It is almost
impossible to characterize the whitetail's diet. In most areas, deer eat just
about any type of vegetation or mast they can find. However, this does not mean
that whitetails are indiscriminate diners. On the contrary, they can be picky
eaters. If a foodstuff does not taste quite right, a doe will spit it out. Fawns
learn which plants, nuts and fruits to eat from their mothers.
eat forbs, like flowering plants and weeds. Deer love sweet fruits like apples,
crabapples and persimmons. Acorns, beechnuts, pecans and other hard mast are important
fall and winter foods. Soft and hard mast are high-energy eats that help deer
pack on fat. Protein-rich plants and crops, such as peas, are essential in a deer's
diet. They provide nutrients for body and antler growth. In winter, deer are often
forced to feed on twigs and other woody browse, which are low in nutrients. A
deer's sense of smell draws it to food.
whitetail's four-chambered stomach stores food and breaks it down later. Thus,
a deer can eat quickly and find a safe place to bed down and chew it cud, out
of sight and mind of predators.
are crepuscular animals, meaning they move and feed heavily at twilight. But modern
research shows that whitetails need to feed 4 to 6 times a day.