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What Do Deer Eat?

Updated on November 9, 2014

“I love you, deer!” Okay, when someone says this, they are saying “dear,” not referring to you as that graceful and mysterious animal that lives in wooded areas.

If you have seen a deer in your yard, or darting out in front of your car in a dual to the other side of the road, it was most likely a doe, a deer, a female deer.

Where there are does, there are bucks. If you haven’t seen any bucks roaming around, do not worry; the bucks are just being bucks!

Bucks will find a safe path to take from their sleeping area to their food source and take that same path every day. Unless their food source changes, it’s mating season, or you’re actively seeking them out, you probably won’t see one!

You may be asking now about their food sources, “what do deer eat?” Don’t worry, let’s go over some important information about deer first.


About Deer

Deer are native to every continent except for Antarctica and Australia, and with such a wide distribution, it shouldn’t come as a shock that there is more than 90 species of deer roaming the planet!

With more than 90 species of deer, I simply cannot go over each and every species. The more common deer in North America are White-tailed deer, Caribou, Elk, Moose, and Mule deer.

You may not have previously known elk and moose to be deer, but they are species listed under the deer family. Here’s some information about the other common deer listed:

  • White-tailed deer: This species is by far the most common species of deer to occupy the states. Receiving their name from the white on the underside of their tails, there are other features that can distinguish the many subspecies from one another. If you’ve seen a deer head hanging over someone’s fireplace, chances are, it is a white-tailed deer. Bucks in the white-tailed population can grow up to be a whopping 500 pounds!

  • Caribou: Also known as reindeer, are those deer that pull Santa Claus’ sleigh on Christmas Eve. They are deer that are native to arctic areas, such as the North Pole! They can be found as low as northern California in the western hemisphere, and are also found in areas of the Asian continent. Caribou have very large antlers, second to moose, and you know what they say about large antlers, right? Large bodies! Males can weigh in at 700 pounds as adults!

  • Mule deer: These appear very similar to white-tailed deer, but have a more stocky appearance than the white-tailed which means they also weigh more. You will find these deer in western America ranging from Canada to north Mexico.


Baby Deer Food Taste Test

What Do Deer Eat?

When asking “what do deer eat?” The short answer is vegetation; they are herbivores.

The long answer is, well: Anything in their trail that falls into the category of vegetation is fair game for the deer to feast on. This can include branches, leaves, plants, roots, berries, flowers, grass, basically anything that can grow from the ground and won’t give them a belly ache.

If you are trying to attract deer, the fastest way to a deer’s heart is through their stomachs, and we are not talking about hunting them, either! You may have heard of a “food plot.”

A food plot is basically a safe-haven for deer to come to your property to eat their favorite foods, which should only be done in areas away from traffic, both people and cars. You should check with your local laws because this is illegal in some states and areas.

Favorite Foods

If you really want to attract deer, some of their favorite foods to snack on are:

  • kale
  • clover
  • peas
  • corn
  • oats
  • wheat
  • and alfalfa

If you are creating a food plot, you may not see many deer at first, but when you see one or a couple, if they feel the area is safe, you will begin to see more and more over time, then all you will have to do is keep the food coming, and the deer will keep coming. Many people use this method to attract deer for hunting, and many others use this as a way to attract deer for observations purposes only.

So whenever you are watching deer and thinking “what do deer eat?” Be careful not to think this out loud as you may just startle the deer to a point of not returning!

Baby Deer and Kitten!


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    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Interesting and informative. I loved the last video! We have mule deer here in Texas.