Deer Nutrition

Dr. Jimmy Steger

So you wanna grow some monster whitetails?  You think you know what it takes to grow World Class Deer?  Well there are three things that must happen in order to grow really big antlers. Superb DNA,  proper nutrition and very little stress.  A lot of people have great deer with superb DNA and that’s really about it.  Very few, if any have great nutrition programs for the deer.  Until now, I have formulated the first ever nutritional supplements that are completely absorbed in the deer at a level in which their body can actually assimilate them without having to break them down.  Hunters, ranchers and breeders all over the country are feeding their deer every type of new formula that comes along with hopes of growing the biggest rack ever.  Problem is no one really knows if these deer are actually reaching there full potential.  Many years ago I started testing these big bucks to see if their mineral levels were normal.  The answer was, not a single buck or doe I tested in the past 25 years was close to being within normal ranges.  Most of the companies producing deer formulas are using compounded formulas, which are not being broken down and absorbed into the deer’s body properly.  I have tested many of these companies in the business and all of their formulas are compound in nature and cannot be broken down small enough to go into the deer’s blood stream.  Therefore the deer are suffering from nutritional deficiencies and are not reaching their maximum growth in antler size.   DNA is everything from the start, however what makes your DNA reach its maximum level is proper nutrition.  Without proper nutrition in any living thing, man or deer, the DNA molecule will only do so much.  If I do a VMT (vitamin, mineral & amino acid test) on your deer and see their mineral levels are not in the normal ranges, I can build a customized nutritional supplement for your deer to put the correct minerals back into their system.  If the deer are in their normal ranges especially in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, etc., then you have the ability to allow your deer to reach maximum size in regards to overall antler development.  This may take a year or two, however if you start the doe’s off pre-conception, they will have a head start on superior development through proper nutrition.  You will see this with your first year bucks.  Remember, my formulas are not a feed; they are Deer Supplements to add to your current feed program. I have taken big bucks in 9 different states and none of them were close to having good vitamin and mineral levels in their bodies or antlers.  Don’t you think it’s time to step up your deer nutrition program to the best supplements you can buy?

Remember Superior DNA and Superior Nutrition equals Superior Bucks.

We have the only liquid mineral formula in the world that is completely absorbed at the cellular level without having to be broke down by the body.  We look forward to helping you grow World Class Super Bucks!

Dr. Jimmy Steger
World Renowned Nutritionist

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The Whitetail Deer’s Favorite Food
Dr. Jimmy Steger 

Let’s talk about the Acorn Tree.  Acorns are the preferred whitetail deer food especially in the Eastern and Southern part of the US.  The deer love acorns so much that in heavy crop years, a whitetail will most likely pass up all other food sources for this nut.

Although acorns are low in protein content, they are very high in fats and carbohydrates. Their nutrients are easily absorbed and digested in the whitetails system and are processed quickly. Even with the low protein content, during a bumper crop year deer will eat so many that it will still provide them with an abundant amount of good quality protein.  A whitetail can gain weight and muscle quickly during these bumper crop years and by late October and November depending on where you live, the deer may have a thick layer of fat stored for the winter months.

In the Northeast, the White and Red oak are most common. When it comes to acorns though deer have a preference and at the top of that list is the white oak. This is because the White Oak nut has a low amount of tannic acid.

Tannic acid is a chemical compound produced by plants to discourage predators from eating their seeds, leaves and stems. The lower level of tannic acid in the White Oak makes it less bitter and very desirable to the deer.

Here is a list of acorns by preference to the Whitetail Deer.

  1. White Oak
  2. Pin Oak
  3. Red Oak
  4. Black Oak
  5. Bur Oak
  6. Live Oak

The White Oak trees produce heavy crops only once every few years. Red Oaks, however, produce heavily every other year, making them a good food source when White Oak acorns are scarce. Following the seasonal growth pattern of oak trees and their acorn mass can be a key element to hunting success.  I teach all of my hunters, if you want to find Big Bucks, hunt the White Oak bottoms first, then move to the ridges where the Red and Live Oaks trees are second.

Here is a list of what I have observed over 25 plus years of Whitetail Hunting and managing some of the largest whitetails around the US, most preferred to least preferred foods.  Take into consideration that this is a broad spectrum of different environments and will change depending on where you are hunting.  ie:  Up North the deer love the Winter Wheat , Alfalfa, Corn and Clover fields where as in the South, they love the Rape and Peanut fields.

Sweet apples
Crab apples
White oak acorns
Red oak acorns
Dry bean plants
Soybean plants
Pea plants
Alfalfa
White clover
Red clover
Birdsfoot trefoil
Vetch
Chicory
Apple tree buds
Corn
Brassicas (more preferred after frost)
Winter rye
Oats
Hardwood browse
perennial grasses
Softwood browse

Dr. Jimmy Steger
World Renowned Nutritionist

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Deer Browse
Dr. Jimmy Steger

Deer browse is defined as the leaves, twigs, and buds of woody plants. Whitetail deer are primarily browsers. Eating browse is an important part of what deer eat especially during the winter months when food is hard to come by. In fact, browse may be the only food source available during much of the winter.

Browse is an important food source for whitetails, especially during the high stress winter months. These tips are just some of the ways to increase native browse on your property. Browse management is an important part of any deer management program because browse plants are produced year after year when deer need them most.

Preferred Deer Browse,  these are typical browse throughout the continental US.

