So, you have a food plot. Now what?
Plant yourself a deer hunting orchard, that’s what. A hunting orchard is a great long-term investment. Unlike a food plot, you won’t have to replant every few years. However, again, this is a long-term investment, so make sure you get the most out of your time.
1. Plant native and buy local
Native plant species can often offer the same if not better benefits to your hunting property. They also won’t try to take it over and spread. Buying seedlings from a local nursery also ensures that your trees have adapted to your local climate. This will keep them from dying off if it gets too hot, cold, or if there is a difference in soil.
2. Plant what you don’t have
This one is probably obvious, but don’t plant a tree that you already have several of. If you have oaks, look at fruit-bearing trees. If you don’t have any trees, plant both fruit-bearing (like apple) and white oaks. The white oaks in theory drop acorns faster and the acorns are sweeter. Don’t plant just one type of tree, either; diversity will keep deer in year round. So, if you plant your white oaks this year but don’t have any red oaks, plant them next year.
3. Plant now (Winter or early Spring)
Right now, plants are dormant, so they have a much higher survival rate. This statement also applies when you get your seedlings. Once you get them, put them in the ground and follow the planting directions exactly.
4. Protect the trees
Use a tree shelter to wrap around the tree. Spare fencing to wrap around it. Anything to keep the deer from it. A buck loves nothing more to rub on your brand new, freshly planted tree. I’m not sure they’re doing it on purpose, but it sure seems like it. Protect the roots by digging the holes deep enough to bury the roots but still keeping them close to the surface.
The final stretch of protection is to keep them away from other trees. 30 feet of separation between trees for your oaks and 20 feet for your fruit trees. This ensures sunlight for the seedlings, provides space for them to grow, and keeps the trees from competing with one another.