Deer Rub Damage to Trees

Tips on controlling deer damage to valuable trees. April 18, 2009

I have a question about young trees damaged by deer. I am not concerned with browsing but the unsightly rub damage caused by the bucks. After a survey of our woodlot I noticed some nice young 3-4" diameter walnut and pecan trees that have been buck rubbed and their appearance is now unsightly. Is it possible this damage can heal and the affected tree mature into decent sawtimber or veneer? Will there always be evidence of this damage or will the ugliness go away? I have managed these trees - side pruned and they have nice form. Should I destroy them now and start anew?

Forum Responses
(Forestry Forum)
From contributor F:
Out here on my timber farm in Oregon, I leave the trees that they are rubbing as they will continue to return to the same trees. That way you will not have them continue to find a new tree to work over for you.

From contributor B:
John is right for the most part. Your best bet is to allow bowhunting. I am an avid bowhunter and see firsthand what these deer will do to trees - especially the deer out in IL. You want a responsible hunter who is also involved in milling to help let me know. Do not bother peeing on the tree it won’t help, one rain and the scent is gone. Bad news is sometimes bucks return to old rubs but a lot of time they just make new ones year after year. They are used to mark their territory and show does they are in the area.

As for the trees, I have seen some trees recover and some die. The best thing to do is get a protective wrap and bandage the damaged area. If the tree heals let it go, there is no guarantee of the wood quality in that area but as long as the bandage protects the open area while it heals it should not rot the tree. It is still a gamble. I would say if the rub is big scrap the tree and start over, if it is not that bad bandage it and see if it heals.

From contributor J:
Deer damage on hardwood trees, if you want to grow good grades of lumber and veneer, can be a serious problem. If the bark is shredded (most common) it will open the trunk of the tree to disease organisms which will lead to heart rot, poor healing and low value trees. Fortunately, hardwoods can be coppiced (cutting the tree at the ground). This practice is useful in walnut to give you a new tree. If there is sunlight reaching the ground, the coppiced tree will shoot one or more stems toward the light. Growth will be rapid and I have seen 3' to 5' tall shoots in the first year. The established root system gives the new tree a rapid start. If there are multiple stems, you will have to pick the best and cut off the rest. Coppicing also works if you have seedlings that have been browsed so much that they have turned into bushes - of course if that is happening, you will need the help of the hunters above.

From contributor D:
We've got a problem with deer rub on walnut trees here (southwest MO), as well. First, when in doubt, copice when the tree is dormant. We've had great results with walnut. We allow blackberriers and buckbrush grow around the walnut seedlings and saplings. The thorns keep the deer away from the walnuts and buckbrush gives them something else to rub on. Competition for moisture doesn't seem to be a problem, and the trees soon overtop the brush.