Deer Food Sources in the Early Season

Early fall is a busy time for whitetails. Before the rut, they’re constantly eating to pack on the pounds before winter. And early in the season, Mother Nature provides plenty in the way of quality fare. Whitetails have their pick from persimmons, acorns and crab apples, to name a few.

It’s best to know how to identify these deer food sources. Once you know where they’re feeding, you can likely find heavily used trails and bedding areas. All that’s left is hanging a stand. Here are a few of the trees whitetails seek out during the fall.

Oak Trees

One of the best deer food sources around is an oak tree.

There are dozens of species of oak trees scattered about the country. The two varieties - red and white oak - are favorites of just about every critter in the woods, from squirrels to bears. White oaks are sought out by deer because the acorns contain less tannic acid, which produces a bitter taste. These trees typically produce a mast crop every few years that usually drop early in the fall.

White oak trees include eastern, chestnut, bur and post. The sawtooth, an invasive white oak, is a fast-growing variety that is popular among land managers because it produces young (around eight years old) and consistently.

Red oaks include the northern and southern red, water, willow, laurel, pin, and nuttall, among a few others. These acorns taste more bitter, but there is an advantage to the higher concentrations of tannic acid. This allows the acorns to stay ripe for longer on the forest floor, which provides food for whitetails into winter when they need the nutrients most.


Wild-growing apples are found all over the country. The trees usually begin ripening in the early fall, and they may taste bitter or sweet. Either way, the deer will eat them. Look for clusters of the small fruit growing on the tree, or those that have fallen to the ground. Inspect the area for trails where you can hang a stand.


Ever tasted a persimmon? They’re delicious. The deer think so too. Find a persimmon tree that’s producing in the fall, and you’ll most certainly find a few whitetails. The light orange fruits are high in vitamin C and sugar. After the first frost of the year, the succulent fruits will begin to fall to the ground and every nearby critter will take advantage of the bounty.

Honey Locust

Honey locust trees look formidable. They’re full of thorns, covering the base and branches. They produce long, brown pods that are full of beans that deer love to consume. In the early bow season, the pods will begin dropping to the forest floor.

Take a break from hunting food plots and find a natural food source. Usually, these areas are in dense cover where deer feel more comfortable. A heavily used trail not far from a tree that’s producing is a prime location to be in early in the season.