Michigan Sportsman Forum banner

1 - 9 of 9 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
21,607 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Last month I started a thread about natural browse/forage. In I asked members to list the names of various plants, found naturally upon which deer feed. There were a few replies, but not many. It got me to thinking about how often we talk of deer hunting and setting up between bedding and feeding sites. From the lack of responses to the thread I am beginning to wonder how much the average deer hunter knows about what deer eat other than what is laid out in a bait pile or food plots.

Does anyone know of any decent, informative texts, articles, papers, etc. that begins to lay out (with photos would be great) the food sources of whitetail deer in Michigan and the Northern Great Lakes States?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,220 Posts
There was an article in either MOOD or American Hunter just a month or so ago on just that. I will try to look it up, but I think the mag got tossed after I was done reading it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
193 Posts
Hi Whit1,

I've tried to educate myself on the native/naturally occuring plants that deer feed on. Partially to make me a better/smarter hunter and partially to improve my land without using commercial food plot mixes. I've had limited success. Most sites, as I am sure you've noticed, list preferred deer browse as the obvious acorns, apples, and a few trees that they nibble on.

I've had some success looking at tree and shrub listings that note the benifits to wildlife on them. The catalogue for cold stream farms has a notation system and lists trees and some shrubs:

http://www.coldstreamfarm.net/index.html

Also, I found this listing that provides some of the most detail about trees I have ever found, but only briefly mentions deer preference (but at least it mentions it):

http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,443 Posts
Good to see some links appearing on the subject. I'll just toss this out; as someone who hunts more than one region where habitats are distinctly different, I think it's important to say that many of these foods aren't universally hit by deer. A preferred food source in one area can be a completely ignored food source in another.

What's great about a list like the one being started here is it gives hunters a place to scout and find if that food source is something that the local deer are hitting. But just because a plant species exists in an area and the plant species is a known preference of deer is no guarantee that the deer in a given area will be eating the plant species.

Also there are, for lack of a better word, 'phases' that deer will go through, imo and the phases are determined by available food sources and the season. Summer/spring phase of grazing on forbes and grasses, fall phase of mast and standing crops and winter phase of browsing on winter/woody browse. And, of course, there are farm crops that help a deer decide what exactly they'll be eating and part of the reason why some foods are hit hard in one region and ignored in another, deer might be more interested in a farm field, rather than white pine, but white pine might be hit hard in other areas.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
21,607 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks guys! These are the types of things I was talking about. Perhaps with this knowledge we can put the "hunting" back in the phrase "deer hunting".
 
G

·
The links as shown are good sources. Think about the poor forage, with excessive use of these plants as indicators of problems. Note if the preferred forage is being regenerated after a timber harvest, (it's hard to impossible to find regeneration of yellow birch and staghorn sumac in state lands).

There are other forages I noticed that were not in the listings such as sweet fern and blueberries that are actually below in preferance as shown in the poor listing plant choices. Use these plants if browsed, (even medium) as indicators of problems already in place.

When making browse surveys do not walk in established game trails for info. Deer will take a bite of any plant specie as they stroll along a trail even in the best of habitats. Go off the beaten path and make grid passes through thickets of preffered, medium, poor, and less than poor forage and take notes. If more than 50% of a plant's previous years growth is being browsed chances are it will die.

I prefer to make my browse surveys in early spring after most of the snow has melted and right after a hard frost. Makes for easier walking.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,116 Posts
Those are great points Ed! If you can remember my neighbors 80 that we bought that has the camp and recent logging on it the maple cuttings were especially interesting to look at. When you look at the 2-track area or deer trail you will see a portion of the new maple shoots being browsed. But, when you go into the areas past where deer wouldn't reach out to and browse from a trail, there is little to none browsed.

Another thing I noticed was the aspen. The aspen/poplar leaves were not browsed at all during the summer, let alone the rest of the sapling. But, when I planted them on our property in the thumb where there were extremely high deer numbers, they were eaten to the ground in a matter of a few weeks. Same with white pines. In WI the young pines were hammered pretty well in the past to the point there are no lower branches. But, in the U.P. here and in PA they are virtually untouched....very, very few have any signs of browsing and even then in the U.P. it is most often the work of snowshoes.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
13,404 Posts
I've used since the '70's a copy of "American Wildlife & Plants. A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits"....by Martin, Zim, and Nelson. Published by Dover Publications, NYNY. My copy is a 1961 edition of the 1951 copyrighted original.

(that's Alexander Martin; Herbert Zim; Arnold Nelson)

I've found it useful as a reference book on what this animal eats....or conversely, what animal eats this plant.

The book is organized in that manner: Featuring an animal and all the things it eats in a ranked format (most used plants vs least used); and then, featuring a plant and all the creatures that use it. Again, in a ranked manner....which animals it is really important to - down to those who use it very little.

Now, to be sure, it is a 50yr old publication and a lot of research has been done since then. But, if your library has it you may find it interesting.

A google search for it may reveal a lot more info about it than this post of mine.
 
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
Top