Deer eats grass

What Do White Tailed Deer Eat?

White-tailed deer eat a lot, both in quantity and type of food. These foragers are herbivores, meaning they eat only plant-based foods. They are not predators, they do not hunt, and they do not eat other animals. But they do eat a “variety of crops, grasses, vegetation, acorns and nuts”.

Most adult deer must eat between 6 to 8 percent of its body weight daily in order to remain healthy.

What types of plant matter do deer eat in the wild, and what can you feed wild deer using a feeder to both attract them and keep them healthy? Let’s explore.

What Do Deer Eat in the Wild?

White-tailed deer forage for plant-based crops and other foods. As Mississippi State University’s Deer Ecology & Management Lab notes, in the wild, deer tend to eat “browse (leafy parts of woody plants), forbs (herbaceous broad-leaved plants, including agricultural crops), hard and soft mast (seeds), grass and mushrooms/lichens”.

Specifically, Kyle Glatz for AZ Animals outlines several food items that are favored by deer, including:

  • Wild plum
  • Prickly ash
  • Seeds
  • Ragweed
  • Pokeweed
  • Wild lettuce
  • Wheat
  • Wild strawberry
  • Acorns
  • Corn (is okay in small amounts, otherwise it can be deadly)
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Chestnuts
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Ryegrass
  • Oats
  • Lichens
  • Mushrooms

It’s also worth noting that while deer eat these things along with grasses, leaves, and other easy-to-obtain foods, they focus on seeking out other foods when their preferred ones are hard-to-find.

What Can You Feed Deer to Attract Them?

What deer eat in the wild versus what feed includes often differs.

Most packaged deer feeds contain corn. And feeding deer corn alone is cheap. And while corn may attract deer, corn isn’t really the best feed for deer, nutritionally speaking, because it lacks the right amount of protein.

Deer should consume food with around 16% protein. Corn and soybeans are great options that contain a higher combined percentage of calcium and phosphorus than acorns, apples, alfalfa, or clover. When you mix corn and soy together, the corn helps attract deer, and the soybeans provide optimal protein levels. Plus, this combination offers plenty of carbs and fats, which deer seek out in the fall months.

Types of Deer Feed to Use in a Deer Feeder

There are plenty of pre-packaged deer feed options that contain a mix of corn and other food items like soybeans (which have a 40% protein content), rice bran, alfalfa, and more. In choosing food for a deer, it’s best to think about the nutrient profile of the food.

In the blog post “Tips for Hunting Over Bait and Attractants”, GYT 90 puts it this way:

“A whitetail buck’s antlers are comprised of 22% calcium, 11% phosphorous, and the remaining balance is a mix of protein, trace minerals, and ash. When searching for a feed, attractant, or bait product, it’s important to look for these key ingredients of calcium and phosphorous on the package”.

Shop Tectonic Daytime Deadfall Deer Feeders

Now you know what Deer like to eat in the wild and how you can attract them while ensuring their nutritional needs are met. But how do you feed them? The Tectonic Daytime Deadfall Feeder makes training deer to eat from a feeder during daytime hours easy.