As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Our Associate portal can be found here
To boost your deer herd’s productivity, it is important to mind what they are eating and their nutritional requirements. Although mature bucks are the main target for hunters, it is essential to consider the whole deer family’s dietary needs. The nutrition of does, fawns, and bucks will vary slightly, but all need water, protein, carbohydrates, calcium, fats, sodium, and fiber.
The land managers should provide deer with what they need the most. That being said, deer need to be fed according to the season, among other factors. You can determine the optimal feeding and food plot plans for your deer herd by following the four seasons’ nutrition calendar.
How Much Can a Deer Eat?
According to reputable deer managers, a deer can eat anywhere between 6 to 8 percent of its body weight per day. Thus, a 150-pound deer can consume 12 pounds of food in a day. Just think about how much forage can weigh up to 12 pounds. Indeed it is quite a lot of forage. What does a deer feed on? Deer will typically eat a woody portion of leaves and stems. It also eats broad-leaved plants, acorns, apples, and grass.
Deer Feeding Requirements in October
In the deer world, fall is characterized by bucks preparing for battles and breeding. Similarly, does are trying to gather enough food reserves for pregnancy, whereas the fawns are striving to get more fat reserves for the upcoming winter season. Hence, the herd is busy trying to get enough fat in their reserves, and they need energy for maximum browsing.
The bucks are known to abandon food sources while busy chasing females. Once the buck’s fat reserves get fully exploited, the body tissues start to wear out as they burn for energy compensation.
On the other hand, the does will need stored fats for fetal development and sustain them through winter. Also, the fawns will need the stored fats to ensure they don’t lose the muscles they built during summer and spring.
What are the Best Fall Provisions?
The deer will need a lot of fat and carbohydrates to survive through winter and rut season. Luckily, Mother Nature is generous in providing those energy sources. This is usually in the form of acorn and hard mast production.
Also, farming in most parts of the country plays a critical role in producing fat and carbohydrates for deer. This is through grains such as milo, peanuts, sunflower, and corn. However, food plots have proved to be an ideal method of providing deer with quality forage for easy digestion of those carbohydrates.
Your summer plots might remain viable into the early fall season to produce beans and peas for utilization throughout the fall. But the food plot borders that you planted won’t be a reliable source of carbohydrate in the form of matured seeds or corn. If you didn’t prepare summer plots, you could plant high-quality grasses and legumes.
It would be helpful if you go for the blend that mixes cereals, excluding ryegrass. The mixture should also include brassica and clovers, which tend to offer more nutrition and deer attraction throughout the year. Besides, in the years where there is massive mast crop failure, this blend can provide an excellent supplemental feed. But, you should always consult your local authorities to ensure it is allowed. Deer don’t need that high amount of protein in fall as in summer.
Additionally, it would be best to transition them from high protein into small portions of grain and hay. Proper or gradual conditioning of deer ensures they don’t develop rumen acidosis, which is a fatal condition. One proven way is to transition from pellets to grains in mid and toward the end of October.
You can do so by mixing corn into pelleted food at a ratio of 40 percent corn at the beginning and increasing this rate by 10-15 percent per week. Mineral supplements aren’t necessary during the fall season. This is so because deer don’t grow in fall, and they don’t possess sodium deficiency like in summer and spring.
What Do Deer Eat in Other Seasons
Having looked at what deer eats in October and more so the fall season, it is paramount to know what they need for the following seasons.
What Do Deer Eat during Winter?
This season comes after the rut, and deer are trying to keep going until spring arrives. Hence, they will need fats and carbohydrates. During this time, deer make use of the remnants from agriculture production and the woody browse.
You can also make use of fall food plots to help them recover fast. However, snow and ice can negatively impact food plot accessibility by deer, and sometimes you’ll be forced to use a plow, rock rake, bucket, or other equipment to help the herd reach the food plots.
Also, the brassicas and radishes in your fall blend can be a great source of carbohydrates and simple sugars. Supplemental feeding is also advisable, but the deer should be gradually transitioned until they can handle a high-carbohydrate grain diet.
What Do Deer Eat during Spring?
It is easy to recognize when the spring season arrives. The soil and air temperatures will rise, and lush green covers the forest floor. This is the best browse for deer. The bucks are recovering from winter and fall; hence they need to rebuild their muscles. Thus, protein is essential as it will enhance muscle and antler development.
On the other hand, the does are preparing to welcome their newborns and need to get in shape for nursing and need protein for healthy fetal development.
Therefore, the complete deer family will need sodium, and the increase in lush browse will increase their water intake demand. Food plots and supplements are very beneficial in this season. You can use a trough or gravity feeder to provide proteins.
Supplemental feeds will also offer additional fat and minerals to the deer. You also need to have enough clover components in each plot blend that will take the deer through spring until summer. Mineral supplements should have sodium, calcium, and phosphorus. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be two parts to one.
What Do Deer Eat during Summer?
This is the season when bucks are growing antlers. Protein and vital mineral salts will be of great help in summer. Calcium and phosphorus are also important in healthy antler growth. This season is also crucial because the does give birth in early summer or towards the end of spring.
Nursing does have to pass enough protein and energy to their fawns through milk. Hence, the does need the highest intake of proteins and carbohydrates than any other deer category. By the end of summer, fawns will be weaning and will require a high protein intake for good muscle development.
High protein food plots with beans, peas, and lablab can provide 35 percent protein if adequately nourished for provision. When designing these food plots, you should think beyond summer and ensure you combine them with sorghum, corn, milo, and other later-maturing grains. These can be grown together with legumes.
You need to ensure you get a product with the highest protein content for supplemental feeding but shouldn’t exceed 20 percent. Water is also vital if your deer were to thrive well in summer. In this season, you may never know when heatwaves or drought strikes. Thus, you will need to set aside watering areas that are approximately 6 feet deep.
Several factors can determine whether you will grow big bucks. Age, nutrition, and genetics play a critical role. You have to consider quality, amount, and timing when feeding your deer.
As we have discussed, deer do not grow in fall or winter and need a unique feeding program. But spring and summer are important seasons that determine herd health and quality.
All in all, each season requires special attention, and you will need to develop food plots and purchase mineral supplements that fulfill deer needs according to the season.
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.
36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.