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Bob Humphrey is the Biology & Deer Behavior field editor for Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and holds similar titles with other major hunting publications. He currently lives in Maine with his wife and two children. For more information about Bob, visit his website at www.bobhumphrey.com.

Click here to email your questions to "Ask the Biologist."

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Better Than Oaks?
If you still haven’t heard about the return of the American chestnut, you’re not the only one.

Better Than Oaks?

QUESTION: I recently read an article on Dunstan chestnut trees, and how deer really love them. It explains how deer prefer them over white oak acorns. Is there any truth to this? How would the swamp chestnut oak compare to the Dunstan chestnut for deer? — Curtis L.

ANSWER: For those unfamiliar, the American chestnut was pretty much wiped out by disease back in the 1940s. The tree you’re referring to is a cultivar originally developed by Robert Dunstan, a plant breeder. As the story goes, a friend of Dunstan’s found a single living American chestnut in Ohio and sent him some cuttings. Dunstan grew them to flowering and crossed them with Chinese chestnuts, creating a strain with high disease resistance and good nut and tree quality. He then cross bred them back with the pure American chestnut to develop a blight-resistant and nearly pure American Chestnut.

Dunstan chestnut trees have survived for over 30 years from Maine to central florida and throughout the Midwest with no blight infection whatsoever. They’re sold through Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Florida and Realtree Nursery at www.realtreenursery.com.

As for their attractiveness to deer, I haven’t seen results from any empirical scientific experiments but have seen some pretty convincing anecdotal evidence. And it’s not surprising. American chestnuts were once among the most common hardwood trees in eastern North America, making up an estimated 25 percent of the eastern hardwood forest.

Furthermore, chestnuts are nutritionally superior to acorns, containing approximately 40 percent carbohydrates, compared to about 10 percent for white oak acorns; 10 percent protein compared to only 4 percent for white oak acorns; and 2 percent fat, compared to 10 percent in acorns. And deer have an innate ability to determine the most nutritious foods.

They also make a better choice for mast orchards as they grow faster and bigger, sometimes bearing in two to five years, where a white oak might not bear for 20 years. Chestnuts can grow 60-80 feet tall, and they lack the cyclical nature of oaks because they flower later in spring – after late frosts that could cause widespread acorn failures and starvation years for wildlife.

Click Here To Email Your Questions to "Ask The Biologist."

 

 

 

 

 

The Whitetail's Home Range
Bob, I live and hunt in southern Mississippi and have a small food plot with rye grass and a corn feeder in a natural opening that is about 20 yards long and 10 yards wide.
 
Rut Calendar Maps
Bob, I live in Boonville, MO and would to know when the rut in my area will occur, or what environmental conditions must exist to trigger the rut?
 
You Can't Stockpile Deer
Bob, I recently shot a large buck that had an unusual puffy swelling between its antlers. The skin was very loose in this area of about two inches. Was this from fighting, or possibly a virus?
 
The Rarest Deer Ever?
Bob, have you ever seen a deer like this?  This buck had silver hair and lemon-yellow eyes.
 
How Soon is Too Soon
Bob, after I shoot a deer, how long should I wait before returning to hunt in the same spot?
 
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