Food plots, crop fields, corn feeders, and acorn-filled oaks may come to mind when envisioning a white-tailed deer’s diet, and deservedly so. But what about poison ivy, ragweed, and plants like prickly pear cactus or mistletoe? Are these eaten too? Knowing a little of what’s preferred – or avoided – by white-tailed deer can help when it comes to making land management decisions.
Oklahoma’s diverse landscape is the first consideration. Specific deer foods present in the Panhandle may not be available in the southeastern corner of the state. Soil type, moisture, and a host of other factors play a role in where plants occur, their abundance, their nutritional qualities, and how they may taste to a deer. However, there are some similarities too.
In short, an average white-tailed deer’s diet is heavily weighted toward the stems, buds, and leaves of woody plants, also known as “browse”, as well as herbaceous broad-leaved “weeds,” also known as “forbs.” More than 50% of a deer’s annual diet usually consists of browse and forb foods.
Next in line are fruits, nuts, and berries produced by woody shrubs and trees. These hard and soft “mast” foods are consumed year-round, but a deer’s heaviest use of mast is during the summer and fall months.