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Deer love fruit because it’s sweet, crunchy, and brimming with carbohydrates. Apples probably top the list as one of their favorites.

Would you believe there are more than 2,500 apple tree varieties in the United States? Not all of them are grown on a large scale but the sheer number tells us how easy it is to find the right apple tree for your wildlife orchard. Some are sweet, others are tangy; some are small and others are large. Plus, you get them in all kinds of colors, from deep burgundy red to pale green.

Depending on your hardiness zone, climate, and soil conditions, you are sure to find several varieties that will thrive in your area.

Why Do Deer Like Apples?

Deer love fruit because it’s sweet, crunchy, and brimming with carbohydrates. Apples probably top the list as one of their favorites.

Would you believe there are more than 2,500 apple tree varieties in the United States? Not all of them are grown on a large scale but the sheer number tells us how easy it is to find the right apple tree for your wildlife orchard. Some are sweet, others are tangy; some are small and others are large. Plus, you get them in all kinds of colors, from deep burgundy red to pale green.

Depending on your hardiness zone, climate, and soil conditions, you are sure to find several varieties that will thrive in your area.

Why Do Deer Like Apples?

The short answer to that question is that apples are sweet and deer love their taste. Apples are packed with natural sugars and carbohydrates that help deer build up fat before winter comes.

Plant Several Varieties

Because there are so many apple varieties, it is easy to find apples that mature in early summer and others that give fruit in late fall. If you want to provide apples for your deer from June to November, plant different varieties for an extended fruiting season.

Another benefit of planting a selection of apple tree varieties is that they will pollinate each other. Apple trees are not self-pollinating: they need a partner from a different variety within 50 feet to pollinate each other. Therefore, you must plant several varieties in your orchard to have a full crop of apples.

Choose Varieties with Smaller Apples

It is easier for deer to munch smaller apples as they fit their mouths more easily. Whenever you have a choice, opt for trees that produce smaller apples.

Where Do I Plant Apple Trees on My Land?

Because there are so many apple varieties, it is easy to find apples that mature in early summer and others that give fruit in late fall. If you want to provide apples for your deer from June to November, plant different varieties for an extended fruiting season.

Another benefit of planting a selection of apple tree varieties is that they will pollinate each other. Apple trees are not self-pollinating: they need a partner from a different variety within 50 feet to pollinate each other. Therefore, you must plant several varieties in your orchard to have a full crop of apples.

General Planting Rules

Apple trees require sunlight. Find a location on your land that has at least 6 hours of sun exposure per day.

Avoid low-lying areas where frost pockets can damage the young buds in spring. Such areas are also prone to high humidity.

In addition, avoid planting your apple trees on the ridge top because these areas experience more droughts.

Ideally, plant your apple trees on gentle slopes, making sure you give your trees lots of space to grow and plenty of sunshine.

Planting Apple Trees for a Deer Orchard

Since you are building a deer orchard, it makes sense to adjust your planting to the deer. Find the feeding and bedding areas that deer favor on your land and plant your apple tree orchard between them.

You want deer to linger in your orchard. If they find their favorite food source close to their bedding areas, they won’t have any incentive to wander beyond your land.

As wildlife orchard experts, we suggest you plant your apple trees among other fruit trees that deer love, such as pears, mulberries, persimmons, and plums. This way, pollination will be more successful. In addition, fruit trees blossom and mature at different rates. By planting several fruit tree varieties, you give your deer population more opportunities to stay on your land.

Which Apple Trees Work Best for a Deer Orchard?

With over 2,500 varieties, there are bound to be several apple trees that work for your wildlife orchard. To pick the right one, you need to carefully consider the particularities of your land and microclimate.

Apple trees require a minimum number of chill hours to set fruit. Chill hours refer to the time a tree needs to complete its dormancy phase and break into its blossoming phase. Temperatures under 45 degrees Fahrenheit qualify as chill hours.  

Depending on the variety, most apple trees require between 500 and 700 chill hours to break dormancy. Several areas of the United States, particularly in Texas, Florida, and California, lack the ideal conditions for long chill hours.

Thankfully, there are apple tree varieties that have been selectively grown for their low chill hours requirements. For example, Anna apple trees only require 300 chill hours, which is what you get in areas with mild winters. Despite their low number of chill hours, Anna apple trees are hardy and can withstand up to -10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Similarly, the Dorsett golden apple tree will break dormancy after only 250 chill hours. This variety is also hardy to -10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The benefit of such apple tree varieties is that they blossom early on, around mid-to-late January, which means that your deer will have plenty of apples to nibble by June.

Both trees will bear fruit a couple of years after planting and the apples are sweet, making them perfect for an animal that is famously sweet-toothed.

Wildtree Can Help You Build Your Deer-Preferred Orchard

Don’t spend money on trees and browse plants that can’t thrive in your region. Contact Wildtree online or call us at 346-707-6023 and we will guide you toward the right fruit trees and oak trees for your soil and hardiness zone. Benefit from free shipping on all orders and a 10% discount on orders over $1,000 and get 40% off when you pick up your order!