I have in the tree tube business for 23 years. In that time there are two variants of the same conversation that I have had approximately 24,937 times – and counting.
Variant #1 – I grew up on this farm and we didn’t see our first white tailed deer on this land until 196_ (if Pennsylvania/West Virginia), 197_ (if upper Midwest). We used to have to travel to ______ to hunt deer, now I could hunt them from my bedroom window.
Variant #2 – I planted a stand of trees 30 years ago and didn’t have any trouble with deer. Now I am planting a new stand and the deer eat everything I plant.
I had a variant 2 discussion with a gentlemen from western Iowa yesterday. We talked about how we are planting trees into a very different world than 30 or 40 years ago. Many factors have combined to drive up deer populations: Fewer people taking up hunting, generally milder winters, breaking up the landscape into a patchwork with exponentially more forest edge (the preferred habitat of deer), and probably rapid adaptation to this changing landscape by the deer.
In most places the deer herd has reached a density where there is little or no natural hardwood regeneration, and planted seedlings (which are more nutrient-rich and less stressed than natural seedlings) are an irresistible treat for deer. The chance for the survival of a planted seedling are, as they say, Slim and None- and Slim is is leaving town.
Compared to simply planting a seedling, tree tubes seem expensive. But simply planting a seedling is to growing a tree as buying a lottery ticket is to a retirement investment.
Can you grow a seedling in 2012 without tree tubes? Of course. You can protect seedlings from deer other ways. You can protect them from rodents other ways. You can protect them from mowers or herbicide spray other ways. And you can hope like heck there isn’t a drought but short of a tree tube there’s not much you can do to protect them from that.
But when you add up the cost of doing all of those things without tree tubes, you realized what a bargain tree tubes really are.
And when you consider that the deer herd shows no signs of decreasing, I can expect to have many thousands more of this same old conversation…
… and I will enjoy every single one of them!