Deer Eat, Browse, and Graze Native Plants so Plan your Hunt Accordingly
Dr. John Woods 11.10.20
In most cases in white-tailed deer habitats, Mother Nature supplies all the natural, native growing resources to supply all the basic nutrients they need to grow and survive. Of course, that is assuming normal growing seasons with good growing conditions, and ample precipitation. You can’t control bad growing conditions even for your own planted food plots.
Across the white-tailed deer range then there is a myriad of naturally growing plants, shrubs, fruits, bushes, weeds, grasses, and trees to supply food resources for deer. It is very likely where you deer hunt that man supplied farm crops are not needed to keep deer healthy in terms of foods to provide living energy to maintain a healthful status. Planted food plots are just a bonus.
Years ago my deer club took advantage of a state wildlife department assistance program by having a state deer biologist visit our property to provide us with an overall status report. The evaluation was of course primarily focused on deer, but other wildlife, too. On our property of 680 acres, we have forty-two acres of planted food plots for deer. These acres are spread out on 14 separate plots. We only plant plots in the fall due to the overall expense factor.
After driving the state biologist around the place with numerous stops allowing him to inspect plants and native browse for quality and quantity he had one main question for us. “Why are you guys planting 42 acres of food plots?” We were puzzled for sure. He went on to explain that we had more than ample natural browse to support our deer population with plenty of nutrition to maintain herd health.
He pointed out lots of native grasses, honey suckle bushes, wild blackberries, persimmon trees, other wild fruits, acorns, a ton of woody browse among lots of other available native food sources for deer and other wildlife. This is information we had never considered before, and it is likely your hunting property is similar.
In explaining the planting of our food plots as a means to entice deer out of thick bedding, and hiding areas for the sole purpose of shooting opportunities, the biologist was certainly sympatric to that strategy, quite a common one for deer hunting. It was a method for controlling deer numbers especially does to help balance the herd. It works if done properly and monitored closely.
While food plots may not be needed to supply deer nutrition, they certainly can especially if high protein plants are farmed including soybeans or greens. So, if you can identify and locate high quality native browse on your deer hunting property, then it would certainly be a wise strategy to pinpoint those deer foods for hunting. Factor in this consideration on your deer hunting property.