I have access to some stalking, for sika, in a commercial forestry dominated by sitka spruce which is mostly mature and heading for clear felling, or being clear felled, at the minute.
I was doing some thinking about this and am a little unsure of how things work and so am sort of thinking aloud here and asking some questions:
Mature sitka seems to hold some sika deer which come out of the forestry at night to feed along the edges. By and large there is very limited feeding within the forestry and even the rides are dominated by heather and sphagnum moss. It seems to me that the holding capacity of mature sitka is low. I'm guessing that the holding capacity of such a block is limited by the feeding along its edges, would this be correct?
There is a small proportion of the forest, say 100 acres, which was felled and replanted with sitka about 10 - 11 years ago. This area seems to be somewhat more attractive to deer as there are some green areas within the trees, though in another few years they will have closed over to shade almost all of the ground from light. The trees are now "large Christmas tree" sized at probably 10 - 12 feet. By the nature of this ground with heavy cover and closely planted trees with branches close to the ground it is impossible to stalk in the trees and it is impossible to risk having a chest shot sika run into this ground as it would never be found. Watching the edge of this area gives me to believe that more deer move into/out of this area than any other area of the forest. I can't figure why, if this area had good feeding, the deer would be moving to and from it at last light. Can anyone shed any light on this one?
Also over the last few years, say about 4, there has been a lot of new clear felling and replanting with new sitka. I would guess this amounts to around 100, maybe nearer 200, acres per year with the trees being felled in blocks of about 10 acres each. As they are felled the blocks are replanted with sitka. That I can see these new areas of clear fell which range from new to about 4 years old hold no deer at all and the deer do not appear to move onto them at night. Some of them are starting to "green up" a little now though the growth is mostly rough rushes and the like as the ground is certainly not suitable for good grass. Should the deer be starting to move onto these newly planted areas? How many years does it usually take before the "holding capacity" of such an area increases after clear felling takes place? Do such areas have the potential to greatly increase the holding capacity of the forest in general while they are regrowing?
All thoughts and answers gratefully received.