Mast producing trees increase wildlife

Published 2:37 pm Sunday, March 4, 2001

Outdoors Columnist
About the only thing good about deer season coming to an end is the anticipation of deer seasons to come. To insure good hunting in the future, now is the time to plant mast producing trees on your farm or hunting lease.
According to Wayne Bassett of the Tuskegee based Wildlife Group, producers of sawtooth oaks and other wildlife foods, time is drawing short to get those nut producing trees in the ground. Basset recommends the regular sawtooth oak for deer and the "Gobbler" variety of the sawtooth for deer and turkey. The Gobbler produces a smaller nut preferred by turkeys but is readily eaten by deer.
The sawtooth oak is a native to Asia that is widely adapted to Alabama soils. They grow fast and produce acorns in the fifth or sixth growing season. Sawtooth acorns are large, similar to native white oaks and fall in September and October. Sawtooths are prolific producers, usually producing nuts every year with large yields. Seven to ten year old trees can produce hundreds of pounds of acorns per tree.
Eddie Stinson, one of the sawtooth oak specialist at The Wildlife group, cautions that to get a good producing tree it must be managed right in the first few years. Stinson says proper planting and pruning are the secrets to getting a tree off to a good start. He says they should be planted in a properly prepared hole where they can get full sunlight.
Stinson says proper pruning is also important. "You need to prune the lower two thirds of the limbs off for the first few years. Also if the tree forks, you want to keep the larger or dominant limb in the fork and prune the smaller one off. This will keep the tree growing tall and prevent it from becoming a dwarf," said Stinson.
Basset also recommends planting Chinese chestnuts for deer. With a twinkle in his eye Basset says," I can't swear it's so, but I have customers who say a deer can hear a Chinese chestnut fall 300 yards away and take off to get it." Bassett says that Chinese chestnuts will start producing in about the same time as sawtooths and will yield equivalent poundage of nuts each year.
Basset recommends the use of tree protectors when planting trees for wildlife. Tree protectors are plastic, transparent grow tubes that protect young trees from wildlife damage such as antler rubbing. They also provide a mini greenhouse affect for each tree and greatly accelerate growth.
County Extension Services offer publications covering plant selection, planting, pruning, and spacing of wildlife enhancing plants. Contact Wayne Bassett at The Wildlife Group (1-800-221-9703) to purchase quality sawtooth oak, Chinese chestnuts, Japanese honeysuckle and many other wildlife food sources.
With the end of the planting season drawing near, now is the time to get those trees in the ground. In a few years, you and the deer will be rewarded.

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