Best time to bareroot saplings

This year I want to try bare rooting for winter storage. The plan with these test subjects (and they run the gamut of varieties) is to uproot them, bunch them, then heel them in dirt in a half-filled large cooler. the cooler being outside will still freeze solid but that should not be a concern with these varieties, they usually overwinter at -20f with wind and the occasional lack of snow cover. Just being shielded from the wind and temperature swings should make them feel cozy.

My question is; Can I start uprooting as soon as they shed their leaves, or should I wait a bit for them to settle? younger plants of a given variety are shedding leaves faster than older plants.

I’m in Alaska, Matsu valley, Palmer. We are probably a week, two tops, before the first overnight freeze. My kerr apple tree is still ripening fruit.

You’ll probably get better answers, but my thought is, if they have hardened off and have lost all leaves even before a freeze…you’re probably safe doing that for plants that are otherwise hardy in your zone.