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Mastering Winter Nutrition with Oaks, Aspen, and Maple


Understanding the secrets to a deer's winter nutrition can significantly enhance your hunting game. While food plots are excellent attractants and supplemental nutrition source, did you know that over 60% of a whitetail's winter diet comes from woody browse? Let's dive into three winter favorites that not only attract deer year-round but also contribute to their nutritional needs.

Image by MSU Deerlab via Website

**1. Oaks: A Powerhouse of Energy**

Beyond being a picturesque addition to the forest landscape, oaks play a crucial role in a deer's winter diet. Acorns are one of deer’s favorite food sources in the fall. What makes them exceptional is not just their appeal but their nutritional content. Acorns contain more energy than corn, boasting two times the amount of carbohydrates and up to 10 times the amount of fat. In addition, the young shoots and branches are one of the most sought-after species for browsing. For a hunter, understanding the significance of oaks in a deer's diet opens up strategic possibilities for keeping deer on your property throughout the winter.

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*Learn more about the nutritional value of acorns

**2. Aspen/Poplar: The Underrated Gem**

While oaks take the spotlight, the often underrated aspen and poplar trees play a crucial role in a deer's year-round browsing experience. These trees offer irresistible browsing options for deer, making them an excellent choice for enhancing the attractiveness of your hunting grounds. Additionally, when harvested or cut and allowed to root sucker, aspen and poplar trees provide excellent bedding cover. Have you considered feeding deer in the winter? Cut some aspen trees down in the winter and deer will flock to the fresh buds that are now at browse level. Recognizing the value of these trees not only adds to your knowledge of deer behavior but also helps in creating a well-rounded hunting environment.

**3. Maple: A Deer Delicacy in Every Season**

Maple trees, particularly the red maple in the North, offer another layer to a deer's diet. The young shoots and leaves of maple trees are highly desirable for deer, making them a valuable addition to their winter diet. Integrating maples into your hunting landscape can elevate the attractiveness of your area, providing deer with not just a food source but also a reason to frequent your hunting grounds. Understanding the regional preferences of deer adds a nuanced approach to your herd management strategy. Red maple especially in the north can provide attractiveness and nutrition when allowed to “stump sprout”. This will create a mineral stump which is known to have much more nutrition than a single sapling.


**Important Tip: Adjusting the Browse for Maximum Impact**

Knowing the preferred browse is essential, but equally important is ensuring that the browse is accessible to deer. For maximum impact, it's crucial that the browse is at the deer's level. This means breaking out the chainsaw and strategically adjusting the browse to be within reach. This simple yet effective action ensures that your carefully selected browse options are not just present but also optimized for the deer's grazing habits.

In conclusion, enhancing your understanding of a deer's winter nutrition opens new avenues for strategic deer management. Oaks, aspen/poplar, and maple trees are not merely part of the scenery but key players in the intricate tapestry of a deer's diet. By incorporating these insights into your hunting approach, you not only attract deer but also contribute to their well-being during the challenging winter months.

Great podcast episodes to learn more:

Ep. 648: Foundations - Deciphering A Deer's Most Important (And Secretive) Food Source | MeatEater Podcasts (

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