Four Natural Early-Season Foods That Deer Love

You know deer like corn, beans, white oaks, and alfalfa. But what if you don’t have farm crops nearby? What if the mast crop fails? Bucks eat scores of other foods now, too, several of which are highly favored and overlooked by hunters. Find the four below, and you’ll have little competition for the big, secretive bucks that visit them.

1.) Honey Locusts
When I bought my farm, neighbors told me to cut down all locusts. "Trash trees," they called them, good only for fence posts. Thank goodness I didn't. Honey locusts provide a terrific, unsung early-season food. Deer relish the long, brown, fleshy seedpods that start dropping in early September. A good tree can draw bucks daily as deer check for freshly fallen pods.

2.) Forbs
Lots of hunters ignore fallow fields overgrown with fescue and other grasses, figuring that deer seldom eat grass. And that's true, but deer will still hit those fields for the forbs—broad-leaved weeds and wildflowers with high protein content that thrive in old pastures and neglected fields. Check for deer sign in areas that have the least grass and the most forbs.

3.) Mushrooms
These are a prime overlooked food from August through September. Look for mushrooms in damp, shady areas along streams. Such spots already attract deer by offering cool temperatures, cover, and edible bushes. Add mushrooms and you have the perfect spot for a heavy-horned buck to hang out. Another solid bet is a pine grove after a good rain.

4.) Leaves
A freshly fallen maple or dogwood leaf is a tasty treat for deer, containing lots of moisture and fiber. Red leaves seem to have a special appeal because of high residual sugars. Deer will eat the freshest leaves over ones that fell a few days earlier, making an afternoon or morning after a windstorm a great time to take an early-season, leaf-eating buck.

Photo by Charles Alsheimer