Spring and Summer Habitat Needs of Whitetail

When spring arrives, deer are looking for green growth to help them recover from limited and low-quality winter food. Deer feed throughout the early morning and spend the rest of the day bedded down along the edge of a field or in heavy cover such as cattail swales. They feed again from dusk until midnight spending the remainder of the night resting in seclusion.

During spring and summer, it is important to have fields that green up early. They favor early growing grasses and legumes such as Canada wild-rye, June grass, orchard grass, blue grass, timothy, and clovers like medium-red, alsike, and ladino.

Because of the lower nutrient value of winter foods, it is important for does to increase their nutrient intake in spring to prepare for fawning. Improved nutrition promotes healthier fawns and better antler growth. Mineral blocks placed near field edges can be beneficial only if quality spring food is available.

During late May and early June, does enter the period when birthing and raising this year’s fawns are their primary focus. Michigan deer are very productive animals. More than 90 percent of the adult does become pregnant, and most carry twins. The herd size may increase at an average annual rate of 20 to 30 percent. In some areas, the population may double in three years.

During summer, food is much more abundant than at other times of the year. Summer foods include leaves of select trees and shrubs such as aspen, red maple, white ash, blackberries, dogwoods and sassafras. Important grasses for food include orchard grass, timothy, blue grass, redtop, wheat, and oats. Deer also eat agricultural crops of corn, soybeans, buckwheat, clovers, and alfalfa. Common ragweed, lamb’s quarter, jewelweed, orchids, garden vegetables, and ornamentals are also heavily grazed.

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