Property owners often take special care in establishing and maintaining deer food plots each season.
However, planting hard and soft mast trees, and caring for existing trees, shouldn’t be overlooked either. Mast sources are a key component of a whitetail’s diet, and they supplement standard food plot crops very well.
They are especially important on smaller parcels that can’t support acres of food plots, but they should really be a part of any management strategy.
When deciding to add mast trees to any land, first evaluate which species are already present. Ideally, you want a variety that provides deer with many foraging options throughout the year, including the off-season.
Different trees drop mast at different times of the year. Plant with purpose to ensure you always have food available no matter the season, and you’ll attract — and retain — more deer.
We as humans like variety in our diet, and we have to eat all year in order to survive. Why not offer deer the same opportunities?
If you already have abundant white and red oaks on the property, consider adding fruit trees like apple, crabapple or persimmon to the mix. Conversely, if you have fruit trees and are lacking hard mast sources, expand in that department.
One great hard-mast option is the Dunstan chestnut. This hybrid species, offered by Chestnut Hill Outdoors, is resistant to the blight that all but eliminated the original American chestnut in the early 20th century, and it bears mast in just 3 to 5 years as opposed to the 10 to 20 years or more it takes some oaks.
Also, each year the Dunstan chestnut produces a heavy crop of sweet-flavored, high-carb, high-protein chestnuts that some studies suggest deer often prefer, even to acorns. Oaks, while they typically produce annually, don’t produce a strong crop each and every year.
The Dunstan chestnut’s combination of a short initial time to produce, substantial yearly crop and desirable nutrition source makes it a perfect choice for adding a hard-mast option to a property relatively quickly. So, there’s really no excuse not to start planting for the future today.