Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Deers

Mother Nature does not always cooperate with the goals of a land manager. Food plots do fail, and droughts and harsh winters do occur. That is why, to raise the healthiest deer herd possible, most hunters take matters into their own hands and implement a supplemental feeding program.

A good feeding strategy entails more than just piling corn around the property and hoping for the best. Instead, feeding deer the right way entails putting the right food in your feeders at the correct times to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. The following are the dos and don’ts of feeding deers.

Spring and Summer Deer Feeding Basics

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Deer feeding can take several forms. It is all part of the plan to plant food plots, provide supplemental minerals and feed, and work on habitat projects to improve native forage production. More so, feeding deer correctly in the spring and summer allows you to improve your herd during critical times, resulting in a healthier, more robust deer herd come fall hunting season.

Although deer have nutritional needs during the hunting season in the fall, the most significant benefit and necessity of deer feeding occur during the offseason, particularly in the spring and summer. However, feeding deer during the spring and summer months can be costly. It can also be ineffective if it is not adequately planned and designed as part of your property’s more extensive deer management program.

However, before considering deer feeding programs, consider herd dynamics such as overall herd size and buck-to-doe ratios, as well as habitat concerns such as carrying capacity and available forage. 

Feeding Deer in Summer

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Deer management is all about having the best deer feeder and providing the best resources in the appropriate amounts and at the proper time. Summer is the most critical season for whitetail nutrition. Bucks are rapidly growing antlers while does are recovering from fawning and caring for their newborn fawns. Calcium and phosphorus continue to be essential for buck antler growth. These two minerals contribute significantly to antler growth. Calcium to phosphorus ratios in feeds should be 1:1 or 2:1 for optimal antler development when choosing the suitable summer deer feed.

Significantly, the summer does have the highest nutritional requirements, mainly for a nursing doe. Their needs are divided into two categories. However, they lose energy and nutrients while feeding their fawns, as they must provide adequate resources to that fawn through their milk. Significantly, if good food sources are unavailable, fawn survival and the health of the doe herd may suffer. High levels of carbohydrates and protein-rich feed are required to meet the needs of does in the summer. Summer protein content should be higher than in spring. Protein levels in feed should range between 15 and 22 percent. Also, when feeding deer in the summer, make sure your feeders are accessible to fawns so they can benefit from all of the deer feed ingredients you’re supplementing with.

When to Start Feeding Deer in Spring?

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Aside from the weather, pay attention to the vegetation. Deer are aware that spring brings new growth to the fields and woods. Both bucks and does’ nutritional requirements shift from survival to growth mode. Starting your spring deer feeding program early to mid-spring is a good rule of thumb. This roughly corresponds to the start of food plot planting. Bucks will still be recovering from the rut and the previous winter, but they will also start new antler growth. Furthermore, does will be nearing the end of fawn development and nursing preparation. Significantly, does will naturally have high nutritional requirements during the third trimester while nursing newborn fawns to ensure maximum fawn survival.

Nutritional Needs of Deer in the Spring

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Spring deer feeding must concentrate on the needs of bucks and transitioning from winter. As previously stated, bucks are beginning to grow antlers, and doe is preparing for fawn rearing. Both of these lifecycle changes require specific nutrients to reach their full potential. However, unless you’ve planned for late-season and spring forages ahead of time, your food plots are probably still being planted. This can result in a food shortage before and during spring green up. Significantly, protein is essential for bucks to rebuild muscle and fawn development. 

Additionally, certain minerals are required by whitetails to maintain a healthy and productive herd. Native browse, food plots, habitat projects, and new growth vegetation will meet deer’s nutritional needs, but supplementing these sources with the right minerals increases mineral uptake for deer and increases hunting opportunities. Significantly, Calcium and phosphorus are essential deer feed ingredients for antler growth. 


If you plan carefully, your food plots and native vegetation should provide all of the nutritional needs whitetails require. Significantly, fields planted with high-quality forages provide highly productive, palatable, and protein-rich forages from which deer can easily extract all the nutrients they require during the summer. Of course, every ounce of energy, protein, and nutrition counts throughout the spring and summer and even into the fall and winter.

To summarize, spring and summer deer feeding are critical to overall deer herd health and antler development. However, it should not be regarded solely as supplemental feed and minerals. Deer prioritize habitat and environment over supplemental feed. Significantly, when it comes to deer feeding and minerals, always check your state’s regulations. Prioritize habitat and herd management over supplemental feed and minerals whenever possible. However, if you have met those management requirements, providing additional nutrition can be a valuable asset to your property.