Which Crops Do Deer Prefer More Than Acorns?

By GrowingDeer,

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I have a friend here in Missouri that is a conservation agent.  He is also in charge of Peck Ranch Wildlife Refuge.  He had the opportunity to visit one of your farms and took notes on how to get the most out of food plots.  I posed this question to him and he said that I needed to ask a real professional, you.

I have always been told that the outcome of your acorn production depends on the weather and rain from the previous year.  Is there any truth to that?  I know that deer prefer acorns over any other food source here in southeast Missouri.  Is there another food source that deer will frequent even if you have a bumper crop of acorns?

I have about 300 acres that I manage very strictly with 105 in pasture and the rest in thick cover, but I don’t have an abundance of mature oak trees.  I have very little pressure during the hunting seasons and I would love to utilize my farm to its fullest extent.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.




There is some truth to the statement that acorn production depends on the weather during the previous year.   Acorns on red oaks develop from flowers from the previous year.  A late frost can damage or kill those flowers and when that occurs there won’t be many acorns the following year.  The flowers on a white oak tree develop into acorns the same year.  Therefore a late frost, drought, etc., can reduce white oak acorn production the same year it occurs.

There are gads of factors that influence acorn production such as insects.  This year Jumping Oak Gall caused most of the white oaks on my property to lose 90% of their leaves during the summer and all emerging acorns.  Given all the uncontrollable factors that can impact acorn production, I never count on them as a food source or hunting location.  I view them as strictly opportunistic – that is I select stand sites near acorns when deer are feeding on them.

When acorns are available, deer do prefer them over most food sources.  Even in ag production areas, deer will leave corn and beans to feed on acorns.  They do the same thing at The Proving Grounds.  However, as soon as the acorn crop is gone, deer will readily use the corn and forage soybeans grown here.  Therefore, I always want great crops.  I’ve seen significant increases in antler development, deer herd density, and body weights at The Proving Grounds as a result of our habitat management program which includes growing an Eagle Seed forage soybean and corn rotation.  If practical, I encourage you to consider converting all or a portion of the pasture area at your farm to crop production.  Such a program could have a huge impact on the quality of the deer at your farm!  We’ll be hosting two field days during 2011.  I hope you will consider joining us and seeing the habitat management techniques we use to improve our herd quality and hunting opportunities!

Growing Deer together,