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All About Trees: 10 Q&A with Expert Dudley Phelps

planting tree

1. What purpose do trees serve in the hunting world and in the maintenance of property?

“In the hunting world they mainly provide a food source for all the species we love. Not just acorns, but also bugs for things like birds and turkeys. They can also serve for aesthetics and erosion control. They’ve got a lot of environmental function.”

2. What about long-term? How long do trees live and how can they help wildlife in the future?

“A tree can live a lot longer than its average life span. On average a tree lives to be 80 years old. Most of the time when you’re in the woods and you see big trees they’re 80-100 years old. They provide food, habitat and cover for wildlife as opposed to pavement.”

3. Tree grafting. The practice has really grown—to what purpose can we graft better trees for wildlife?

Grafting gives you the ability to make an exact copy of a superior tree. For example, a white oak –one tree may make a lot of acorns and one right next to it might not make any. By grafting the best selections, you can ensure that you have superior trees that drop higher volume of fruits and nuts.”

4. What type of tree would you recommend a turkey and deer hunter plant to attract more to their property?

“Number one is oak trees. Not only because they provide an excellent support of mast, ie acorns, but they also host more insects than most other tree species do.”

5. What is a turkey’s favorite tree to roost in?

“They prefer trees with horizontal branching, such as pines, black gum, cypress, and white oak.”

6. What about duck hunting? Any type of timber they prefer?

“Flood tolerant oak species. Generally red oaks with smaller acorns are preferred. Nutall oak, willow oak, pin oak, water oak are the main ones.”

7. Is it easy to plant a tree? Is there a lot of maintenance involved?

“You get what you put in. It’s easy to plant a tree, but if you’re willing to put in a little more time and dig a big hole to plant the tree and provide maintenance in the form of weed control and fertilization, they will grow much faster.”

8. What’s the best time to plant a tree?


9. The rumor is that trees can communicate with each other. Do you think they do?

“I do. I think they communicate in ways we don’t understand; they work together. They have a symbiotic relationship with a lot of other plants and fungus in the woods, so it makes sense that they would communicate with each other.”

10. Lastly, what made you fall in love with trees and why are they so special to you?

“I think I inherited it from my grandmother. She was a biology teacher and a plant nerd. She was really good with all the scientific names. As a kid, I’d pick up tree seeds like acorns to look at them. I’ve been fascinated with it since I was really young. In general, I just like growing things.”

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