When to remove cages????


How big should my apple trees be before I can safely remove the exclusion cages and the deer not browse them to death? I will keep the trunk protected to prevent rodents and rubbing. But roughly how far off the ground should my first scafold be for the tree to be big enough that the deer won't eat it to a stick! I typically don't get significant snowfall. My thinking is at sompoint if I keep the cage up then the deer can't reach the apples that fall - and that's the whole point!
I usually try to cut off the branches that are within 4-5' feet of the ground since the deer will browse them anyway. Once you have a framework above that level the cage can come down as long as you still protect the trunk from antler rubbing damage and also mice damage.
I say never completely remove or the deer will start rubbing them and I have had a few trees killed by deer rubbing all the way around as if girdled by a varmint of some sort. As Ben said the rubbing is the problem and probably worse than the deer browsing the branches
When I take down my initial large cage, I always put up something to protect the trunk from rub damage. Sometimes that is a section of drain tile that goes up in the fall and sometimes I leave up a small 12" diameter wire cage that protects only the trunk. I like the small diameter wire cages better for air flow reasons, but I think a number of options will work.
Cool - I am getting close then. I figured I would have to protect the trunk from being rubbed by the deer in some form. I removed any support from them this spring and they are doing fine. I figure I may be able to take down a few cages and give them a real good trimming eary this spring. Available cages means - more trees to plant!