Interest in deer management usually increases during September with the onset of shorter days and cooler nights. It continues to build throughout the fall until the hunting seasons are exhausted.
Unfortunately, during the long, hot days of summer, interest in deer management often takes a back seat to fishing, boating, vacations, etc. However, people interested in deer need to keep in mind that deer management is a year-round process. Ticks, chiggers and heat may not make this the most pleasant time to be in the field and deer woods, but it is often a very good time to evaluate deer food availability.
Even though habitat requirements must be met during all seasons of the year, winter is often thought of as the most stressful season for deer due to limited food availability. In the Foundation's service area, however, vegetative communities, especially the food component of habitat, are often severely impacted by the hot and dry conditions that are typical during the summer. This can create stressful situations for deer populations, particularly in August and early September. An evaluation of desirable deer forages available during the summer can be very informative. Much of the warm-season herbaceous vegetation remains available and can be identified, and existing woody vegetation is usually identifiable. Many cool-season herbaceous plants will not be encountered during the summer and should be monitored during spring. The key characteristics to look for are: presence (Is it there or not?), abundance (How much?), diversity (How many different species?) and distribution (Are they widely distributed?). These characteristics relative to desirable deer forages are strong indicators of habitat quality.
So, what plants do you look for? Several years ago, we conducted a deer food habits study at the Noble Research Institute Wildlife Unit. The results were published in White-tailed Deer Their Foods and Management in the Cross Timbers. Thanks to the efforts of Scott McNeill in the Communications Department, that information is now available online at www.noble.org/Ag/Wildlife/deerfoods. The online version contains all the information presented in the publication, including photos of "important" deer food plants. We hope this site will aid in your deer management efforts.