what deer eat in winter

How to Feed Deer in the Winter?

Many people have strong thoughts about what deer eat in the winter. If you hunt deer, you probably look for ways to make the deer you hunt healthier all the time. So, it makes sense that many people want to take care of them throughout the year. 

As you probably already know, winter is one of the hardest times of the year for many animals, including whitetails. This is especially true in the northern part of the country, where the weather can be especially bad. 

Freezing temperatures, the wind that steals heat, and a lack of food that is good for them can all be used against them to get rid of the weaker people. So it makes sense that giving deer food when it’s cold would help them. Really, it depends on the situation and how the food is given.

If you go about it the wrong way, you might hurt the group of deer more than you help them. We now get what you’re trying to say. Your neighbor feeds corn to deer all year long, and it doesn’t hurt them in any way. 

Some tips to feed deer in winter

Here are some tips for feeding deer in the winter to help you decide if you should do it or not and how to do it right.

What do deer need to eat?

First, we need to talk about what deer really need to get through the harsh winter weather. Deer spend the summer and fall putting on weight in the hopes that it will be enough to keep them warm in the winter when it is cold and there aren’t as many food sources. They do this by eating as much good food as they can while it’s still available. Their autumn meals focus on the best foods. They don’t always gain the right amount of fat, though. And when winter comes, bulls are especially in danger.

During the season, bucks naturally focus on mating, which keeps them from taking advantage of many of the last chances to eat. So, by the time winter comes, their bodies are usually already weak. If a buck doesn’t get enough food all winter, its body will start to eat itself by breaking down its own muscle tissue to use as fuel. They could die of hunger, and even if that doesn’t happen, they will open the spring with a big loss. 

At that point, they wouldn’t be able to grow as much as they could because all the energy they used would have to go towards regaining muscle mass before they could use nutrients to grow hair. If making more money is one of your property’s goals, this is a problem you need to solve.

In an ideal situation, deer need high-carbohydrate and high-fat food in the winter. This can come from wild food or from deer feeding in the winter (with some significant limitations below). They might even be able to replace some of the fat they lost before their bodies had to start using muscle if they burned enough calories doing this to stay warm all winter. Deer in the north don’t really need much food until spring when there are lots of nutritious green plants to eat. In the south, deer might just need the extra food to have healthy fawns the next year or to recover from the season faster.

Wintertime Diet of Deer

What do caribou eat in the winter to get the high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet they need? Unfortunately, there aren’t many native foods that can provide that in the winter. Deers are very well-suited to this situation, which is a good thing.

Look at the Woods

Whitetails that live in areas with a lot of trees need food from hardwood trees to stay alive during the darkest time of the year. Their four-part gut makes it easy for them to break down the high fiber content of forage and get the most nutrients out of it. But there are different ways to browse. When winter comes, deer often leave mature woods because there isn’t much food at the deer level. 

Young woods, on the other hand, are full of soft, nutritious food. Imagine a place that has been cut down and then, during the next growing season, is so full of young tree branches and bushes that you can hardly move through it. This place is also a great place for deer to browse. Fewer acres of this area can hold more deer during the winter than 40 or more acres of established woods.

Crop agriculture

In rural areas, deer can often find a lot of different farm products to eat during the winter. Some farmers and hunters leave standing fields of corn, beans, and other plants for deer to graze on during the winter. As long as the fields aren’t dug up in the fall, leftover corn is often left for them to graze on in fields that have been cleared. Depending on how much snow falls, deer may or may not be able to look for food on the ground.

In these parts of the world, brassicas, cereals, legumes, and maize can all be very healthy and are in high demand. Maize, cereals, and beans are all great sources of both carbohydrates and fats. Both of these are great for meeting the special needs of a deer’s diet in the winter. But they can be harmful if they are not a common source of food in the area at a certain time.

Risks of deer feeding in winters

Going back to the beginning of the post, it seems like winter grazing would be good for deer in places where there isn’t much healthy food. But that’s not always the case. So that it can digest wood fibers in the winter, a deer’s stomach grows a population of microorganisms and bacteria that help it digest wood fibers. When a deer eats something really tasty and low in fiber, like corn, wheat, pears, etc., the microbes in its stomach that can break down high-carbohydrate food quickly multiply. 

This makes a lot of lactic acids. This rise in pH stops metabolism from happening because it kills off many helpful bacteria and microorganisms. In the worst cases, the deer’s blood can become so acidic that it can kill it within 24 hours. This is also called acidosis, maize poisoning, or too much cereal. A deer killed by acidity will usually have a full stomach of corn, cereal, and other foods and be in great shape. Even though it can be dangerous for some deer, this usually only happens when deer that are used to eating low-carbohydrate food in the winter have sudden access to a lot of high-carbohydrate food. Even if it doesn’t kill them, it can damage their ruminant gut lining in a way that won’t go away. This may make it harder for them to digest in the future.

There is also a chance that diseases could spread if you feed deer. In many parts of the country, diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) are killing off a lot of people. When deer graze, they only eat the tips of the limbs, and they usually move around as they do so. But when there are more feeders and lure heaps, deer are drawn to the food and gather close to it. 

This means there are more deer in a small area. There will be more nose-to-nose contact or sharing of mucus, which can spread the illness even more. Many state wildlife organizations have put limits on what animals can eat to stop the spread of these diseases. This risk can be reduced by limiting the amount of food given and spreading it out over a large area.

How to Give Deer Food in the Winter

Getting deer to come close during hunting season is different from feeding deer in the winter. During the season, hunters often use lures to get deer to come to a certain spot, but feeding deer in the winter is only done to help them survive until spring. Depending on how harsh the winter is and how well the environment is taken care of, deer may not even need extra deer food. 

Winter deer grazing, on the other hand, could be helpful if the winter is especially harsh, if there are more deer than the environment can support, or if there is no food available in the winter. This is assuming you do it right. Here are some ideas for winter deer food and rules you can use on your land.

First of all, you shouldn’t try to give deer extra grain if they can’t find it on their own. When The deer are very interested in our deer attractant, which is a great mix of over 90 ingredients and unrefined soybean oil. The increase in nutrients from fat energy comes with a smell that draws animals to the food source. 

If you want to feed maize to deer for its nutritional value, you need to start out very slowly. Spread only a small amount at first, like a gallon pail’s worth over a large area, so that deer can find it and get used to it. At first, you should give them food every few days, either by hand or with an automatic feeder. For the next two to three weeks, keep giving them a few pounds of food every few days so that their digestive systems can get used to it. So, you don’t have to avoid feeding deer corn; you just have to do it the right way. 

Acidosis shouldn’t happen if a meal doesn’t all of a sudden have a lot of maize in it. To put it another way, if you go outside in the middle of winter and dump a whole bag of grain into a field, you might kill a few animals. To be safe, though, you can just add corn to a homemade deer feed mix, with corn making up about 25% of the whole. To lower the risk of acidity, it’s a good idea to add a wide range of different food sources to your deer meal blend.

Use deer food pellets or other high-fiber deer feed to feed deer in the winter if you want to change up the mix or give the deer something other than maize. This is more like what they would normally eat in terms of nutrients. It just gives a deer good food in one place instead of making it have to graze over a large area. Check the deer feed ingredients in feed mixtures carefully to make sure they are high in fiber and low in carbs. Alfalfa granules, which have about 16% protein and a lot of fiber, are sometimes given to deer. However, some deer can get bloated from eating hay because they are meant to be hunters, not grazers. 


Winter deer grazing is often not necessary or won’t have a big effect on the number of deer in the area. During a particularly harsh winter, a certain number of deer will always die. But giving deer the right food can help them in some situations.

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