One of the biggest questions I am asked is, "how will logging effect hunting?" Avid hunters have been on the fence about this subject for years, but time and again results show that a harvest is good for hunting. During the harvest and immediately following deer, turkeys, and other animals will be seen browsing on the tops. Deer are naturally curious and many times in winter I have seen them on the next hillside over munching on tree tops from the previous day's cutting like the picture shown here. Deer and other game animals need places to hide where they feel comfortable. In a mature stand of timber they typically pass through at night, because there is no structure to hold them. If there is no undergrowth forage or shelter it's difficult to keep deer or other game animals in a woods in southern Wisconsin. Once the tops break down the next generation of trees will be thick enough to create more cover. The leftover top wood also plays a vital role in the regeneration of the woods as detailed further below.
"How will a harvest effect wildlife in general?"
In a mature woods, there is very little forage in the under-story for any critters. It just won't hold animals. By creating sunlight gaps after a harvest deer and other animals browse on the fresh tops. They also have new places to shelter in and around the top wood. Once the sunlight gets in and the forest begins to grow again, it starts to thicken up and create more shelter after the tops have rotted away. The wood left after logging also protects young trees from deer being able to browse on them. The branches from the fallen top allow sunlight to filter thru, but the deer can not reach them. The rotting top wood also creates food and homes for smaller organisms that the larger animals eat. Worms and insects that break down the tops thrive and are eaten by mice, whom are eaten by hawks and owls, etc. The life cycle flourishes and continues.
"What happens to the tops?"
After the valuable main stem of the tree is harvested there can be a fair amount of wood leftover. In some cases I can utilize that wood if I can make an 8 foot piece that is straight enough to stack on a log truck. In other cases the wood can be utilized as firewood for home use or it can be left to breakdown and replenish the soil. The nutrients from the tops will re-absorb and be used for future generations of trees. It does not take long for the tops to lay down and start to deteriorate. In 2-4 years time the fine limbs are mostly gone. In 10 years the main limbs are gone and in 15 years only occasional large odds and ends remain. Weathering and micro organisms do all the work.