At our small slice of real estate, we use to hunt whitetail deer and turkey, we have done numerous habitat improvement projects. One of my favorites is planting trees. These trees provide fruit for the deer herd in the fall and some browse in the spring. I love trees and I love the thought of planting something that my kids can use to enjoy the great outdoors long after I am gone. If you are planting a deer hunting orchard tree protection is vital to protect your investment.
If you are going to go through all the effort to plant the trees. You have to be willing to invest in some sort of protection. Otherwise deer will over browse them in the spring. Rub them and break precious limbs or the central leader. Setting your habitat management project back at least a year or more depending on the age of the tree.
I have tried numerous ways to protect our fruit tree’s over the years. When I first started and had very little knowledge about this topic, I would buy the plastic trunk protector at Lowe’s or Menards and wrap that around them. My thought was it would protect the trunk in the fall when the deer were rubbing their antlers. Well, I was wrong. They dried up became brittle in the first season and were worthless as protection. Let alone they did nothing to deter deer from over browsing.
Another strategy I attempted was to plant a large number of seedlings. Leaving them unprotected thinking that there was a strength in numbers, and some would survive. Let’s just say not many survived. I was fed up, I had spent my resources time, money, and energy to plant these trees for the future. They were not thriving or worse yet dead.
I then settled on a strategy of planting older, healthy trees which cost more per tree, but I was willing to invest a little more for a better outcome. In addition to the tree itself, I invested in fencing to protect the tree. Horse fencing to be exact, the five-foot-tall variety like this from Lowe’s. I would cut it such that I could make a 5-foot circle around the tree with the fencing. This protected the trees from deer over browsing and from rubbing. (Note: you will want to stake two sides of the fence down) See the image for what can happen if you miss staking the fence down, the deer are more than eager to help relocate your fencing.
Prior to placing the fence around the newly planted tree I would cover the ground around the base with heavy duty landscape fabric and cover with mulch.
It is worth the investment, we have apple, pear, peach, and persimmon trees on our farm that thriving and will be for years to come.
Take the extra time and resources and do it right the first time. You will be years ahead in the long run.