By Tommy Kirkland
-- You've tilled the land, adjusted the soil's pH, and labored endlessly for a productive food plot, consisting of clover and chicory. As the season is just about to get underway, an unexpected problem arises - only a few deer, mostly young bucks, are reaping the benefits of your work. The larger bucks and does have vanished!
You immediately look for an answer. A quick line of communication conveys that a nearby landowner has fruit trees, primarily pears - a real magnet for attracting whitetails.
Whitetails are known to be selective browsers. They search for the most nutritious and digestible vegetative food sources. They also possess a craving for the sweet soft mast of fruit trees - especially apples, persimmons and pears. Full of nutrition and providing energy from carbohydrates, fruit is an excellent supplement to help bucks reach their potential and for females raising their young. Also, having fruit trees adjacent or near your food plots is highly recommended by several prominent deer biologists.
While persimmons and apples are good choices, there are several varieties of pear trees that are more adaptable to stress and require less maintenance. They can also produce more soft mast than other trees in a shorter amount of time. So for those who work the land for whitetails, planting various types of pear trees is a wise choice.
Photo: Photo courtesy of Matt Jeane
Matt Jeane, owner of Jeane Farms in Ruston, La., can attest to the pear tree being a whitetail magnet. He has been in the nursery business since 1994 supplying hardwoods and in 2000 added fruit trees - especially certain varieties of pears. Jeane, an experienced hunter, knows whitetails and their feeding habits and has discovered that certain types of pears are a reliable food source.
Over the years, he has propagated about 12 different varieties of pear trees, which are highly resistant to blight and produce good crops of nutritional soft mast for white-tailed deer. Jeane produces the common Kieffer pears and the James tree, which was developed from an old farm in central Alabama, to name a few. The tree farmer is working to keep pear trees thriving. Once farmland is sold and not traditionally managed, fruit trees are usually forgotten.
Matt highly recommends the pear tree for landowners in the South and Southeast; whereas, apple trees fair better north of the Mason-Dixon line. These pear trees can handle the heat and humidity and begin to produce fruit within just three to five years of planting. They handle drought fairly well and need a soil pH in the range of 6 to 7. Pear trees are suitable for a wide range of soil types, as long as they have adequate drainage.
Unlike apple and other fruit trees, pear trees require less time to bear fruit with little pruning. Planting pear trees adjacent to clover food plots is advisable. The nitrogen enriched soil helps to nourish the trees. You can also create funnels with the trees. Jeane advises planting pear trees in a triangular fashion - an excellent set-up for bowhunting.
Planting different varieties of pear trees will consistently supply whitetails with food; and having diversity is especially important when there are years of hard mast failures. Simply, if acorns aren't available, then whitetails will spend more time visiting plots and fruit trees. Even if the hard mast is prolific, whitetails will still ravage plots of pears; and by alternating pear varieties, deer will always have available soft mast every year.
Pear trees are sensitive to fertilizer so caution is needed here. For those who perform prescribed burns, the trees possess soft bark and need to be protected.
As mentioned above, deer are preferred browsers. Your newly planted trees will have to be protected or the whitetails can possibly damage or kill the young trees. Tall wire cages will allow the trees to thrive and grow - eventually bearing delectable fruit on your property.
Photo: A trail camera captured this three-year-old buck eating pears in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Matt Jeane
So, if you are looking to incorporate nutritional soft mast with your food plots, pear trees come highly recommended to provide a yield that will give the whitetail a bounty to feast upon. In turn, your efforts will create more diversity in your deer management program - supplying a buffet of food sources that deer cannot resist! The end result will be harvesting healthy whitetails. Here's the best news, these pear trees produce fruit from August to December - the perfect times for bow and gun hunting.
Update: Matt Jeane no longer has deer pears available for purchase, however seedlings are available online at http://shop.mossyoak.com/p-51-wild-deer-pear-pyrus-communis.aspx, or http://www.oikostreecrops.com/store/product.asp?cookiecheck=yes&P_ID=134&PT_ID=87&strPageHistory=cat