  • White Cedar (Arbor Vitae) – Evergreen with flat scalelike “leaves.” Some varieties used for ornamental shrubbery. A swamp tree but it can grow on moist upland. In many areas browsing deer have eaten practically all cedar within reach.
  • White Pine – The only Michigan pine with five needles in a cluster. Young trees have smooth dark green bark. Deer will eat white pine before they take other pines.
  • Maples – Trees with buds opposite each other Sugar maple has brownish or gray twigs with brown pointed buds. Red maple has red twigs and reddish rounded buds and is better deer food.
  • Yellow Birch – The bark of young tree , and twigs is brownish turning yellowish-gray and curling up when older. Pointed buds. Twigs taste like wintergreen. Young yellow birch looks like ironwood (a poor deer food), but ironwood has no wintergreen taste.
  • Dogwoods and Viburnums – Shrubs that generally have opposite buds like maples. Red dogwood has bright red twigs. Other species have reddish green, brown, or gray twigs. Viburnum buds are many different shapes.
  • Sumac – Shrub commonly found in old fields and forest openings. Heavy, stiff, brown twigs and branches. One kind is fuzzy and resembles antlers in velvet. Another kind is smooth. Bunches of fuzzy red fruit at the top of all sumac plants.

During the winter period, deer digestive systems are normally set up to digest their regular diet of woody browse, twig tips and buds. It can take up to several weeks for the culture of the micro-organisms to adjust to changes in a deer’s normal browse diet in the winter. What might work well to digest woody browse will not digest supplemental foods such as corn or other grains.

Cutting/ Trimming deer browse instead of planting supplemental winter foods provides quick energy immediately. Even though deer will readily eat the supplemental food, their system is not set up during this time to digest the food properly and they will receive little nutrition from it until there system has time to adapt.  Creating a situation where they are actually starving with a full stomach.

Cutting/ Trimming Deer Browse

  • Firewood Cutting can provide needed browse as the tops and upper braches have higher nutritional value than lower branches. When this hits the ground, deer will find this a great place to feed.
  • Non-firewood cuttings should be limited to trees and shrubs 1 to 4 inches in diameter. Hinge the stem by cutting only 2/3 of the way through and bending the stem over. This allows the plant to continue feeding the bent over portion to produce sprout growth.
  • With the great concerns nowadays about CWD, cuttings should be done over a wide area to eliminate heavy feeding concentration in small areas.
  • Cutting browse is most beneficial when it is hardest for deer to get around. Deer tracks will tend to be less spread out and more concentrated at this time making it easier to determine when is a good time to cut browse.  Any feeding which result in deer being confined to one localized area increases the likelihood of the transfer of CWD from muzzle to muzzle contact.

Dr. Jimmy Steger
World Renowned Nutritionist

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Whitetail Food Plots
Dr. Jimmy Steger

For the past 15-20 years, planting food plots for whitetail deer has become one of the most talked about topics when discussing the Whitetail deer and proper deer management.   With all the hype going on nowadays, the average hunter would think that planting food plots is the most important part of managing white-tailed deer and he may well very well be however, food is only one component of deer management.  Food is a critical element in the management equation, but no more so than water, cover,  space and balanced combination of them all. The overabundance of anyone of these components is useless if the others are not in the proper perspective or lacking in anyway. Therefore, the equation is of utmost importance when planning your plot.

Definition of a Food Plot?

  • Food plots are defined as agricultural-type crops planted for wildlife to help supplement nutrition provided by the native vegetation in the area.
  • Food plots reduce browsing pressure on native plants and allow for brouse regeneration when proper deer numbers are maintained.
  • High nutritional values of food plots can have a huge impact during winter when native foods are limited in both quality and quantity.

Food Plot or Not?

What beginners planting for the first time should know is that it is best to address the whitetail deer food issue by first looking at how to enhance the plant communities that already exist in a particular habitat. Supplementing deer nutrition should only be considered after you have already taken steps and are satisfied that you have done all you can with the native available food sources on your property. This may be hard to do since you have vegetation that is naturally grown on your property for years and is unlikely to change due the area and terrain in which it is grown on.

Good quality deer management means maintaining diverse native plant communities. Then, depending on the management goals, you can look at food plots to supplement deer nutrition which is a must in most places.  Big Bucks will seek out and find what is missing in their diet if at all possible and they know by instinct what to search for.  Sometimes a whitetail will travel as far as 3-5 miles to find the right food source for them. Once they have found an area that provides all that they need, this is where they will establish their home.

Factors to Consider When planting Food Plots

Soil – The soil should have the capacity to grow what is planted. Wet, rocky, shallow soils are not good for most food plots. Use a soil that is darker which usually yields more nutrients and better pH.  In the South, we have the Black Belt which is known for producing the best soil in this area and this is where the Big Bucks will feed.

Slope – Anything greater than five to seven percent can cause erosion from the tilling of the soil. This can be a real problem up north around the Kentucky and Ohio area where the rolling hills are.

Fertilizing – Soil samples are the only way to determine the proper fertilizer needed. Fertilizing a food plot increases forage production, and nutritional value, making it more attractive to deer. Take a sample of the soil and send it to a Biologist and have them help you determine what will grow best in the soil you have, Important !

Size – In areas with high deer densities, smaller food plots may be quickly consumed by deer, not allowing the food plot to mature fully.  Food plots are typically 1-10 acres depending on where you hunt and the layout of the property.  Big Bucks like Big plots if they can find them !

Dr. Jimmy Steger
World Renowned Nutritionist

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