White-tailed Deer

Odocoileus virginianus

  • Most popular and plentiful game animal in the U.S.
  • Can inhabit a variety of habitats
  • Overpopulation damages forest regeneration and agricultural crops and increases deer-vehicle collisions

Species Description: White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are highly adaptable species and thrive in a variety of habitats. The areas that provide the most suitable environment include a mixture of hardwoods, croplands, brushlands and pasturelands. They prefer an interspersed habitat including meadows, forested woodlots, brushy areas and croplands.

White-tailed deer require a variety of foods for growth and reproduction. During the spring through fall, they feed on grasses, legumes, weeds, fruit, agricultural crops and the tender growth of shrubs, trees and vines. Their diet subsists of acorns, green growth, woody plant stems and evergreen leaves during the fall and winter. Their food sources need to be less than 4 ½ feet from the ground.

Deer have few natural predators and are managed primarily through hunting. As their population in certain areas increases, so does disease and parasites that can ultimately cause widespread die-offs. There are a number of land management techniques for controlling deer habitat including prescribed burning, timber thinning and food plantings.

Mississippi State University Publications

Planting Warm-season Forages for White-tailed Deer

Planting Warm-season Forages for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service

Overpopulation of deer, especially in the southeast, causes unhealthy herds due to insufficient food supplies. Nothing can replace native vegetation management, but food plantings can help meet the deer’s seasonal needs. This publication describes how to create warm season plantings including where to plant, what soil to use, and the food that should be planted. Detailed information about specific plants deer feed on is given.

Managing for Antler Production: Understanding Age, Nutrition, and Genetic Influences on White-tailed Deer

Managing for Antler Production: Understanding Age, Nutrition, and Genetic Influences (PDF)
MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center

This publication discusses the three most important factors that influence the size of a buck's antlers: the age of the buck, the amount of nutritional food that is available for the deer, and genetics. It provides management suggestions for landowners seeking to increase antler size on their property including keeping bucks alive until they are older and planting nutritional forages for the deer.

A Hunter's Guide to Aging and Judging Live White-tailed Deer in the Southeast

A Hunter's Guide to Aging and Judging Live White-tailed Deer in the Southeast (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service, Forest and Wildlife Research Center

Due to overharvesting of bucks and underharvesting does, the sex and age ratio of deer is unbalanced across the Southeast. Managers who want to correct this situation on their land must be able to identify sex and age classes of deer. This publication provides physical descriptions and photos of the different age classes of bucks and between male and female deer.

Using Antler Restrictions to Manage for Older-Aged Bucks

Using Antler Restrictions to Manage for Older-Aged Bucks (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service, Forest and Wildlife Research Center

Antler restrictions are commonly used to increase buck age structure by targeting only bucks with antlers that meet certain criteria. This publication discusses what antler restrictions are and how to utilize them to improve buck age structure on your property.

Using Inrared-triggered Cameras to Survey White-tailed Deer in Mississippi

Using Infrared-triggered Cameras to Survey White-tailed Deer in Mississippi (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service, Forest and Wildlife Research Center

An infrared triggered camera sends out a beam that is sensitive to movement and body heat to a receiver. When the beam is disrupted the camera takes a photo. This publication discusses how infrared triggered cameras are used to survey animal populations and the results of the surveys that have been taken.

Pine Forestland Habitat Management for Wildlife

Pine Forestland Habitat Management for Wildlife (PDF)
Mississippi State University Forest and Wildlife Research Center

Pine forests can be managed to provide wildlife habitat using a variety of techniques, some of which can improve timber stand quality. Established stands can be managed with thinning, prescribed fire or disking, and even herbicide control of hardwoods which can provide food and cover for quail and grassland species, deer, rabbits, turkey and other wildlife. Regenerating stands can be managed to provide weeds, legumes, and grasses that benefit quail and other early successional wildlife species. Even former agricultural fields can be managed for grassland habitat in conjunction with pine production to include wildlife habitat.

Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast - Food Plots

Supplemental Wildlife Food Planting Manual for the Southeast (PDF)
Mississippi State University Extension Service

This guide provides information on food plots and habitat management practices including disking, mowing and prescribed burning.  The importance of openings is also discussed. A combination of supplemental forages in food planting is often necessary, as well as testing soil quality, fertilizing and liming. The location, size and shape of food plots as well as how to prepare them and which plants to use is included. An extensive guide on planting materials is given.

Other Publications

Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP)
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks

The Deer Management Assistance Program, (DMAP) is a comprehensive deer management program, consisting of data collection and cooperator education with which the MDWFP tries to put the landowner/cooperator in a better position to manage their lands for a healthy deer herd, while maintaining habitat integrity. Read this brochure for detailed information.

 

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources

When preparing food plots for white-tailed deer, be aware of their nutritional requirements. This paper discusses the nutritional needs of white-tailed deer, the factors that influence these nutritional requirements, and the use of mineral licks. A discussion of food plot design, establishment, and plant selection are provided.

 

Food Plots for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Food plots may increase the value of hunting leases, make deer more visible for viewing opportunities, and improve the diet quality of deer. However, planting food plots is not a replacement for poor habitat management. Maintaining deer densities within the carrying capacity of the habitat, sound livestock grazing management, and maintaining quality habitat should be the first priorities of any management program. The basics of growing food plots is covered in this publication including what to plant, deciding between perennial versus annual food plots, fencing food plots, number and size of food plots, shape of food plots, selecting proper soils, inoculating legumes, and more.

 

White-tailed Deer Food Plot Considerations (PDF)
University of Illinois Extension

Food plots can attract deer for watching, hunting, or photography. This publication discusses the decisions to make prior to planting a food plot, deciding where to plant, testing soil fertility, types of forage to plant, and size and shape of the plot.

 

Wildlife Forage Areas for White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Texas A&M University System; Texas Agricultural Extension Service

Many land managers choose to provide introduced forages during times when native plants may be absent or low in nutritive value .A wildlife forage area (WFA) may contribute to the overall quality of the managed herd, or can be a costly educational experience if sound agronomic procedures are not implemented. This publication
discusses the establishment and management of WFA crops suitable for white-tailed deer.

 

Supplemental Forage Management for East Texas White-tailed Deer (PDF)
Texas A&M University

Supplemental food plots should be used to improve the nutrition of deer and add critical minerals to the diet of a deer herd. This publication discusses the ecological regions of East Texas, how to plan, select a site, and select species for a food plot. It also covers the size and shape of food plots.