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Whitetail Deer Feeding

Jul 25, 2008
The physical evidence of deer browsing on leaves, twigs, agricultural crops and natural fruits represents a unique type of deer sign. It adds one more piece to the puzzle and confirms that an area deserves your closed scrutiny. An area rich in food should also support a herd of deer. If you cannot find evidence of feeding within an area, it may still serve as a travel corridor for deer, but you will have to find other signs, such as tracks and trails, to confirm this.

To find proof of feeding, you must know what deer devour, which includes more than 6 different plants. As grazing animals, they randomly nip off small leaves, twigs and buds of many trees and shrubs. The important natural foods of the nothern forests are white cedar, maples, dogwood, aspen and blueberry. In the south deer favor greenbriers, black gum, maples, honeysuckle, sumac and kudzu. At large they prefer new growth. In times when they are starving; however, deer will eat pencil-thick stems.

Across whitetail country, the acorns of oak trees remain a key food source from late summer through winter. Fifty-four different species of oaks grow in North America, and almost every species produces acorns of value to deer. Botanists divide all oaks into two groups, white oaks and black oaks. In general, the white oaks produce "sweeter acorns", while black-oak acorns are somewhat bitter. Deer demonstrate preference for the very sweetest whites, such as the chinquapin, the post and swamp white oak. On the other hand, black oaks produce acorns more consistently than white oaks, and deer eat black-oak acorns in years when white oaks do not bear fruit.

Squirrels shuck the shell of the acorn. Deer, on the other hand, eat acorns whole so the physical signs of such a meal are subtle. If you look close, you may detect some disturbance in leaf litter affiliated with deer, or you may come across some tracks in exposed dirt underneath oaks. Parallel wind rows of leaves usually suggest feeding activity of wild turkeys. With snow cover, you can easily discover where deer have pawed down to find acorns.

Important agricultural crops that deer utilize include corn, soybeans, apples and alfalfa. Deer eat these foods in many different stages. In an apple orchard, for example, deer will browse on apple twigs as well as eat the fruit itself. In a cornfield, deer will nip off the tops of the stalk and silk as well as the mature ear. Given a crack at shelled corn, they will chow down with relish. Frequently they will also carry a cob of corn with them as they leave a feeder or field.

Deer lack incisor teeth in the front of the upper jaw; hence they cannot nearly "bite" off stems. Alternatively, a deer utilized its lower canine teeth to press a stem or leaf against the upper jaw and then tears away a mouthful. The remaining stem or leaf shows a jagged edge. By contrast, neatly-pruned stems low to the ground is more than likely rabbit activity. Broken branches of apple and cherry trees as a whole represent the work of a bear. Tthe raccoon will break down stalks of corn. Deer are dainty eaters by equivalence.
About the Author
Outdoorsman and author Ethan O. Tanner discusses the different signs of whitetail feeding and gives tips for deciding the signs of whitetail feedingswhen compared with other animals.
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