Do you ever wonder what do deer eat in the winter? Well, winter remains a tough time for any deer to survive. The chilling cold does not catch it in the comfort of its bed, but in the harsh weather in the woods. While many deer live through January and February, the third month of the year is by no way comfortable. Any hunter would definitely want to know what such a tender animal eats with virtually most vegetation covered in snow.
Like any other herbivore, the deer lives on plants, fruits, nuts, and acorns. Deer, commonly known of panting for the wells of water as they add to the aesthetic value of nature, feed on the non-woody plants, grasses, and flowering weeds. Although you may at times see a deer enjoy the fallen fruits from trees, the diet is relatively rare.
Any farmer is also aware of the presence of deer in the cultivated gardens. They are browsers of cultivated vegetables like beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soybeans, wheat, and rye.
Obviously, a threat to a farmer, but a hunter would seize this opportunity and aim. I bet you wouldn’t leave a presentable meal slip away in the chillness of winter, would you?
The fawns are comfortable with the mother’s milk until they can feed on the soft greens and later progress to join the deer’s diet, as hunters call it. For domesticated deer, you can use goat’s milk to feed the fawns as well; however, do not forget to warm the milk.
During the winter season, food becomes scarcer for a deer and the energy requirements tend to increase as the deer must keep warm. Most deer can scavenge for food in plots or the farms, and the white tail deer would rather feed on corn, cowpeas or soybeans lying on the snow. The harvested fields become preferable, as many do not like to pluck from the stalks that are standing.
However, you should note the distinction between the forest and big wood deer. How does it survive despite the change in the forest vegetation?
Although mostly inactive, their bodies still need food considering that they do not hibernate. One word should come to your mind- drop down. What does this entail? The same bushes on which the deer fed from offer a solution. Leaves from small branches within the woods provide potential food for most deer. If the branches drop down, to the level of the deer, it can easily manage to feed on them. Any hunter should realize that deer would most likely go back to where it used to feed from to seek shelter during winter.
However, you should note that there exists one caution in the feeding of deer in the winter. It has to do with the changing of diet for the mammal. It might sound absurd, but it is the reality- it is better not to give any food to the deer, rather than to give it a new type of food in the mid of winter.
In times of such occurrences, rarely will the animal survive. The main factor goes back to the digestive system of the animal. The deer has to eat a new type of diet for nearly two weeks before it begins to pull nutrients from the food.
Particular type of bacteria, often referred to as normal flora, which lives in the animal’s gut, assists in digestion. The bacteria, therefore, takes time to adjust to the new meal before it adapts to eating and surviving on it. Therefore, always give the deer feeds that are of the same quality as those it fed on before winter. That way, the deer can survive the tough period. You can then gradually start a change in diet.
In the forested areas there some very peculiar feeds that the deer can make use of, especially in the mid-winter. The forest big woods deer feed on the hemlock, aspen, maple, hazel wood, and red osier dogwood. The white cedar sustains deer for hundreds of days in the deeryard. However, deer need a great deal of this food; the requirement may go up to 3-6 pounds on a daily basis. This means that the deer will have to browse heavily.
Further, many deer will enjoy feeding on the ‘Old Man’s Beard,’ which is a type of lichen resembling the Spanish moss. Since the lichens grow on dead or dying balsam and spruce trees, you can find deer looking for the ‘beards,' which are beyond their reach.
What is again very important is to avoid any disturbance to the animal, as it should conserve most energy to survive through the winter.
I hope as a good hunter or farmer, you know exactly where to go for a deer hunt or what to give your deer during the tough winter season. Just take not of different places the deer may spend time and the exact foods that most likely serve as its lunch or dinner.
Below are some links to videos on the deer eating habits in winter.
I am Kevin who is a founder of deerhuntingfield.com; Here at Deer Hunting Field, we want to teach and educate. Hunting is a passion which has existed in mankind since almost the beginning, and with the advent of the internet, we can now share information, tips, and more with each other faster than ever before. This is a crucial part of our philosophy.