SITKA Gear

Things ya know that just aint so

squirrel

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2013
Messages
624
Ok so I was out on a mountain thinking as opposed to picking up antlers, as there were none to pick up...

10-15 yrs ago a ranch sold for a paltry 25-30 million and the new owner went on the war path against sage brush... I was told he 'hated it" which is strange as he just bought an unbelievable amount of it...

He paid an enormous amount to have it brush hogged down, as in thousands of acres of it. It had previously been a winter home to 200- 500 bucks, depending on the severity of the winter, almost 0 does, (kinda like a horn hunter's paradise:)).

I had had permission to hunt on it for antlers and was thrown off by the new owner's staff, but continued to watch as it transformed in two yrs from a (buck) deer winter range to an elk/antelope range. The deer just vanished, the elk and antelope just hung out in exactly the same draws-flats, and have continued to do so for over 10 yrs now, as the sage slowly re-establishes some of it's previous glory. Keep in mind that by brush-hogging it down it does not die but is taken from waist high to ankle high with intact root system

I had been led to believe that re-generation of the ecosystem would re-invigorate all the "good stuff" and all of God's creatures would thrive. Now a decade+ later the deer are gone, you can watch all winter and literally not see a one where there once were multiple hundreds, now whether they were displaced or eliminated is a separate question.

Do any of you on here have any FACT-BASED input or insight on this??? I've long since considered it just another delusional example of textbook biology vs. real world biology, it would be interesting if I had another 50-60 yrs to watch and see if when it gets to 3' high the others disappear and it morphs back into a buck only winter range, I will let you know when I am 127...
 

James Riley

Banned
Joined
Jan 10, 2015
Messages
1,821
10-15 yrs ago a ranch sold for a paltry 25-30 million and the new owner went on the war path against sage brush... I was told he 'hated it" which is strange as he just bought an unbelievable amount of it...

LOL! Reminds me of my time in Idaho: Folks would buy their dream acreage in the Snake River Plain with some awesome views of forever and ever, then plant a ton of trees all around their house. Meanwhile, up north, folks would buy their dream acreage in the forest with awesome old growth all around and then clear cut it back for ever and ever so they could see the surrounding mountains.

"As a rule man is a fool, When it’s hot he wants it cool, When it’s cool he wants it hot, Always wanting what is not." Anon.

Sorry, can't help you on the biology question. :eek:
 

HalfAce

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 6, 2013
Messages
547
I can keep an eye on it in for you in the next 50 years... ;)
Just kidding.

I have no fact based input. Only some of my experience and a guess. I believe that the mulies that once used the winter range (10-15 years ago) you mentioned are all dead now. Those deer were forced to find new winter range and never came back after they learned that the area does not provide the forage they needed to survive. When those bucks were forced to abandon the area, the younger Mule deer bucks weren't able to follow the older mule deer bucks to this particular winter range that they used to use and over time now just simply dont know about the area. My guess is that mule deer will eventually find their way back to this range, but I believe it will take a lot longer for them then it took for elk to find this range since elk are more of a wandering animal, and mule deer are creatures of habit that can be traced to exact spots, draws, benches, etc for years. Again not any facts, just my own opinion.
 

Highwood

Active member
Joined
Feb 19, 2015
Messages
100
Location
Judith Basin MT
I can easily see why the elk thrived on the Winter range once the Sage brush was depressed or controlled. Sage is a very important part of Winter feed for both deer and Antelope, especially antelope during deep snow periods. Sage is a must for Wintering antelope, even more so then Mule Deer. So why the deer disappeared from the area is a odd.
Maybe the elk drove them out?
I think/hope as land owners get educated on the values of Sage Brush and wildlife and native grasses, we will see less Sage destruction.
Once the Sage Grouse becomes listed, their habitat will be protected.
 

squirrel

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2013
Messages
624
To expand a bit on the topic property the grass grew by a huge amount almost overnight, the first year the sage just went dormant at about 6" tall stumps. He put 3 rigs grinding it down for 3 summers 5 days/week, in the 3rd summer what they chopped the first was a soft lush green of sage sprouts, but only maybe 10" tall even in late summer, easily covered completely by even a sub-par snow year.

I just hiked the edge of the line the other day and it really hasn't grown any taller in 10 years+, but it is thicker and more "brushed out"

In the old days there was nary a 'lope to be seen they wintered about 5 miles east of there, moving through only as transitional range, obviously they saw something they liked, it had to be the short lush sage as nothing else really changed.

The elk herd is not a dominant size herd that would aggressively run off the native deer, if you see 50-75 it is noteworthy, while a few miles off they number many hundreds in a single group, I would see them as "opportunists" there for the fresh growth of diggable grass.

