Recreating a Deer Woods

That's a funny car picture.

I tried my new snow shoes out yesterday and instead of going nut deep, I went knee deep. So I'm installing the back wings.

Knee deep is very hard going. Some snows are worse than others of course. The best bet is have a younger hiker with you to take turns breaking trail. The person breaking trail is really working---snow shoes or not. And of course be careful about walking over downed trees with your new snowshoes.
Looks like you got the brunt of this round of lake effect. I was in the 12-24" range and I don't think we even got 3". One more night to go. Does model still have his rack? I might take a trip up next weekend to do some snow shoeing and check the place out. See if anything has been digging for my turnips. Although I might go ice fishing, I am on a two year drought of perch sandwiches.
The snow is tough to deal with Native;On the bright side years and years of heavy snow and cold temperatures have favored the genes of larger and larger deer sizes.

As many of you know and others can surmise one of our greatest challenges is keeping our deer fed between Jan. 15 and the end of March. This is especially important for the bucks. In years past the bucks have often come out of winter in very poor condition which has not usually affected fall body size but it has contributed to some awful skimpy antlers. Here are a couple of pictures illustrating some of what we are doing to provide more food.
Wild apple trees are released at every opportunity. The more apple trees released (close to two thousand total so far) the higher the amount of them we end with that will hold their apples thru January. The tree pictured today Jan 07 is one of many that are still holding apples.
The apples are fairly small and are fully discolored but still have their juices and are eaten daily by the deer. Here are two apples I picked today from that tree above.
We do not prune our wild apple trees. Browse provided by the lower branches may be as beneficial as the apples the trees provide.
DSC_9216a.jpg The apple tree browse is especially important because now is when they start hitting it hard and they continue eating it throughout the winter. Here is a close up of some branches. You can see they have just started on them.
We also encourage poplar shoots. The poplar shoots provide excellent winter browse when the food plot foods are covered in three feet of snow and unreachable. This is just a small patch but there are many of them throughout the property. They have been browsed but only to about ten percent eaten so far.DSC_9221a.jpg
Admittedly none of these efforts are a magic diet pill, but together with other efforts underway we are providing more hard winter food that the deer can reach in extreme heavy snow conditions. Not only must I provide feed for the deer that live here all year long but also for the few that survive the Hill and come here just for the winter( a few of these winter guest deer may come from Chummer's place -small world for sure!).
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I have planted a few apple trees that should hold like that. I have tried to keep them close to the road for when the snow is deep and the deer travel by road. I am planting almost all early droppers at the project property because deer do not winter there. They will winter at camp on the banks of the salmon river.
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Dave, I remember you talking about having so many wild apple trees, but I don't recall if you ever said whether that is common in your area or just on your place. I would love to know more about that. As you have heard me say before, I have never seen a wild apple on my place. I'm amazed at all those great apples and would like to know more about it.
How you guys handle the snow and cold and its affect on deer is amazing. That native browse has to be more important in your country than most anywhere south. We have heavy snows at times, but never keeps ground covered more than 2-3 weeks. Our deer have it easy and don't even know it.
My daughter lives in Raleigh, and the city has been at a standstill for 2 days over their inch of snow. She finds it hilarious. All in what a person or animal has had to adapt to. Thanks for showing.
Geo, thanks for sharing your snowshoe experience. I don't know about the snowshoe wings you mentioned. Could you post me the link to the brand you are using. I hate breaking trail as is and if wings help I'm all for it.

Chummer--I can't be 100% certain that is Model in the picture because I put my spotting scope away and I can't see that well thru the binoculars. However the deer pictured was feeding in the exact pattern that Model has been doing. I can tell it is one of the bucks for sure and so far they all seem to be carrying their antlers. My eyes just can't focus long distance as much as they used to, glasses, telescopes and binoculars only do so much so I make a few assumptions now and then. It's a good three hundred yards to the food plot from the sun room where I took take the pictures of the deer in the plot.

Dogghr, Glad you are enjoying seeing how the northern deer live. Deer are really tough and resilient I guess is the better word. As you say the native browse is important and is a matter of them living here or not. Tonight just before dark I drove around the block; guessing it to be 7 miles plus around it. Saw twenty-four deer out and about. Twenty two of them were on me. I believe it is a combination of food plots that have food right now that we or our farmer have planted and the native browse/cover located behind the food plots that causes the deer to be here. It is really something to see all these deer out in 18 degree weather with two feet of snow on the level and their leg just pawing non-stop except for a brief moment when they switch legs. It reminds me of a dog swimming-pick them up and the legs are still going.

