Do Whitetail Deer Eat Hickory Nuts? You Might Be Surprised!

Whitetail deer are lean, mean, green, plant-eating machines. These herbivores eat A LOT, (and I mean a lot) of food and if they aren’t bedded down, they are on a constant search for something to eat. They particularly love nuts, fruits, and leafy greens.

But do whitetail deer eat hickory nuts? After all, they are common throughout the eastern and midwestern states.

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Do Whitetail Deer Eat Hickory Nuts?

Hickory nuts are not considered a preferred food source for whitetail deer. This is because most hickory nuts species have incredibly hard outer shells that would require a considerable amount of effort for them to crack open and be able to digest well.

Deer will typically seek out other food options first, but they have been reported to eat hickory nuts when other preferred food sources are not available or during years when the mast crop was limited.

Do Whitetail Deer Eat Hickory Nuts

Do Deer Eat Shagbark Hickory Nuts?

Whitetail deer will not eat the shagbark hickory nut variety. The shagbark nut has the most rigid shell of all the hickory nuts and would require a considerable amount of effort for a deer’s teeth to crack open.

Whitetail deer tend to concentrate on finding the most nutritious, and easily digestible foods available.

Do Deer Eat Pignut Hickory Nuts?

Although deer will not eat shagbark hickory nuts, there is a nut in the hickory family that whitetail love known as the pignut. The pignut hickory nut is cited as the most common hickory seen eaten by deer.

This may be due to the fact that the hull is thin and the shell casing is not as hard as other varieties. Typically, however, deer will choose other food options first but will eat pignuts when other preferred food sources are not available.

Can A Deer Crack A Hickory Nut?

Most hickory nut shells are incredibly hard and tough for deer to open. However, there have been reports of deer cracking hickory nuts, mostly from the pignut and bitternut varieties.

These hickory nut types have a softer shell when compared to other hickory nut types.

Shagbark Hickory Nuts.

What Type Of Nuts Do Deer Prefer?

The most important type of nut, and the nut that deer prefer most, is the acorn which accounts for more than 70% of their diet in the fall. Deer feast on the acorns of white oaks during autumn in an attempt to put weight on for the winter months.

Just ask any seasoned deer hunter, and they will tell you that finding a white oak flat that is dropping acorns is all but guaranteed to have deer action!

What Food Attracts Deer The Most?

Although they can eat a variety of foods at any given time, the bulk of their nutrition comes from only a small portion of forages. Basically, deer are always in search of food options that will give them “more bounce for the ounce.”

In other words, a whitetail deer will choose foods based on seasonal changes, accessibility, palatability, digestibility, and nutritional and energetic needs. The white-tailed deer’s diet is dominated by browse (46%), followed by forbs (24%), mast (11%), and crops (4%).

Browse and forbs are the most essential forages, supplying the nutritional needs of deer because they provide over 80% of the diet, in all seasons except during autumn.

It is reported, on average, that a deer must consume roughly 6-8% of its body weight, daily, for optimal health! That means a 175-pound buck can consume up to 14 pounds of food in one day!

Not only do whitetail deer eat a lot, but they literally consume hundreds and hundreds of different varieties of plants. In fact, whitetail deer have been documented to eat over 400 species of plants in the Southeast alone!

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