Best Apples for attracting deer?

I have a very small nursery business and am often asked to provide apple trees for attracting deer. I usually set them up with a variety of disease resistant apple trees that ripen September through mid-November. I thought I would ask if anyone here had any additional suggestions. What late season apples hang on the tree through most of the winter? Would they be better off with crabapples?

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Have you checked out Century Farm Nursery in NC. He specializes in deer hunter trees.

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Galarina. Disease resistant, vigorous, good cropper, and hangs well through most of the winter.

Thanks Nick. I had not heard of it. I may have to give it a try. Improved Gala Sounds like a winner!

I have. We have a similar summer climate here in the midwest. I look to “Southern Apples” as a guide to selecting good varieties. It looks like he has the same idea in sequential ripening and has many of the same varieties as me.

When I talk to these guys wanting to lure in deer, I get the impression they want to plant trees and never do any maintenance. I can’t help but think the might be better off with something like Dolgo Crabs and maybe persimmons.

I think that apples that hold on through winter serve birds more than deer. You’d probably be better with an apple that holds fruit late but eventually drops it because the deer will denude lower branches they can reach long before winter hunger sets in. Of course, our deer population is quite high and they may be hungrier here than where you are.

I’ve seen Goldrush apples still on the tree in late winter- with lots of bird pecks.

Deer also love pears so you could try Harrow Sweet which is a late ripener that holds onto its fruit quite late. Korean Giant might be good as well.

I grow apples and crabapples mainly for deer. Obviously, we use some of them too but the main goal is food production for deer and other critters.

I look for wild crabapples with decent sized fruit (ping pong ball) that hold well into winter, then take scions and graft them. There’s quite a few “deer guys” doing the same thing, and we exchange scions.

These types of trees are about ideal for deer. Low cost, tough, easy to maintain, fruit the perfect size for deer to consume quickly, and locally adapted.


Yea, persimmon is very popular for deer. There are a number of wild persimmons in the wooded areas I like to hike. I often see deer eating the fallen fruit under the trees. @forestandfarm has explored this and is trying to identify successive ripening/dropping varieties.

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Just an added note re: persimmons. I have zero doubt of their value to deer and other critters in zone 5a/5b and higher, but anywhere colder than that they have little or zero value. No persimmon will grow and produce here, that I can assure you :slight_smile:

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smsmith is right. I’m in zone 7a and American persimmons grow here natively. You can push the native areas where they grow a bit, but when growing trees for wildlife, it is usually best to stick with trees that are well adapted to your area. For many wildlife applications, trees don’t get the special care a backyard orchardist provides. This makes selecting trees well adapted to your area all the more important.

I have a buddy that is starting a project to work on that. He found a few trees growing pretty far north, surviving the winters, and producing. They are well out of the native range and were likely planted at some point. He is playing around with cross-breading them with other varieties and testing the offspring for cold hardiness.

Like you, I’m skeptical of his chances for success, but thought you might want to know at least someone is working on it. I’ve had several discussions with him and he does realize the challenges. He has a place here in VA as well as Wisconsin. His view is that if he can get an orchard of persimmons up north, it will be a gold mine for deer. He looks at it as high risk and high payoff. .

I’m in zone 7A and do a lot of trees for wildlife. Apples are pretty low on my list because of the maintenance required. That equation would be different if I was further north and had fewer options. I started grafting female persimmon scions to native male persimmon trees. This was by far the best bang for the buck by far(pun intended). It was low cost, easy to do, early payoff, and almost zero long-term payoff. It converted existing non-producing trees to producing trees in as little as the third leaf.

Another thing I’ve done is grown Dunstan chestnuts from seed (a blight resistant American/Chinese hybrid). Once established they don’t need maintenance allowing me to plant them in volume. I’ve experimented with Chinese Jujube because they require little maintenance, but the jury is still out on that in my area. Allegheny Chinquapins grown from seed work well because they are native to my area. They do get blight but unlike American chestnuts, they produce nuts in spite of the blight. Again, because they are native to my area, they require no long-term maintenance. I’ve recently added filberts and dwarf chinquapin oaks to my list. As for pome, I think pears can be slightly less maintenance than apples so we started with them.

I’m finally getting around to playing with apples. I’m starting with crabapples, again grown from seed. In some cases, I’m top-working the trees with scions from known variety crabapples as well as a few disease resistant varieties of domestic apples. The first two domestic varieties I’m working with are Black Twig and Arkansas Black. The jury is still out on success since I’m only in my second year. I am planting a few Black Twig and Arkansas black on M111 for comparison to the work I’m doing with crabapple as rootstock.


I did the same thing not far from where your buddy is planning to try them. He’d be much farther ahead messing around with apples, crabs, and pears IME.

He can check with the UW Arboretum. They have a few persimmon trees that produce fruit occasionally. It’s located in Madison, WI…so it has quite a microclimate compared to outlying areas and is about 90 minutes south of where your friend is trying them as I recall. Even during extended falls like they’ve had recently the fruit rarely, if ever ripens.

If he’s successful in central WI he’ll be quite a resource for others.

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There is some arboretum he is working with as well as some private trees he found. He has lived in this area where persimmons are such an attractant that he is willing to make the effort. I wish him the best.

I believe the arbiretum has meader, or even seedling-grown persimmons. Yates and others may well drop a month or more earlier (we shall see, just mentioning the arbiretums trees in longernecker are not early droppers)

Do you have nay tips on grafting methods for persimmons? I haven’t found them “easy”.

I’ve found persimmons easy, just wait til they leaf out. I wrap the whole scion in parafilm, too.

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No experience for deer apples (except them eating my trees), but I’ve read that Winesap and Arkansas Black are good choices for deer due to their disease resistance. Enterprise may be a good one, too, since it is disease resistant and late to ripen.

Other mast sources to consider that I didn’t see mentioned are oaks, especially Dwarf Chestnut Oaks (young cropping) and white oaks in general.

I have a good 80% or greater success w persimmon but my experience is limited to american, and i only graft when they are leafed out or the bud is clearly swelling…again for americans, to me the biggest issue isnt that they are harder, so much as more sensitive–start cutting dormant wood to graft and it may not wake up for another month or two judt to spite you.

Note this clearly makes in-ground or pot grafting easier than bench, if i had a dozen rootstocks to bench-graft i would pot them or at least try a modified hot-sweating to wake them up first…