cannot really do a prescribed burn on the property, so I am wondering if it would help or hurt the habitat and or deer if I went through and brush hogged all the rank, dead grass? When would be the right time of the year to do this deer management wise or for deer hunting? I know that if I mowed it and it rained the plants would all grow back much nicer. Also, if the open habitat should be manipulated through mowing, how often?
Response: From a whitetail deer management standpoint, early summer is the wrong time to be mowing grassy areas. There are a lot of fawns on the ground right now. Tall grass is fawning cover and if you want predators to have a field day, possibly removing the better part of an entire fawn crop, then mow it. However, I would recommend otherwise if you are interested in deer habitat improvement.
If it were my property, then I would mow in the late summer, maybe at the end of August through the first part of September at the earliest. Fall rains (hopefully) would allow grass and cool season forbs to look really nice and provide lots of high quality foods. Deer eat very little grass, but the grass they do eat consist of new-growth.
If you want to try to stimulate forb growth, then mow during late December or early January. This would take place late in the year or even after deer hunting season. Also, South Texas is really dry right now, so any mowing risks creating a spark that sets yours and neighboring properties on fire.
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