Browse (leaves, stems, and buds of woody plants) is generally available all year and is a staple food for deer. Plant species vary considerably in quality and regional availability, so a list is not presented here. Forbs are eaten in spring and summer when available. Fruits and nuts (especially acorns) are seasonally very important. Grasses are relatively unimportant. Agricultural crops—corn, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, vegetables, and fruit trees—are readily eaten when available. Local food habits studies are available in most states; consult your local wildlife agency.
Nutrient requirements and the amount of food consumed vary with age of the animal, season, and the reproductive cycle. Daily dry matter consumption averages 2 to 4 percent of live body weight. For adult bucks, daily consumption is greatest in spring and averages 4.4 to 6.4 pounds (2.0 to 2.9 kg) of air-dry food per day. Consumption is about half that during winter. For does, greatest daily food consumption occurs in early fall, just prior to the breeding season.