What can you learn from an experienced forester about keeping young trees safe from hungry wildlife? Plenty! Duane Weston (see article here) uses two simple approaches to keep new seedlings safe, one of which he developed.
The photos below show simple cages that Duane constructs from wire, which he then attaches to a piece of rebar. The wire prevents animals from eating the tree and he moves it up the rebar as the tree grows to keep its crown safe from deer.
The second way Duane protects seedlings is by planting a spruce seedling next to a cedar to discourage deer from eating the cedar (photo below). Spruce have sharp needles which poke deer in the nose. When the cedar is tall enough to not be damaged by browsing animals, he removes the spruce tree, allowing the cedar to grow faster.
How to Make and Use a Tree Protector
Cut 18 inches off a roll of screen, roll it into a tube and bend the wire ends down to hold the tube shape. This gives you a 6-inch diameter tube.
Slide the tube onto a 1/4-inch diameter iron rebar, cut five feet long, and poked about 12 inches into the ground alongside the planted tree. The tube is designed to protect the top 18 inches of the tree as that is the height of the screen.
As the tree grows in height, slide each tube up the rebar to again protect the top 18 inches of the tree top where the new growth is. Once the tree reaches five feet in height, leave the tube for one more growing season. Before the next growing season occurs, either slide or cut the tube off the tree.
Leave the rebar to discourage male deer from rubbing their antlers on the tree stem. After the tree stem becomes rigid enough not to bend when a deer rubs his antlers, pull the rebar out of the ground to avoid having it become imbedded into the expanding tree trunk.