My goal was to create a habitat that would attract and hold deer all year long. That's when I realized that hard and soft mast trees were my missing ingredient.
Having been torn apart by Hurricane Katrina, my property lost a lot of mature white oak flats where deer used to feed every season. In their place grew a tangled bramble of briars and low hedges that offered some additional browse, but nothing that every bordering property didn't already offer.
That's why I started planting sawtooth oaks followed by Dunstan chestnuts and now nuttall oaks with the hopes of providing an early season attraction with the sawtooth acorns and chestnuts and a late-season attraction with the Nuttalls.
I am hoping that as deer traverse my property they find the early acorns and nuts, and then find something else in the form of food plots or soft mast that makes them want to stick around longer.
But my pioneer spirt wouldn't allow me to buy a bunch of saplings from nurseries. Except for the Dunstan chestnuts, which I bought from an online wildlife nursery, all my oaks have been propagated from acorns collected from friends' sawtooth orchards or from the underneath nuttall oaks at the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge.
I have become Johnny Appleseed in that regard because I can't walk under an oak tree nowadays without stuffing my pockets full of acorns. I then fill some containers with potting soil and, after dumping a hand full of acorns into some water to pick out the bad ones that float, stick the nuts into the soil so they are just under the surface.
Having no background in planting trees, all I can do then is wait. If the trees come up that spring, I transfer them to spots across my property the following fall. If they don't, I consider it no great loss and start over.
The only ones I expect I will be able to see produce are the precocious sawtooth oaks that generally produce acorns in about 10 or 12 years and the Dunstan chestnuts that can produce a crop even sooner.
Maybe one day, if my eyesight holds up, I'll get to see the nuttalls dropping.
But if I don't, I know my kids will benefit from having helped me plant acorns and transplant oak trees. I can't think of any better legacy I could leave behind.