Plant These Deer Magnets to Make Them Go Nuts

Deer love chestnuts, which are full of nutrients they can use during winter months.

Fall is right around the corner and it’s time to start planning autumn food plots, which are great ways to provide extra food to deer and wildlife through winter when sources can get scarce.

Whether you have an existing food plot or are starting a new one from scratch, it’s a great time to add trees. Trees provide cover and food, making them a smart long-term investment to any property.

Fall planting gives two cooler, damper growing periods – fall and spring – before a new tree faces hot summer conditions. Fall really is a good time to plant because:

  • Shorter days, less intense sunlight, more rain, and the cooler temperatures of early fall mean less stress (i.e. “transplant shock”) 
  • Newly planted trees tend to lose less moisture through their leaves in fall than in summer, which lowers water demands.
  • Bugs and diseases that are in high gear during summer mostly wind down and/or disappear to hibernate as fall progresses.
  • Planting in the fall gives them a head start on growth the following spring. Root systems will start to grow once the ground thaws, long before the soil can be worked by human hands and any new plants can be put in.

Adding Dunstan Chestnut trees to your food plot can be as simple as clearing a “spot” for your tree or clear- cutting an area. Remove existing weeds or clear a spot in your food plot so the tree doesn’t have to compete with weeds or annuals for water. Hand weed, use herbicide and or lay some ground cloth to prevent weeds from choking your tree.

Water is the single most important factor for tree survival. Especially during drought years, if you do not water your trees they will die. Many trees die from too little or too much water during the first few months after planting. Trees are likely to get too little water in well-drained soil and too much in soil that is poorly drained.

If you plant in autumn, water in at planting and then one time a week until they lose their leaves and go dormant with the onset of winter. Resume watering after leaf out in the spring. Make sure water is applied to the original root ball. Adjust water according to soil type, temperature, rainfall, and other irrigation.

It is not necessary to fertilize in autumn. Fertilizing too late in the year can cause trees to grow when they should be shutting down for winter. Any tender new growth, when pushed too late in the season, is also more susceptible to winter injury.

During their first few years of growth, the trunk should be protected with grow tubes. These plastic tubes act as mini-greenhouses that enhance the growth of young trees and give protection from the activities and feeding of deer, rabbits, and mice. They also help protect the tree from spray and drift from herbicide, and offer some cold protection in late season frosts.

“Deer and other wildlife seek a variety of food types every day,” said R.D. Wallace of Chestnut Hill Outdoors. “If you’ve ever watched whitetails move through the woods, you know they stop frequently to nibble on leaves and mast. When you concentrate a variety of preferred foods in a relatively small area like a food plot and enhance it with mast-bearing trees like Dunstan chestnuts, it creates a variety deer can’t resist. The deer are seeking the nutrition that other leafy foods do not provide. They’ll spend more time on your plot, which increases your chances of success.”

Chestnuts are chosen by deer over other nuts because of their taste and nutrition. They are high in carbohydrates at 40 percent and contain up to 10 percent high-quality protein. This provides a critical and easily usable energy source. Chestnuts have no bitter-tasting tannin – and a deer’s taste buds are 1,000 times as sensitive as humans. Deer prefer white oak acorns over red oaks because they contain less tannin, and this is why deer prefer chestnuts over all acorn. Some oaks can take decades to produce nuts, while the Dunstan chestnut starts producing at three to five years!

The Dunstan chestnut tree is a great investment because it is an American-x-Chinese hybrid bred in the 1950’s by plant breeder Dr. Robert T. Dunstan. It is blight-resistant, and produces early and annually. The Dunstan produces a large, sweet, easy to peel nut, making it an excellent for human consumption as well as an excellent food plot tree.