Managing your forest can improve the habitat for many game species, such as deer, squirrel, rabbit, or turkey. Some management practices will benefit and attract multiple species to your property. Read below for information on managing for a certain species. Remember to always read and follow Indiana DNR Hunting & Trapping Guidelines. Consult with Indiana DNR or your forester to ensure your property is always meeting state hunting regulations. Visit the Wildlife Habitat Fact Sheet by the Indiana DNR to read more about what practices benefit the species you want to see.
Food plots are areas dedicated to growing crops for the purpose of creating a food source for wildlife. These can be an important resource for many different game species. Even small food plots can be beneficial for wildlife on your property, so consider establishing one or multiple even if your woodland is smaller.
There are many different practices that can improve habitat for deer. Releasing healthy, good quality oaks will provide plenty of hard mast (acorns) for deer to eat. When releasing oak trees, focus on removing less desirable, shade-tolerant species such as maple or beech. Maintaining an oak dominant forest will ensure deer populations continue to enjoy your property long-term. Prescribed fire is another good management tool for increasing deer habitat. Fire will encourage new growth of fruiting shrubs, create openings for new saplings, and provide young plants for deer to browse.
Squirrels benefit from a mature or nearly mature forest with plenty of shelter and nut-producing trees. Squirrels do not benefit from disturbances, such as clearcutting or prescribed fire, so be sure to leave a section of forest to provide squirrel habitat if managing for multiple goals. A thinning to release nut-producing trees can encourage nut production and leave squirrels with more food. Squirrels also prefer habitat that provides cover, so plant or leave shrubs and downed trees for squirrels.
Most game birds benefit from the same management practices and have been grouped together here. Common game bird species include wild turkey, quail, and pheasants. Two critical practices for game birds are: providing cover and providing food. Food plots can provide food year-round and aid in survival. Providing cover, especially during the winter, will help protect game birds from predators.