We all know the most popular food plots in America include clover, corn, soybeans and brassicas. While that might be the norm there's a growing trend among hunters of including fruit and nut trees to their arsenal. Here's some tips for using fruit and nut trees to attract deer to your hunting property.
The Candy Bar Approach
If you are considering planting fruit or nut trees on your property, Grant Woods, host of GrowingDeerTV suggests you look around and make sure you plant trees that will attract deer and not just blend in with what is currently in your area. He calls it the Candy Bar approach.
“In some parts of the country, chestnut trees do a great job of attracting deer. Where I live, if I plant a nut tree, the deer won’t even look at it because we have so many acorns here. I plant apple trees because apples are very attractive to deer around here because they can’t find apples in many places. Deer like a little variety in their diet. Fruits and nuts can really draw deer onto a piece of property if a hunter has what can’t be found anywhere else,”
In a sea of crops and food plots, a fruit tree or nut tree can become the candy bar to the deer in your part of the country.
Give Deer a Variety of Food
When growing food plots, Woods likes to give deer something to eat all the time. He plants his plots so something is always growing and providing food. Trees can be grown the same way.
“There are a variety of fruit and nut trees available. Some apples ripen in the early fall and some ripen in the middle or late fall,” Woods said. I like offering a few different apple varieties so the deer always have something available. Something I have found is deer prefer certain fruit trees over others. Many years ago, I was managing an apple tree plot and noticed most of the apples were hanging on the limb without being eaten. I bumped into a row of apples trees that were being devoured by the deer. For some reason, they really like that variety over the others. Trees are valuable to have around because when a buck loses his velvet, he goes from wanting nothing but protein to craving carbohydrates. Fruit can satisfy the need for carbs. Just make sure you give them a few different options.”
Trees Require Work
Some people believe planting trees is going to require less work than a traditional food plot. According to Woods, that is not the case.
“Some people have the misconception that fruit trees are easier to grow than food plots. Fruit trees need to be planted, protected, and cared for. For the first few years before a tree provides food, it has to be protected from being rubbed by deer, eaten by rabbits or other animals. It needs adequate water. Trees are far from maintenance free,”
Woods explained. Adding trees that give deer and other wildlife another food source to your property is a good thing. Realize that trees are a longterm investment.
“It takes many years before trees start producing a crop large enough to attract much wildlife, but eventually they produce much food and can give animals another food source they don’t have anywhere else.”
Put a Tree or Two in a Food Plot
Some land owners like having clover food plots and tree plots. They keep the two separate. Woods, on the other hand, puts the two together.
“I plant my fruit trees in my food plots. I have soybeans and fruit trees in the same plot. This gives me multiple attractions in the same area, which really helps draw the deer in. In addition, the soybeans are providing nitrogen that the trees love. The food plot helps keep the weeds down around the tree. After the tree reaches maturity, the food plot provides the deer with all kinds of food. Until then, keeping a tree protected in a food plot is fairly simple. Putting a cage around it and keeping deer away from it until it is mature isn’t very difficult.”
Property Size Doesn't Matter
If you don’t have a large piece of property where you can plant acres of food plots, Bob Wallace from Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Florida believes tree plots might be the perfect thing for you because trees can grow food in a small area and give you variety.
“The cool thing about planting trees is anyone can do it, regardless of the size of land they have. A person with a few acres can pull big bucks off their neighbor’s property year round if they plant the right things. Even if their neighbor has food plots and agriculture, in many cases the deer prefer fruit and nuts, which will pull them onto their property.”
Provide Spring, Summer and Fall Attractants
Wallace believes one of the greatest things about trees is there are enough varieties available that people can grow trees that bear fruit in early spring, summer, early fall and through the end of the rut and into winter. By planting all kinds of trees, the deer will always be nearby.
“Mulberries will ripen first in June and July. Then comes peaches and plums, blueberries and cherries. Blackberries are another thing that wildlife likes. Apples and pears peak late summer and early fall. Some even hang on the branch almost until winter. Of course, then you have chestnuts, persimmons and acorns that will be great fall attractants. If someone plans and plants accordingly, they will always have food available for deer and other wildlife including turkeys and other game birds, especially if they plant traditional food plots along with the trees."
The Chestnut Tree Advantage
If you only have the money, time or acreage to plant a few trees each year and you don’t have many nut producing trees in your part of the country, Wallace suggests getting a few apple trees and chestnut trees.
“Chestnuts contain up to 40% carbohydrates and ten times the protein of an acorn! This is why deer love them so much and why every tree plot should have a few.”
According to Wallace, another reason to go with a chestnut tree instead of an oak tree is because most oak trees take decades before they produce many acorns. The Dustan Chestnut starts producing nuts in three to five years.
Whether you choose to plant apple trees, chestnut trees or oak trees, one thing is certain: every land manager and land owner should be planting trees. Taking the candy bar approach can draw deer onto a piece of property and keep them there when nothing else will.
Buying Trees for Food Plots
You can find a nursery near you that probably sells quality trees. Dustan Chestnut Trees can be found at Wal-Mart and a variety of other places around the country. Dr. Grant Woods works with Flatwood Natives. They grow a variety of fruit and nut tree species that make great tree plots.