What Do Deer Eat During Each Season?

Do you want to help the deer population around your hunting property grow bigger and healthier? The right nutrition and feeding supplements can keep the local game thriving and hopefully lead to a trophy in-hand during hunting season. Remember that feeding deer takes some thought and planning, and the best dietary strategies will provide minerals and nutrients to match deer's changing needs with each season.

Deer typically eat more than 5% of their body weight every day. They eat various native and non-native vegetation, including woody stems and leaves, grass and broadleaf plants, acorns, soybeans and corn to name a few. The nutrient ratios they need to stay healthy vary at different times of the year, so the right game management strategy will cater to seasonal dietary requirements.

What Do Deer Eat in the Spring?

As new vegetation begins growing and the deer population emerges from the winter months, they need protein. The bucks require adequate protein to replace the muscle loss they lost during winter and the rut. If they have sufficient nutrients to rebuild muscle mass, their bodies will then put more resources into growing their antlers. Remember, physiologically speaking, antlers get the leftovers that the body doesn't need. Meanwhile, does need protein to see them through pregnancy while a fawn or fawns are developing. 

While newly emerging native plant species are high in protein and sought after by deer, clover food plots can also be a great source of protein during the early to late spring. Commercial grains that are high in digestible protein are excellent foods to incorporate into your deer feeding program to ensure does and bucks have the protein and energy they need.

deer eating from feeder in summberdeer eating from feeder in summber

What Do Deer Eat in the Summer?

During the summer, deer require protein to keep their energy high and minerals to strengthen their health and development. The right nutrients can strengthen young bucks and help them continue growing their antlers, while does nursing their fawns can benefit from the right minerals.


Calcium and phosphorous, two critical components of bone development, are vital minerals you can supply in your deer feed over the summer months. Food plots planted with soybeans or other legumes are ideal this time of year, as well as, native fruits, along with herbaceous plants. 

What Do Deer Eat in the Fall?

At this point in the year, deer need more fats and carbohydrates to prepare for the rut and winter. Now that does have weaned their fawns and bucks have finished growing their antlers, they need to store up fat for the long, cold months ahead. 

Soybeans, corn and nuts are excellent options for this season. Fall is also when the acorn mast drops, so look for deer activity around oak trees dropping white oaks and red oaks. Fall food plots planted with oats, winter wheat, clover, turnips and other brassicas are especially sought out by deer now. 

What Do Deer Eat in the Winter?

Throughout the winter, deer need carbohydrates and fats to conserve their energy. With little access to green vegetation, bucks rely primarily on their body fat and can lose a significant amount of muscle mass during the winter months. Create a healthy combination of carbohydrate-rich agricultural products to keep your local game population in optimal health through this season. Deer will eat corn during the winter, but have trouble digesting high quantities of corn and can even die of acidosis — which in deer, can occur if they eat too much corn — so make sure you include other browsing options, too. Also, look for deer in cut soybean and corn fields throughout the winter as they search for leftover grains in the fields. 



Monitor Game With Moultrie Cameras

If you've set up some feeders and want to understand your local wildlife's feeding patterns, a strategically placed game camera can give you some insights. Explore Moultrie's range of game cameras to keep an eye on your local game population.