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What Other Crops Deer Prefer to Eat

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John’s Note: When you’re hunting over fields, whether snow fields in Canada or agricultural fields in the South, the same equipment for accurate shooting is required. Only the temperature varies. With a flat-shooting rifle, a quality scope and a cartridge that consistently shoots 1- to 2-inch groups, you can shoot with confidence at ranges of more than 100 yards in pastures and croplands.

When using the word croplands, most hunters see visions of corn fields, winter wheat, oats, soybeans, peas, sweet potatoes and beets. In my home state of Alabama, croplands also means watermelon patches. Rarely do we think of orchards and pastures as croplands. However, apples, plums and pears also are on the deer’s preferred food list.

3Orchards offer easy deer-patterning opportunities. The first tree to drop fruit will be the tree the deer concentrates on first. But as the fruit begins to fall, if one tree produces better or sweeter fruit than the other trees do, the deer will feed under this tree more frequently. Most hunters know if you pinpoint abandoned orchards you can have productive deer hunting, especially during the early deer season. To insure the most deer under the tree you want to hunt, fertilize one or two trees when hunting abandoned orchards before the tree’s leaves form – usually at the end of hunting season. Fertilize that same tree or trees during the early spring just as the leaves begin to show. The fertilizer will cause these trees to bear more and sweeter-tasting fruit than the other trees in the old orchard. These special trees then will attract more deer than the other trees do in the fall and provide dependable stand sites for the bowhunter or early-season gun hunter.

Pastures that are fertilized also have an attracting power for deer. If you hunt where farmers raise livestock, the pastures frequently fertilized will produce more and sweeter grass than the pastures not fertilized. These fertilized pastures draw more deer than unfertilized pastures will. Green fields planted for deer and other wildlife demonstrate this same attracting quality.  The green fields that are properly fertilized will draw more deer than the fields not fertilized.

Although deer eat more than 600-different foods nationwide, deer do prefer certain domestic foods, including soybeans, alfalfa, red clover, white clover, ryegrass, winter oats, cabbage, blackberries, apples, lespedeza, trefoil, carrots, blueberries, cranberries and sugar beets. Deer feed primarily due to smell but don’t spend much of their time feeding. Feeding requires they use their senses, and they prefer to utilize their senses to keep up with what’s happening around them.

1Deer are ruminants and have stomachs with four compartments. Feeding takes place rapidly with little chewing or swallowing. Adult whitetails require about 10 pounds of food each day. However, they can survive on as little as 8 percent protein but 12 percent is better. To have trophy bucks in an area, the protein content of the deer’s food needs to be 18 to 22 percent.

To get John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books on hunting deer, including his newest deer-hunting book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks,” available at, click on these books to learn more, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,”PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings.” Or, go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. You also can find John’s books on Nook at

For free information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from

Next: How to Hunt Cropland Bucks and How to Get Croplands to Hunt

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