Best Food Trees to Plant for Deer

   11.25.19

Regular readers know that I have planted some Dunstan Chestnut trees on my hunting property in hopes of making it more attractive to deer. It’s been a rocky road, but I have replaced the two trees that died and am hoping to see some benefit in a few years. Whitetail deer really love chestnuts, but there are other trees you can plant to help improve your deer habitat.

I recently ran across a post outlining the 6 best “food plot trees” to plant in order to bring more deer to your property. They list the top trees as follows:

  1. Dunstan Chestnut
  2. Pear
  3. Apple
  4. Persimmon
  5. Oak
  6. High Bush Cranberry

Deer love chestnuts, and we are told they prefer them 100 to 1 over acorns! This is the main reason I selected them for planting on our Georgia property… aside from the fact that while we have wild persimmons and crabapples throughout the property, I believe my plantings represent the only chestnuts for miles around. If the trees (and I) live long enough, I’m confident this will help attract and retain a bunch of whitetail deer.

This Dunstan Chestnut tree came in a one-gallon pot. (Photo © Russ Chastain)
This Dunstan Chestnut tree came in a one-gallon pot.
(Photo © Russ Chastain)

Some folks swear by pears, saying they’ve watched deer walk by apples to get to pears… so that makes pears a natural choice to plant here & there around your hunting property.

Apples come in many varieties, but whitetails seem to think they’re all delicious. There’s nothing wrong with apple trees, and if you have the only apples in the area, the deer will know it — and will surely visit them regularly.

Persimmons are an interesting fruit, and wildlife love them. I’ve seen video of a buck on our hunting property standing on its hind legs to reach persimmons on a tree, and other critters love them as well. Chestnut Hill Outdoors have a collection of variations they call “Deer Candy.” I think the name says it all.

Acorns produced by oak trees are not as “sexy” as other things like chestnuts and pears, but they are by far more abundant and more universally craved by deer and other wildlife. Years ago, gobbler sawtooth oaks were planted on our property because of their attraction to turkeys by producing acorns small enough for the birds to eat… and no doubt, deer like them as well.

Bottom line: If you don’t have acorn-producing oak trees on your hunting property, get some.

The cranberry mentioned is one I haven’t run across before, but the author says it doubles as food source and cover, because it’s technically a shrub rather than a tree.

I’ve planted cranberry shrubs in all types of soils, ranging from sun-drenched sandy hills to heavy clay. They’ve thrived wherever I’ve planted them. It takes just a few years for them to get bushy, tall, and thick. You’ll have gobs of berries that deer, turkeys, and birds relish. And, when planted in clusters, they create awesome bedding cover.

I hope this gives you some ideas about how you can improve your hunting habitat… it’s certainly given me some. Happy hunting!

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