10 Trees That Will Hold Deer on Your Hunting Property

10 Trees That Will Hold Deer on Your Hunting Property

Posted 2021-02-04T09:41:00Z  by  Michael Pendley

Tips on which trees to plant, when, and how — to attract deer and keep them coming back

Mention planting for deer, and most hunters automatically assume you are talking about food plots. There is no doubt that a nice food plot will attract and hold deer in an area. But planting trees and shrubs can also be an excellent way to improve the hunting on your property, whether you own, lease, or hunt by permission.

I checked with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Joe Lacefield and USFWS wildlife biologist Brad Pendley to get their top picks for wildlife-friendly trees. Unlike annual or semiannual food plots like beans, clover, or alfalfa, trees and shrubs are a long-term project. How long? It depends on what you plant.

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Short-term plantings consist of small trees and large shrubs that begin to provide fruit or forage in the years immediately after planting. Some plants start to produce a year or two after planting, whereas others will take as long as 10 to 15 years.

Unlike the soft mast and fruit production of those short-term plantings, long-term trees take longer to mature, often as many as 15 to 20 years, but will produce regularly for years to come after they start. The good thing about those long-term plants is that they will still be around to bring deer in for your grandchildren.

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Tree-Planting Tips

  1. Plant trees in the fall. This gives them all winter and spring to develop roots before the hot and dry summer.
  2. Water during dry times in the first year. It takes a while for a tree's root system to grow adequately to keep it nourished during dry periods.
  3. Plant in direct sunlight. Trees grow best when they receive light from above. Avoid planting in existing timber or thickets unless you clear an area around the new tree.
  4. Remove existing vegetation from the area around the tree. Existing vegetation has a jump on your tree seedlings when it comes to root development. They will pull any available nutrients and water from the soil before your tree can use it.
  5. Don't fertilize right away. Tree seedlings contain everything they need to grow for at least six months. Overfertilizing can burn the tender roots and encourages vegetation growth around the tree.
  6. Protect the seedlings. Rabbits, deer, and other wildlife love tender seedlings. Protect them with tree tubes whenever possible. As your young tree grows, Lacefield says you can protect it from bucks that might want to rub their antlers on it by driving rebar posts next to the trunk or by hanging a few pie pans from the branches. Bucks don't like the feel of the rebar on their antlers, and the clanging metal spooks them.
  7. Fertilize once your trees start to mature. Regular fertilization after the tree is a year or more old encourages growth and speeds mast production.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published on Aug. 23, 2017.

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