As for comparable scenarios I was meaning specifically where the burning and chaining has been done to "bring back" favorable habitat for a targeted species, does the short term follow what I have watched??? The parties that do this crow loudly about how much 'good" they are doing at spending "your " money so wisely, I wonder about the following time periods, as I fully agree with halface that a lot is passed generationally from senior members to up-and-comers... This is where you go when the going gets tough... kid.

Once that knowledge is lost Darwinism can be a long time re-discovering it.

I feel that the tall sage is critical for wind protection and forming 'nose pockets" down in the sage where they can reach to get chow without the wholesale excavation elk are capable of.

Oh well just a few thoughts on a snowy day, please add yours if you want.
 

farbedo

Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2014
Messages
65
Deer will browse on shrubbery. Elk will not. They are strictly grazers. That has to play a part in my opinion.

Once the sage was gone the elk saw it as a good grazing ground, moved in and stayed. Similar to what I used to see in MT. Areas with thick timber would be loaded with deer, but very few elk. Clearcuts would open it up and the elk would move in. The deer would move out due to competition.

Just a few thoughts.

Jeremy
 

James Riley

Banned
Joined
Jan 10, 2015
Messages
1,821
Deer will browse on shrubbery. Elk will not. They are strictly grazers.

Not to bust your chops but Elk browse a lot. I just read that while researching something else. "Elk of North America" Thomas and Toweill, Wildlife Management Institute, 1982, Chapter 8.
 

JMG

Active member
Joined
Jul 1, 2011
Messages
825
Location
MONTANA
I am no expert, but I have seen instances where the Forest Service (or BLM) have used controlled burns in areas of sage brush for future winter forage. Not sure the animals they have in mind (deer or elk). You might consider contacting the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Mangement and see if they do perscribed burns in sage brush and what the purpose is for doing it.

I know cow elk with calve in sagebrush areas, because I think the scent of sage brush and the sage brush itself help hide the calves when Mom is not around. Grizzlies in Yellowstone cruise the sage brush areas and try to scare up elk calves for food.

Not sure on the mule deer, except they probably use the big sage brush to get out of the elements. The snow is probably not nearly as deep in the Mtns, so they can browse on the grasses, scrubs, etc.
 

JLS

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 26, 2012
Messages
16,871
Location
Almost Arkansas…..
Woody plants such as Willows and Cottonwood seedlings. Elk eat to the ground.

They love the new growth on ceanothus too.

The purpose for controlled burns in sagebrush is to create different age classes of sagebrush in a mosaic pattern. Monocultures are never a good thing. The different age classes each provide something different in terms of thermal cover, nesting cover, feed, etc.
 

Gr8bawana

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 14, 2013
Messages
4,733
Location
Nevada
I have seen areas in NV that "chained" to rmove the very thick pinion and juniper forest where there is little undergrowth such as sage or anything else for that matter. In a couple of years the sage and other brush grow in and are a manget for deer and rabbits which I love to chase.
 

squirrel

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2013
Messages
624
This is specifically a winter range type thing, although of course there is some use in other seasons, but not much. There are two types of winter range, the winter range they spend time on as snow levels allow- as in it can vary widely by snow pack. And then there is what I call 'dying range" as in they go there to either live or die... there is no more "down" to go, it is sink or swim.

This private ranch is east facing (generally) and is winter range, the "dying range" is across the river on the south and west slopes. Only twice in the pre-brush hog days did the ranch vacate to the dying range, and boy did they die...

I was told they spent $50K on blades and shear pins, just gossip could be full of it, but they made everything but too steep or too rocky into short sage, and a lot of it started out as 3-4' tall. They left no patches like a fire would have.

On a side note where they could not get to (no tractor access due to steep gullies land locking the sage flats) that is on the edge of the ranch it is still loaded with deer in the same habitat that was good before. But where they used to have huge trails going to the other areas now there is no movement to speak of.


For the record with our winters both species eat anything that is not white when push comes to shove... Just like any other species that is dying of starvation, generally this is most observable on the "dying range".
 

JLS

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 26, 2012
Messages
16,871
Location
Almost Arkansas…..
I have seen areas in NV that "chained" to rmove the very thick pinion and juniper forest where there is little undergrowth such as sage or anything else for that matter. In a couple of years the sage and other brush grow in and are a manget for deer and rabbits which I love to chase.

I was mountain biking in Oregon last year on BLM, and saw some areas that they had very aggressively thinned the junipers. My uncle has some photos of central oregon way back in the early and mid 1900s. The juniper encroachment in the last 70 years is pretty amazing.
 

Gr8bawana

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 14, 2013
Messages
4,733
Location
Nevada
In Nevada's early mining history the pinions and junipers were cut down to use as fuel to make charcoal for the smelters. This allowed sage brush to grow and the deer population exploded for quite some time.
 

sbhooper

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 7, 2012
Messages
4,178
Location
North Platte, Nebraska
Thick junipers are not good for the most part. The eastern red cedar is the problem that we have here and they absolutely take over. They do not allow grass, or any other plants to grow. We have been doing controlled burns in the hills south of here for seven years and are changing this dramatically. Quail, deer, turkeys, elk etc., all thrive when junipers are thinned.

