The 5 Best Trees for Deer on Your Property
I grew up hunting on public land, so I never learned much about food plots until later on in life. My friends would often talk about hunting in blinds looking over fields of alfalfa and clover while I was trekking miles into bottomland hardwoods with a climber on my back looking for feed trees. It was tough hunting, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Learning how to identify the best trees for deer has proven a valuable asset, whether I’m hunting public land or my own property.
There are a few trees, like persimmons, that seem to be deer magnets, what some might call buck candy. The deer congregate around them because they’re just plain delicious. Then there are those of the oak variety that offer the herd the necessary fat and protein they’ll need to last throughout winter. It’s best if your property has a combination of these. While persimmons are a great early season food source, they’ll quickly stop producing as winter approaches. Good news is that certain varieties of oaks, such as the red, can continue dropping acorns well into winter, which provides a reliable hunting location for several months.
Next time you’re out scouting, keep a lookout for these five trees. If you find any, be sure to mark it on a map or set a waypoint on a GPS. You can bet your bottom dollar that the deer will utilize these feed trees during hunting season. As an added bonus, not only are these trees good for wildlife, but also property value. Having mature timber can be an excellent investment.
Sawtooth oaks are actually invasive. The trees are native to Asia and were introduced to North America in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that, due to their prevalence, deer hunters began to notice their value and began planting them. The trees grow fast and can produce acorns consistently at just eight years old.
Sawtooth acorns usually fall early, within the first few weeks of the season in late-September and early October. For this reason, you’ll want other trees on your property that produce later in the year or for longer spans. If you only have sawtooths, the deer will move on once the crop dries up.
Diversity is important in the deer woods, which is what makes red oaks so important. This family of oak trees includes the northern and southern red, water, willow, laurel, pin, and nuttall, among a few others. Given the choice, a whitetail will consume white oak acorns first, but when the times are tough in winter, it’s the red oak family of trees that provide.
While white oaks typically produce a mast crop every few years, they’ll always have some acorns that will drop well before winter. And what deer and squirrels don’t find will be rotten by the arrival of the first cold front. Red oaks, on the other hand, mature and drop acorns later in the season. Those acorns contain higher tannic acid, which preserves them for longer on the forest floor, providing food for deer well into the late season.
If there ever was candy for deer, it’s persimmons. While deer consume the twigs and leaves of these trees, it’s the succulent fruit they really crave. Persimmons are rich in vitamin C, sugar and potassium. The fruit usually ripens after the first frost and then they begin to fall from the tree. When this occurs, deer from all around will come in to feast.
Crabapple is a term used for small, wild-growing apples that can be found in virtually all of North America. There are several varieties and species that range from sweet to bitter tasting. One thing they all have in common, though, is that deer love them. The fruit grows in clusters and will ripen in the early fall, then begin falling to the ground. Deer will pick up the fruit off the ground long before it rots, or they’ll wipe clean low-hanging branches.
A honey locust tree produces bean pods that are consumed by deer, hogs, squirrels and other critters. It’s easy to identify the trees, as the bark and branches are full of large thorns, and the brown bean pods are quite large. The pods will drop to the forest floor in the early season, offering a great bowhunting location.