To make your property stand out to bucks, entice them with something sweet: trees laden with plump, energy-rich fruit. Small clusters of soft-mast trees are far less common than traditional food plots on managed properties, and they make ideal ambush points for bowhunters. You can’t go wrong with the three sweets below.
Rich in sugars, starch, and fats, apples increase deer’s digestion speed. That allows them to eat more often and obtain more nutrition to prepare for winter. Without such a high-energy food source, deer burn protein and body fat instead. They also happen to love the sweet taste of apples and readily seek them out.
One apple tree can produce 250 pounds of fruit. Plant a mix of early- and late-ripening trees. The former include Centennial, Liberty, Enterprise, Rome, Horse, and Magnum Bonum. Honeycrisp, Arkansas Black, Goldrush, Blacktwig, and York ripen later, in October and November.
On my hunting property, big bucks seem to have a special fondness for ripe pears. Trees that avoid fire blight disease can grow 50 feet tall and produce for up
to 75 years, with fruits emerging as early as the third year.
Pears can thrive in fairly wet areas. Good varieties include Anjou, Bartlett, GioVan, Doc’s Special, Flemish Beauty, Kieffer, Potomac, Magness, Shenandoah, Burford, and Stacey. Most of these drop their fruits in early fall. Big Mama, Trophy, and Gallaway hold theirs much later, making them good bets for firearms seasons.
Make sure to plant several varieties of pear trees to ensure pollination.
These do well near forest edges and fallow fields. Female persimmon trees begin bearing fruit at between 5 and 8 years old and can produce for half a century, yielding a strong crop every other year. The 20- to 40-foot trees are hardy, surviving temperatures to 20 below and thriving in low-quality soils.
Persimmons contain 25 to 45 percent sugar and are rich in phosphorus, potassium, vitamins, and carbohydrates. Deer and deer managers like Blue, Craggs, Dollywood, Evelyn, Janet, Killen, Miller, and Yates varieties. Any will ripen as early as August but may hold on to fruits into December, making them a season-long draw.
From the August, 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.