Trees surround most of us while out hunting. Do you ever actually pay attention to how closely those trees could help you get more deer or turkey?
While out scouting, most of us look for fresh scrapes, scat, heavily used game trails, feathers, calls, and more. We don’t really pay much attention to the trees around us, besides looking for the perfect one for your stand to go into.
By learning what certain trees offer the game you are targeting, you can greatly increase your odds on knowing when and where that game will be.
During the spring and summer, when food is readily available, deer eat a wide variety of fruits, berries, grasses, and flowering plants. When the weather begins to turn, their diet changes as food becomes more scarce. They begin looking for more nuts and seeds to help them fatten up before the cold hits.
Look for hard mast trees such as hickory, beechnut, and oaks. Deer will flock to these locations to feast upon falling nuts. You will need to do more than look for those trees though. Timing is important as each begins dropping nuts at different times leading to fall.
First to hit the ground will be beechnuts in late August. Beech trees are easily identified by their smooth, grey bark. They have elliptical leaves with evenly serrated edges and grow to about 50 feet tall. Nuts are less than an inch long and enclosed in a spiny, triangular shaped husk that enclose pairs of nuts.
Hickory nuts will follow in September. Hickory trees have dark grey bark that form deep vertical ridges. They have long, slender, serrated leaves that grow in direct opposite pairs. Their nuts have a fragile, light brown husk with a seam down the middle that gives way to a tan, gumball sized nut. They often grow near oaks.
Oaks will drop their nuts last, usually in late October when deer season starts. There are many types of oaks, but deer prefer white oaks over others as their acorns are sweeter. Oaks have hard, grey bark with deep grooves and ridges. Their leaves will have lobes that will be either rounded or pointy, and grow in a spiral pattern around branches. Acorns are easily identifiable by their smooth cup shaped bottom and rough tops.
If you can find a patch of these trees or a cluster of them growing together you will almost be guaranteed to see deer in the area. Also be aware of areas of trees with fungus, moss, and mushrooms growing around them as deer will eat these in the cooler months.
Until the late spring and summer months when bugs are plentiful in fields, turkey tend to stay in the woods. Their winter diet of mosses, fungus, and nuts are easier to find growing on the trees around them. They are much like deer in the spring and colder months becoming opportunist when it comes to food. That is why you will generally see deer and turkey gathered near the same places.
Trees are especially important when it comes to turkey because that is where they find their protection from predators at night. Turkeys look for specific trees to roost in though, they don’t just pick them at random. They will often return to the same tree multiple times while they remain in the area giving you a great advantage if you find their roost.
Look for tall, wide trees with the nearest branches being at least 20 feet off the ground. They choose these to get as high up from predators as possible. Large trees with branches that grow out over water are a big plus for turkeys as they offer extra protection.
Keep an eye out for trees on or near slopes and hillsides, as they use the hillsides to help them get into trees. They will walk up past the tree and glide down to the branches rather than fly straight up. They will tend to be halfway to 3/4 of the way up a hill, never at the top, to protect them from the elements.
Trees that have a clear view to the east where the sun rises are also a great place to check. They will roost there in safety to warm their feathers in the rising sun before heading out to look for food.
Lastly, check for groups of large pine trees when inclement weather is coming. Turkey nestle themselves in their branches among the thick needles as protection from storms and hard rain. Pine trees are also more forgiving during high winds and branches won’t break as easily as other trees.
When looking for their roosting tree look for fresh scat on lower branches as well as around the base of the tree. Scratch marks and feathers are also great indicators. Come back to that same area early morning or right around dusk to see if your findings were correct or if it was an old roost.
Here is a listing of the best species of tree to look for roosts based on your region:
- Midwest, East, Northeast: Oaks and Basswood
- South and Southeast: Cypress, Sycamore, and Pines
- West: Almost any pines.
- North: Red Oak, Beech, and White Ash
Keep these trees and tips in mind next time you are out scouting new areas, or looking for the best area to place your treestand where you currently hunt. By knowing exactly what your quarry is eating you will increase your chances tenfold for a successful hunt.