Fall Feeding Habits

Deer food habits are highly dynamic, regional, and seasonal. They often change within a deer season and may change literally overnight. Being able to predict a deer’s “destination” is an important hunting strategy. Highly preferred foods are a destination. Identifying highly preferred food before it actually is being used is the key to applying this strategy. In addition, being able to recognize that deer have switched to a new food source as quickly as possible after the change has occurred will also help the hunter stay abreast with what the deer are doing.

Hunting pressure can and will affect when a deer uses these food resources. In some cases hunting pressure can be predicted; is some cases it will be a surprise.

We recommend that actual specimens of tree leaves, and the fruit of preferred deer food (acorns, fruit, browse, etc.) be used to teach this section. Photographs and agricultural and dendrology textbooks can be used to supplement the actual specimens.


Winter Deer Foods

The following is a partial listing of tree and shrub species that are eaten by deer in the winter, arranged in order of quality and preference. This listing is based on thousands of observations in deer wintering areas over many years from all parts of New York State.

White-Tailed Deer

A relatively small deer with relatively short ears; all major points of the antlers come off the main beam; tail relatively long, broad basally, and white underneath; metatarsal gland small and circular; females usually antlerless; upperparts reddish brown in summer, bright grayish fawn sprinkled with black in winter; face and tail usually lack blackish markings; underparts white. Dental formula as in the mule deer. External measurements average: (males) total length, 1,800 mm; tail, 300 mm; hind foot, 450 mm; females slightly smaller. Weight of males, 3070 kg.

White-Tailed Deer

Perhaps New York State’s most widely recognized large mammal, the white-tailed deer is a familiar sight to most, its famous “white flag” tail often spotted as the animal bounds off. Highly adaptable, the white-tailed deer is found throughout the state in a variety of settings. It is generally a shy, elusive animal that is a favorite of nature observers and sportsmen alike.