Some hunters don’t like hunting by apple trees because deer have a tendency to visit them mostly at night. It’s a hard point to argue, and the two trail cameras I hung by the apple tree where I hunt definitely produced more nighttime images than daytime shots. In fact, leading up to opening day, I didn’t have a single daytime photo of the 10-point. That quickly changed with the weather, though.
At the end of the first week of archery, a storm front blew through and got deer moving earlier than usual. Unfortunately, it was on a Sunday, which is closed to deer hunting here in Pennsylvania. But when I checked the trail cameras Monday morning, sure enough, I had daytime photos of the buck at the tree early Sunday evening.
Hopes renewed, I hunted the next three days. Nothing. All my pics of the deer were at night again, but on Thursday of that week, another storm moved through. Bingo! Minutes before the end of legal shooting time, the 10-point came sneaking up the funnel to steal some of that low-hanging fruit. This time, I was there waiting for him.
I’ve found that patience is key when hunting directly on top of food sources such as apple trees – and food plots, for that matter. Mature deer, especially, are just naturally more cautious and will often wait until they’re sure the coast is clear before moving in for a meal. You have to wait it out with them. Keep an eye on the weather, and if a cold or storm front are in the forecast, make sure you’re in the stand. Another strategy, of course, is to backtrack the deer’s travel route and hang a stand as close to his bedding area as possible without spooking him. I only do this if I’m 100% sure I’m not going to push the deer out of its bed on my way to and from the stand. All it takes is bumping a buck once or twice to knock it off its pattern, and possibly even out of the area.
Planting A Hot Spot
Planting apple trees is one of the easiest habitat improvements you can make to your property. If you hope to someday hunt by the trees, they should be planted where the deer are already traveling. In other words, find the best hunting location first. Factor in everything from potential bedding areas and travel routes to wind direction and where you’ll actually hang your treestand, and then improve the area with a couple of apple trees.
Although fruit trees can be planted during any point of the growing season, fall is a great time to do it. Cooler temperatures are less stressful on the trees and you don’t have to worry about watering as much because rainfall is naturally more in the fall than summer. Fall planting allows the tree’s roots enough time to adjust to the new soil and promotes faster growth the following spring.
Planting apple trees is a very simple process. Dig a hole about two or three times the diameter of the container your tree came in and about twice as deep. Line the bottom of the hole with a mixture of dirt and compost, enough so that the tree’s root ball sits slightly higher than the top rim of the hole. Water the root ball with a couple gallons of water and then fill in the rest of the hole with more compost and soil. A two or three-inch layer of mulch can then be added to help retain moisture and protect the root ball from winter. Also, you may want to stake the tree, particularly in areas that receive heavy winter winds, as well as place a small mesh fence around it to prevent deer from chewing off buds before they can mature.
Finally, sit back and watch it grow. Some species of dwarf and semi-dwarf trees begin producing viable fruit within four to six years and can grow as high as twenty feet tall. Depending on where you live and the length of the growing season, it won’t be long until you’re hunting near your very own apple trees.