Have you ever spot white-tailed deer browsing in woods? If yes, you might be curious what does it graze mostly in fields and forest. It has always been an awesome experience to watch deer twigging, skipping and jumping in woods for food. Knowing much about white tailed deer favorite food will enable you to capture its feeding moments in your camera while hunting.
What do white-tailed deer eat? Diet pattern of whitetails varies from season to season. It is mainly dependent on available food sources. At first, whitetails prefer to eat Forbes and if unavailable then woody browse. Fruit, nuts, and acorns are other food options. Sometimes they will feed on mushrooms, grasses and brassica blends also.
Whitetails are classified as herbivores that can eat more than 400 plant species only in Southeastern areas of the US. When deer starts grazing they tend to choose soft parts of plants first like new leaves and twigs. However, with seasonal changes, they may shift to dry woody plants when other sources are not available. Being primarily nocturnal, whitetails mostly graze in dawn or dusk.
Keep reading this article to know what do white tailed deer eat in the winter or in the summer.
What do white tailed deer eat mostly?
Easily available food sources are classified as forbs, woody browse, mast, brassica blend, grasses, corn, and mushrooms. Let’s check one by one.
It has been proven through many studies that whitetails’ first choice of food is always Forbes. You may call these as preferred food over all kinds of other food options like browse plants, fruits, brassica blend and so on. Forbs are mostly easy to digest and abundant in nutrients. However, these are not always available as seasonal changes affect their production. So, you may not consider them as a long-lasting food source for whitetails.
what are forbs plants? Forbs are basically flowering plants and herbaceous flowering plants. Sunflower and milkweed are common examples of forbs.
About 80 percent of deer diet, especially in winter, consists of woody browse. The reason might be its availability and consumption in more than one form. Browse plants include shrubs and trees of minimum height 5 feet, easily reachable for deer. During snowfall deer will eat its fall off leaves branches twigs, buds, and stem. So these woody plants are beneficial in both dry weather, spring and even in winter.
Whitetail deer in Michigan love to eat browse plants like cedar, white pine, yellow brick, maple trees sumac and many more.
Daniel J Kurtz, Eric P Garza, and Micheal W Wallace published research on common woody plants utilized by white-tailed in South Texas. In their study, they listed the names of browse plants whitetail deer like to eat in South Texas. These woody plants are beautyberry, cedar elm (Olmo), Manzanita(barbados cherry), prickly pear, coma, texas kidneywood, vine, ephedra, and many more.
What do white tailed deer eat in winter? A mast is a group of widely available food sources, especially in winter. It includes edible parts of plants such as fruits of some plants, nuts, and acorns.
whitetail deer favorite fruits are apples, mulberries, berries, peaches, grapes, and plums. For eating apples, they usually stand on their hind legs. Some fruit provides digestible energy which is not enough to store fat in winters. However, soft fruits like apples, peaches, plums, and berries are good enough to provide sufficient energy needed to store fat in the winter. Whitetail deer nutrition facts can be provided by fruits.
Funny but good news for hunters is that they can attract deer with specially made apple obsession food. It is recommended to consult your country law before using it.
Whitetail deer mostly love to eat two types of nuts like chestnuts and acorns. Although deer eat both but prefer chestnuts to acorns. However, both serve different nutrition requirements for Whitetail deer. They prefer to eat nuts on acorns because nuts are low tannins plants and easy to digest.
Chestnut usually serves as primary mast resource for deer. They are protein and carbohydrate-rich food. However, growing chestnuts to attract deer has no healthy results because Chestnut nuts tend to ripen early. You may say these are short term crops to whitetail deer attractant. They love to eat hickory nuts, beechnuts, and pecans. Deer prefer to eat nuts on acorns because nuts are low tannins plants and easy to digest.
Acorns are the fruit of oak trees. They fall both from a white oak tree and red oak trees. Deer love to eat white oak tree acorns because they are sweeter in taste than those fall from red oaks. These are usually rich in carbohydrates and fat. However, the ratio of protein is very low in acorns.
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Corns stand at the top of the list of favorite deer food. Corns are calorie-rich food abundant in fats and carbohydrates. You can easily spot whitetail deer grazing in safe cornfields. Farmers mostly grow corn in food plots where they can grow food plots on public lands to attract deer. After harvest season before winter, deer enjoy grazing the leftovers. Cornfield can be considered as white tailed deer habitat in winter time.
If you are a hunter then make sure if such food plots are legal in your area or not.
Brassica plots are the greatest attraction of white-tailed deer during the late season.
