The 3 Basic Needs of Deer

An Understanding of Whitetails' Basic Needs Is Crucial

(Bruce MacQueen/Shutterstock photo)

For the majority of whitetail states, the beginning of October also means the beginning of bow season. Temperatures are milder, there are fewer hunters in the woods, deer are less disturbed and more relaxed. Below are a few tips on how to take advantage of your first trips afield. 


As days grow shorter and temperatures cooler, feeding begins to take on a sense of urgency. Coincidentally, crops and mast are ripening just as the deer shift their diet toward these high-calorie foods.

In agricultural lands, that means corn and soybeans. Look for heavy trails where deer enter and exit crop fields, and set up on the downwind side.

Apples are another early-season favorite among deer. Look for wild trees on abandoned, overgrown farmsteads. Deer will be more likely to feed in the thicker cover during daylight hours, and a few isolated trees tend to concentrate deer more so than in a manicured orchard.

There's no question that where they occur, acorns are whitetails’ favorite food. Deer prefer the sweeter, softer-hulled white oak, and will usually feed there first where both red and white oaks grow. Look for larger, older trees as they drop more nuts than the smaller trees.

Make sure you read this post about feeding habits of big bucks.


Another thing that will concentrate deer early in the fall is water, especially where it is scarce, and hunters can take advantage of this in several ways. 

This is the basis of all things deer hunting.Obviously, deer will come to water to drink. Set up on a small waterhole and be patient and ever ready as they may only visit on their way to or from feeding, and they won’t linger. 

Rivers, streams, large ponds and lakes also act as obstacles, funneling deer movement. Look for constrictions and heavy trails and set up on the down-wind side.

Click here for an in-depth discussion of watering habits of mature deer.


Cover is essential. Deer — especially mature bucks — will seek out the thickest, nastiest cover they can find. It’s how they avoid hunters and predation. They value good cover so much that they will travel miles from prime bedding to good feeding destinations each night. That’s how much deer need good bedding cover.

Click here for an in-depth analysis of big buck bedding areas.

Click here for more deer hunting articles and videos.

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