Here is an interesting picture taken two nights ago from the "sun room" that tells me what should have been obvious for years but wasn't.
The deer on the middle is up to her belly in snow while the deer on the right is less than knee deep. DUH! If I plant mini food plots around each of the trees in the fields the deer will be able to find food easily in one ft. of snow while the rest of the area has two to three foot of snow. It's so obvious but I just now got it. So I'm thinking that planting a month earlier under the trees will make up for the less sun. And a bonus will occur in the spring as under the trees is completely thawed and green a full two weeks ahead of the rest of the area. That could mean a bunch more deer could outlive the effects of winter!

I've got to think outside the box here, A bunch of deer and Chummer are counting on it!

Native Hunter- your question about the apple trees has not been forgotten; My wife is hungry and it seems its my turn to cook supper.
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Planting under those trees will also help in finding sheds come spring. I would imagine a buck would stake out one of those trees as his own in times like this. I was shocked to see we only got 6" of snow for that whole 4 day event. For others, it snows so long we don't call it a storm, it is an event. Looks like we have a two week warm up coming after tomorrow. With only 18" on the ground we could see bare ground in January for two years in a row. Just what the herd needs. How much snow did you get, it looked like that band liked your place. My deer are going to wish they stayed home this year.
Love the idea of mini plotting under the apples. I am ignorant to such an approach with apples but could you ring them with a clover mix and then give the a turnip sprinkle for fall and winter? Wondering if the clover could help feed the trees and the turnips?
Chummer the deer are still out and about and that is half the battle. We were definitely in the band though. I'd guess the depth is averaging about 30 inches--it has dropped a bit in the last couple of days. We do have a possible warm-up coming Wednesday and Thursday. That could turn things around quickly.
Love the idea of mini plotting under the apples. I am ignorant to such an approach with apples but could you ring them with a clover mix and then give the a turnip sprinkle for fall and winter? Wondering if the clover could help feed the trees and the turnips?

This would be a new deal for me.The snow is less under all trees but the picture shown shows it under red pine which holds more snow of course than the apple trees. However with an acre of turnips capable of many many tons of production per acre putting down 2 or 300 lbs of N per acre is completely acceptable. I am thinking turnips and rye, turnips for winter and rye for early spring food. And as a consideration, many of the deer seen today were digging through twenty-four to thirty inches of snow for rye.

Of course the planted under the tree plots is just extra;the real core of their food is browse.
Thank you for asking about the wild apple trees Native. It’s a long post but the story spans over 150 years! The apple trees are dear to my heart. Wild apple trees have been important in every stage of my life. As kids in Connecticut we hung out at various wild apple trees which were seemingly everywhere then, later we hunted pheasants under those same trees. Wild apple trees are a gift that was present on nearly every New York property I have been on. Thirty years ago when I arrived here In New York even in the far reaches of even the largest timber areas on dry knolls were apple stands galore, trees with DBH’s up to 15inches! Still today it would be easy to count 50 to 100 wild apple trees while driving to town for coffee for someone that can see them. But in the woods away from the protection of openings the areas wild apple trees are disappearing at an alarming accelerated rate. Forest succession has taken them over.

Many properties still have many apple stands left but most are down to twenty percent of what they were only ten years ago. Not twenty percent in production of apples but twenty percent in apple trees still living. Many area trees are just hanging on so over shadowed by taller trees that they produce zero or close to zero apples. I feel like I’ve screamed as loud as possible but few hear me. The loss of wild apple trees on even a single property affects everyone in the area that favors wildlife equal to or over timber values. People have always thought me strange to be releasing wild apple trees every day. I remember a conversation in the local watering hole one night. I mentioned how I could not understand how people could let succession kill off their apple trees. The response was sobering. “Most people around here come home after working hard for twelve hours each day trying to scratch a living. Releasing apple trees isn’t even a blip on their radar.” So now I quietly continue the quest of releasing every apple tree on this property.

Here is an apple tree we released over twenty years ago. It's DBH exceeds two feet. The second picture shows it in full bloom.

Ok SO WHERE DID ALL THESE APPLES COME FROM? Since you posted your question I have queried every person I ran into as where did all these apples come from. It was amazing that nearly everyone felt that aren’t wild apples everywhere! So this is my best conclusion based on a particular book now gone from the library and from asking around. First one needs to recognize this is a huge though likely unheard of Agricultural area. People have mostly survived here by working the ground. I am a new comer having been here for only thirty years. The natives here are like the deer; they have survived and even thrived in the absolute most difficult of weather conditions imaginable.