This term is mainly used to refer to plants of mustard families. To attract deer, many hunters grow it in their own property or if legal in public property. But food plots for deer in the woods maybe a tricky task.
What attracts deer mostly in brassica farms is probably lush green leafy forage of plants that are rich in protein. Moreover, these crops are fast, easy, and cheap to grow. Widely grown varieties of these crops are radish, turnip, canola, cabbage kale and cauliflower.
At the top of the winter food, the name of Rape forage is very important which is also a member of the brassica family. In unfavorable weather when other crops are not easy to grow rape serves as highly nutritious food for deer.
It is highly recommended to know the food of specific areas where you are planning to hunt for deer.
Deer need high energy food so it would not prefer grasses. However, during early development baby deer, deer tend to eat digestible grass stalks. Varieties of grasses such as cereal, grain, hay, Spanish moss, rye, oats, and wheat serve as high energy food in deer diet.
Sometimes deer may eat farm crops like beans, soybean, potato, wheat, and rye. For this reason, farmers don’t like them and treat them like unwanted guests.
Finally, Mushrooms serve as a dietary supplement in deer food. An interesting fact is that deer can eat those species of mushrooms that are toxic to humans. Mushrooms are a big source of phosphorus and protein. Plus they grow over acres of land naturally even in dry weather. Tracing mushrooms can be helpful to track deer.
How do deer digest woody plants
After knowing much about deer food it is better to understand the whitetail deer digestive system well.
One important question is- Are whitetail deer ruminants?
The answer is yes and with four portions in the stomach. They store food for cuddling. The first two chambers store food, the third one process it and in the fourth portion, its nutrients are absorbed to produce energy for the body. Because of such an organized digestive system, they tend to eat woody plants.
What do deer eat in different seasons?
Whitetail deer eating habits are not the same throughout the year. It may vary from spring to summer and then from summer to winter.
During weight gain for rut fall, they prefer forbs as they are easy to digest and abundant in minerals and antioxidants. At that time massive consumption of mushroom is also beneficial for antler growth.
After spring, whitetails may switch to browse plant sources. Other options may be fruits if available. Before the fall, they will eat highly nutritious feed like nuts, mushrooms, acorns, and corn to grow healthy antlers.
What do whitetails eat in the US
As we know, the population of whitetails spread from the US to Canada and from Africa to Asia. In the Northeastern part of the US, they prefer greenbrier, dogwoods, and blackberry. While other common browse like the yellow beech, serviceberry, and maples.
In the Southeastern part of the US, they mostly graze greenbrier, Japanese honeysuckle, and Alabama Supplejack. In the central US, they feed on common snowberry, quaking aspen and dogwood. Moreover, common deer food in the US includes maples, dogwood, bearberry and many more.
What do whitetails eat in Canada?
white tailed deer diet is the same as like as Us. Whitetail antlers are mostly found in eastern parts of Canada where they prefer plants like beaked hazel, ground hemlock, and white cedar. Other available food sources are maples, serviceberry, and yellow beech.
How to Identify deer food in your area?
The best way to track deer through its food is to get extensive knowledge of browse plants because they make the highest percentage of whitetail deer nutritional needs. By getting a plant identification book with colorful photographs you can easily identify browse plants. You can even classify different animals on the basis of their diet patterns through this booklet.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do white-tailed deer eat?
The amount of food whitetails eat is not fixed. It depends on the area, season, availability of food sources and types of plants. However average estimation is that deer consumes 7 pounds per day.
Do white-tailed deer eat meat?
No, not at all. Deer teeth and physical structure is not fit to eat meat. It is a herbivore.
What kind of feed do deer eat?
Deer is an herbivore and prefers Forbes over all types of food sources. If Forbes is unavailable then deer eat browse woody plants. Nuts, corns, brassica blend mushroom are other options
What should you feed wild deer?
Feeding wild deer is not recommended as it is unsafe not only for humans but also for deer. Some species of wild deer carry pests and can cause harmful diseases. They may also attack people who feed them as they are aggressive.
What trees do white-tailed deer eat?
Deer love to eat those trees that are about 5 feet in height and it can easily approach to fruit. It loves apples, white oak, hickory, chestnuts and long trees of the mast.
Hopefully, after knowing much about what do white-tailed deer eat? You may track them easily for hunting. Knowledge of this kind is always helpful to know your prey well before hunting. If you want to trace whitetails you may find it grazing around available food sources First preferred food sources are Forbes and then woody browse.
Moreover, you may also search them around grasses and mushrooms. Plenty of plant species are mentioned in this article to add further about deer food in winter.
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