Deer Nutrition

Critical Deer Nutrients

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Minerals
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins


Water is necessary for important whitetail bodily functions such as metabolizing food for tissue and energy production, temperature regulation, and waste excretion. Deer need and use water daily, which is partially supplied by succulent plants. Lack of free water on your property may deter deer from using certain areas. A deer needs at least one source of permanent water in their home range to insure year-round use of that deer range.


Deer need protein for the development of muscles, nerves and other tissues, such as growing antlers. Protein is critical for body growth in whitetail deer, particularly for fawns and yearlings. Lack of protein can impede body and antler growth in the buck population. A buck's hardened antlers are about 45% protein. Since body growth occurs before and takes precedence over antler growth, a buck with a limited protein supply will have smaller antlers. A diet of around 16% protein is required for successful growth, antler development and reproduction of whitetail deer.

Fats and Carbohydrates

Deer do not need fats in there diet to store fat, they do it by converting the energy in carbohydrates. They do however use the fats and oils in foods like acorns as an important source of energy. Building fat reserves is why deer can survive harsh winters as they are able to burn that fat to get needed energy when food availability is low.


Studies have shown that calcium and phosphorus are by far the two most common minerals found in deer antlers. Yet, calcium and phosphorus provide only a portion needed for optimum antler growth. The rest must come directly from their diet while their antlers are actively growing. Mineral supplements prior to and during antler growth can be very beneficial.


A deers diet contains much fiber in the way of browse (leaves, twig ends, buds, bark, hard and soft fruits, and even grass). Because they are ruminants they can digest this fiber. Normally deer prefer low fiber foods such as young plants, tender plant shoots, mushrooms, grains, nuts... etc.

These Four Dietary Components
Should Be A
vailable To Deer In Their Home Range.

  • High-Quality Green Farage (winter wheat, clover, etc. )
  • Winter Grains ( corn, soybeans, sorghum, etc. )
  • Hard Mast ( acorns and other nuts )
  • Soft Mast ( persimmon, apples, dogwood, etc. )
  • Woody Browse ( crabapple, sumac, oak, hawthorn, etc. )

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