We all know that food is the single most important factor in drawing and holding deer on your land. Deer spend the majority of their active hours in search of food. All deer food isn’t created equal though. Deer are what ecologists call “concentrate selectors” meaning they prefer to eat only the foods with the highest concentration of nutritional content.
For deer, the highest concentration of nutritional content can be found in fruit and nuts. The best way to provide high quality deer food is by planting mast producing trees. We’ve all seen the drawing power of a big white oak, but there are other trees out there that are even more attractive to deer. Chestnuts, for example, have 4x the carbs and 2.5x the protein of white oak acorns. Deer know this and seek out this highly nutritious food source over all others. Not only are chestnuts more nutritious, but they also lack the tannins that make acorns taste bitter. Instead of the bitter taste of acorns chestnuts have a sweet taste making them that much more attractive to deer. In fact, tests performed at the Whitetail Research Institute showed deer choose chestnuts 100:1 over acorns. It’s no wonder that chestnuts are considered the ultimate food plot tree for deer.
In addition to being nutritious and attractive, chestnuts are also extremely productive. Most food plot plantings produce 1000-8000 lbs of forage per acre, chestnuts will produce 3,000 lbs of high quality deer food per acre. Now that might make it seem like food plots could be a better option but here is where nut and fruit trees really have the advantage: calories per pound of food. Calories are what matter, they’re what deer need to pack on weight and fuel rut activity, and they’ll seek out the best place to find them. Fruit and nuts are very calorie dense, much more so than the greens grown in most food plots. Chestnuts have roughly 1000 calories/lb compared to only 127 cal/lb in turnips, 101 cal/lb in trophy radishes, and 227 cal/lb in kale.
An average food plot will produce around 750,000 calories per acre, meanwhile the same acre planted in chestnuts would produce 3,000,000 calories. That’s over 4x the calories per acre compared to food plots!
When we look at how much high quality food can be produced per acre by planting trees, it sort of makes all that work put into planting food plots seem like a waste of time.
Speaking of work, that’s another advantage to planting trees: they require very little input compared to other options like food plots and feeders. With food plots you countless hours every year clearing, disking, planting, mowing, spraying chemicals, and fertilizing, only to do it all over again next year. With feeders you have to haul hundreds or thousands of pounds of expensive feed into your hunting spot, hurting your wallet, your back, and your chances of seeing a nice buck by disturbing the area. If you choose to plant trees you make a one time investment, plant your trees, give them a little care the first year or so and then just let them grow. In no time you’ll have a major food source that takes care of itself and produces year after year without any input from you.
Many people think it takes decades to see production from trees, but that simply isn’t true. Some trees, such as your common white and red oaks found throughout the country will take 20+ years to produce but here at Whitetail Hill Chestnuts we sell fast-producing varieties. We know you don’t just want to make a great hunting spot for your grandkids, you want one for yourself and you don’t want to wait 20 years. Our Hybrid Chestnuts will produce in just 3-5 years. We have fast producing oaks like Sawtooth and Nutall Oaks that produce in as little as 6 years, and most of our fruit trees produce in less than 6 years, some even sooner.
With all the advantages, you might be wondering: why aren’t more people planting trees for deer? The simple answer is, they are! We stay sold out much of the year as landowners all over the country are discovering the advantage of planting trees for deer. And when you compare it to other habitat improvements like food plotting, we can see why! There simply is no better way to improve habitat, improve nutrition, and improve attraction like planting mast producing trees.