Surf’s up for the fall false albacore run
in Idaho and the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana for 26 years, has no doubt that over long periods of time, fires can help improve hunting opportunities. But that’s not always the case.
▪ BIG FIRES with heavy fuels can be so intense that they sterilize the soil for decades. “When fires get so hot that rocks are exploding, that’s bad,” says Henderson.
Small fires of just 50 acres in size can create high-density forage and are more likely to create small pockets of cover. But good hunting doesn’t have to come by way of small fires; much larger mosaic patterns that create good edge cover and leave patches of standing timber for bedding sites are ideal.
Look for small fires of less than 500 acres, or fires that created oddshaped patchworks of burned areas. These smaller, low-intensity fires are more likely to provide successful underburning, which leaves big trees standing but creates more forage per acre by releasing nutrients into the soil without destroying it.
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
▪ THERE’S MORE to the impact of fires on mule deer than nutrition, though. New underbrush also provides cover for fawns in spring and opens up areas that make it easier for hunters to see deer during fall. Areas burned in recent years are a good place to look for that trophy buck, but Henderson cautions hunters to avoid overlooking land features that might also produce good bucks.
“I try not to overanalyze things, but deer need enough timber left after a fire to bed down in,” says Henderson. “I also noticed that areas choked with new growth or dense forests don’t produce as well as the classic November
▲ An out-ofcontrol wildfire in northern Idaho.