It amazes me that many people are still against controlled fires.

I cannot comment on the sage, as I have no experience with it.
 

bkondeff

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Messages
98
This is an old post so I don't know if anyone will respond since it's no longer winter time.

Here in SW Idaho we have been devastated by fires the past 5 years. In fact, 3 of my main 3 deer hunting spots all burned. The fires were very hot and scorched the earth. One spot was high and more of a transition area and one was wintering ground I usuealllly hunted the last few days as snow drove them down. In the latter spot, when snows caame early, we would see as many as 300 deer a day.

I figured the higher country would still find deer using it the year after the fire, but maybe not in the same numbers. We would see 80 deer a day when weather started moving them in years past and last year I worked hard to see 10. The elk seemed to still be there in the same numbers.

Just how long would one to expect the sage dominated flats to take to grow back? I'm guessing a LONG time(20years+).
 

El Guapo

New member
Joined
Nov 27, 2009
Messages
27
Location
Southern Wyoming
"Just how long would one to expect the sage dominated flats to take to grow back? I'm guessing a LONG time(20years+)."

In the grand scope of things, 20 years is a fraction of a blink of an eye. In much of the high desert and mountain foothill country of the intermountain west, 20 years doesn't tell you much about recovery. Re-growth and recolonization of sagebrush is very dependent on sub-species, soil type and depth, precipitation, etc. In general, mountain big sage is thought to be able to reach pre-disturbance levels in as little as 30-50 years, Wyoming big sage has a much longer "recovery" period, in the neighborhood of 75 - 100+. Sagebrush and mountain shrub habitats are not only resilient to disturbance (fire as a natural disturbance, mowing, chaining, thinning as a man-made disturbance), they are very much dependent on it. Put it this way, all of the sagebrush and mountain shrub systems burned at one time or another, ALL of it. It burned in the past, it will burn again, it is pretty much inevitable, despite our use of technology to suppress natural cycles. Without disturbance, the brush will mature, over-mature, turn towards decadence, and die off. Fire suppression in the west has allowed for most of our mountain shrub communities to evolve into the over-mature to decadent states, with resulting low nutrition, digestibility, production, and regeneration. If we want to get these vegetation types back to a more healthy state, we've got two choices, either let natural disturbance run its course (very impractical in much of our more urbanized, developed west), or introduce it ourselves in a controlled manner.

Although I'm not a fan of solid blocks of large acreage treated to create a monoculture, I have a hard time believing that any mowing project could result in the amount forage lost to the point of eradicating a population of mule deer. Will they move to different habitat? Probably, but despite what we might see resulting from a single treatment, the vast, vast majority of the surrounding habitat may remain untouched. We need to move beyond looking at habitat in such a short term, and realize that several thousand acres treated today will be the favored habitat in 30-50 years when the untreated habitat surrounding it crashes due to the lack of disturbance.

The habitat treatments occurring now will benefit our children and grandchildren. The waste of our money happens when we attempt to suppress every natural disturbance and allow sagebrush, bitterbrush, mountain mahogany, and aspen to reach decadence and slowly die off. It's a hell of a lot more complicated than observing some mowing treatments,seeing wildlife seasonal habits change for a few years, and deciding that all treatments suck.
 

squirrel

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 29, 2013
Messages
624
So how would you determine the age of head high, 4" dia sage? Section,Polish, and count rings? 100 yrs condensed into 4 inches would be mighty tight spacing. I never knew that brush could be decadent, just some of the people I've camped with.
 

RobG

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 10, 2010
Messages
5,503
Location
Bozeman, MT
Not sure what the mystery is, the wildlife biologists that I've met claim deer are browsers so they primarily eat forbs and twigs, etc. They don't have the "stomach" to get enough nutrition from grass so they can't survive on it long term. Elk are primarily grazers so they moved in when the grass came in and the deer left when their primary forage went away.

If you browse the internet you can find studies easy enough. It makes you wonder what you would find if you grazed the internet.
 

Gr8bawana

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 14, 2013
Messages
4,733
Location
Nevada
The little spot where we hunt in Nevada is an old burn. The first time we hunted there the burn was ten to fifteen years old and there was no sage at all just yellow grass. That was in 1983. So I'm guessing it took about 20-25 years for the sage to start growing back. The sage is now about 3 feet tall and I found the first pinion pine regrowing two years ago, it was about 6 inches tall.
In some of the canyons the Aspen trees are starting to grow back now and are about 6 feet tall.
We have been taking some really nice bucks from this area the enitre time.
 

Attachments

  • DSCN1156.jpg
    DSCN1156.jpg
    48.8 KB · Views: 442
Top