During the period of 1870 until 1915 apples were the main agricultural crop. Sure everybody had cows but with no roads to move the milk; it was mostly subsistence farming. Apples were turned into cider, usually hard cider. That meant the seeds were not destroyed or consumed but were likely spread onto the apple groves and the cow pastures or at least tossed over the bank. Some may have been fed to the hogs for people that had hogs. Can you imagine the thousands of apple tree seeds that were inadvertently spread over the area during the hard cider years?

Roads capable of transporting milk began being built around 1915. Cheese plants in the area modernized as the farmers had a way to travel some with their milk to get it to the cheese plants. Still hard cider was a mainstay of almost every house. Today the Great Lakes Cheese factory uses a lot of milk to make cheese under their name as well as for many other cheese “makers”. And according to the NY apple assoc. Ny is today the largest producer of cider in the US.

Men didn’t go the coffee shop for a morning coffee but rather to local gathering places where cider was consumed like water. Winters were long and hard and the cider helped pass the time. The entire area was likely pasture and/or apple orchards. On our property the age of timber trees cut runs from 39 years old to 57 years old. Thus it is safe to assume that apples and pastures ruled 39 to 57 years ago and before for some time. And some people have told me they remember the apple groves and pastures where timber trees now prevail.

Down the street from us is a quilt shop in the Old Creamery. There between 1870 and maybe 1913 farmers brought their milk presumably in cans where it was made into cheese. Legend has it that the creamery had burned down about three times and had to be rebuilt; apparently drinking cider like water can cause fires. Also down the street was located one of the areas large cider presses. And today lots of people still press their own apples some with homemade presses and others with more modern hobby size ones to make the tasty ciders like long ago.
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Thanks for posting that Dave. It answered a lot of my questions. I always wondered why there were so many apples on the side of the road. I have also taken a love to releasing these trees. I have 10-12 in my main food plots and I think you just connected the dots. My FIL saved a few when he cleared the 5 acres(25 years ago) that borders the plot I cleared. Behind what he cleared and on the side of what I cleared are huge rock piles. I also found two horse shoes while clearing my plot. The trees I cleared were also smaller in diameter than the apple trees in most cases. I think that entire area was probably once pasture dotted with apple trees. The trees I released were on there way out and were completely covered up by cherry, elm, and maple. My FIL didn't even know they were there and certainly never saw an apple on them. I walked by them for years without hearing them cry for help. I don't know how long a wild apple lives but these trees were here long before me and now will be here long after me.
That was a great read, Chain. I agree with your theory of spreading the seeds. The only real disappionment of my property, is that it had no apple orchard like those I have seen on every property I have ever hunted, even if they were overgrown. Not sure why this farmer never had them, or if I am somehow over looking them in the woods. Thanks.
Dave, thanks for taking the time to post that apple information. I just find that so cool and amazing.

One follow up question - do you see any new wild apple trees continuing to come up, and if so, is it hard for the young seedlings to survive the browse pressure from deer?
In our earlier years we had open canopy and fewer deer and yes many new apple trees came up and some of them made it. In more recent past years with full canopy I haven't seen it. But now we are back to open canopy I expect plenty of apple trees to sprout and either make it or at least provide browse.

There was a time that if a tree looked like an apple to someone not used to seeing apples and had lower trunk sprouts it was a Common Buck Thorn tree every time. Now in the last year or two the apples are sprouting from the lower trunk and not all of the sprouts are eaten to the bone.

In the spring the lower branches of the apple trees are often eaten down to the size of a small finger. Other than sumac--no other tree gets browsed that hard. They are that important to the deer here.
That was a great read, Chain. I agree with your theory of spreading the seeds. The only real disappionment of my property, is that it had no apple orchard like those I have seen on every property I have ever hunted, even if they were overgrown. Not sure why this farmer never had them, or if I am somehow over looking them in the woods. Thanks.

Thank you dogghr. You may have some apple trees; seeing them is a funny thing. You may not have any but I can tell you with certainty if you see one, spend a lot of effort around it because there just about never is only one;usually there are six to twelve where there is one. In March here the bark sticks out fifty or seventy-five yards away. Blossoms help also but not all of them in the woods blossom. Anyhow March thru early June here is when we find them easily and mark them.

Annually I mark the ones that need releasing. Then when I do releasing I concentrate on the largest bunches rather than the three or four here and there. Your property may still have some on it but they may be hidden due to advanced succession. It's doubtful that you would miss any you have but it is possible.

I had two oak trees for years;now overnight I have five or six. I never would have believed I didn't see them before now. They were always there for sure.