8 Trees Not to Plant for Deer

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Choose Better Tree Species Alternatives Instead

Tulip Tree

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1 | Tulip Tree

As part of the magnolia family, it’s also commonly referred to as the yellow poplar or tulip poplar. It’s a large tree, and ultimately has little to no value for whitetails. It provides very little ground-level forage for deer and does not provide a mast crop that deer rely on.

Leaf Shape: Broad and pointed in the shape of a crown

Bark Texture: Fairly rough with vertical lines

Plant Instead: Hickory or Black Gum

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Terry Kelly photo

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Autumn Olive Tree

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2 | Autumn Olive Tree

While this does provide food for deer, it’s an invasive species — and one we don’t want in the United States. This hardy plant is spreading like wildfire and outcompeting native species that are better suited for deer and other wild animals. There are much better alternatives you can provide deer than the autumn olive tree.

Leaf Shape: Long, wavy and slender

Bark Texture: Fairly smooth with pin-prick cracking

Plant Instead: Plum or sumac trees

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Benjamin Simeneta photo

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Bradford Pear Tree

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3 | Bradford Pear Tree

This is another non-native species that doesn’t benefit wildlife. In fact, it does the opposite by outcompeting native species that deer rely on. While most fruits from Bradford pear trees are sterile, they can still spread via the roots when the tree is damaged.

Leaf Shape: Triangular with a pointed tip

Bark Texture: Moderately rough texture

Plant Instead: Pear or plum trees

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Melinda Fawver photo

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Hawthorn Tree

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4 | Hawthorn Tree

The hawthorn tree is part of a large family with many different varieties. Commonly found along edges of forests and older fields, they are browsed on by deer. And while birds seem to like the tree, it holds little to no health value for deer, though. There are much better options out there.

Leaf Shape: Triangular with pointed tips

Bark Texture: Fairly rough with an irregular pattern

Plant Instead:  Honey locusts or sumac tree

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Arisham photo

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Pine Tree

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5 | Pine Tree

Not to be confused with the longleaf pine, the more common species has virtually no value for deer. Sure, it provides roost limbs for turkeys and other birds. But that’s about the extent of its value. It provides no food and very little cover for whitetails.

Leaf Shape: Needle-like leaves on long stems

Bark Texture: Fairly smooth

Plant Instead: Oak or chestnut trees

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Valentine Arazumova photo

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Sawtooth Oak Tree

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6 | Sawtooth Oak Tree

I’ve always been a bit conflicted on this one, but I have to stick true to my native roots. Yes, the Sawtooth oak provides an abundance of food for deer (and does so earlier than most other oak varieties). But it is an invasive species and is of little value for the other 11 months of the year.

Leaf Shape: Long and slender with pointed tips

Bark Texture: Very blocky and cracked

Plant Instead: White and red oaks

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Irinak photo

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River Birch Tree

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7 | River Birch Tree

This is what I’d call a pretty tree. It has long, dropping limbs. But it doesn’t do much for wildlife. Instead, it hurts them by taking sunlight and nutrients other more beneficial trees could use. Honesty, it really isn’t that great for hanging a treestand, either. It’s basically a big loser in the whitetail world.

Leaf Shape: Very scaly and splotchy

Bark Texture: Triangular with serrated edges and a pointed tip

Plant Instead: Oak or beech trees

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

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Sweetgum Tree

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8 | Sweetgum Tree

In all honesty, the sweetgum tree is pretty hated. The sticky substance produced by the tree trunk is often loathed by people and the tree holds little value for wildlife — especially deer. Some birds will eat the seeds, but that aside, it’s pretty much useless.

Leaf Shape: Star-like with serrated edges and pointed tips

Bark Texture: Blocky with both vertical and horizontal cracks

Plant Instead: Oak or chestnut trees

Photo Credit: Josh Honeycutt

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Some trees are great for wildlife. Others aren’t. If you’re planning to plant some for deer, there are some species you most certainly want to stay away from. These are eight of those trees. And if you find these in the wild — cut them and plant a suitable replacement that wildlife will thrive on.