deer food

Scouting After the Kill

Grant Woods |

This time of year most bucks are seeking the best food in their home range to recover from the rut. Does and fawns are seeking calories to maintain body heat and maintenance/growth. Both genders and all age classes of deer are seeking quality food. It’s time to change from rut season hunting strategies to stand locations that are based on the herd’s current preferred food sources.

The best way to determine the exact type of food that deer prefer where you hunt may be simpler (albeit a bit smellier) than you think. When I’m in a new area and I don’t have time to scout or don’t want to risk alerting deer by tromping all over I look for the gut pile of recently harvested deer. Skinning sheds and/or gut piles where a deer was recently killed on a neighboring property, or a fresh road kill in the area to be hunted are all great sources of information.

Deer ingest food rapidly. They then regurgitate it once back in cover, chew it up more and swallow it again. The food particles in a deer’s stomach are often whole or at least very easy to identify. It’s common to find whole acorns, soybeans, etc. in a deer’s stomach.

Even better, the whole (not partially digested) food items in the esophagus are a great indication of what the deer ate just before it was harvested. I’ve often been able to determine that deer were eating in a local ag field by finding corn or soybeans in the deer’s belly and acorns or native browse in their esophagus. This is especially true when investigating the digestive tract of deer killed during the late morning. Deer killed during the early afternoon (just after they left a bedding area) may not have any whole food in their esophagus.

A bit of exploration of a deer’s digestive tract paired with a bit of knowledge about the distribution of food types in the local area will confirm exactly what and where deer are eating and some indication of the time of day they are eating specific items.

Understanding exactly what deer are eating during the same time frame you are hunting is a huge advantage, especially during the late season when food items are often scarce.

Growing and hunting deer together,

Dr. Grant Woods, GrowingDeer.tv