By early January northern whitetails have two things on their mind, eating and surviving. In order to maintain core body temperature they must find adequate food. It is not uncommon for bucks to lose over 20% of their pre-rut body weight from the stresses of the rut. Therefore it is critical for them to find and consume as much food as possible before winter sets in.
From mid-December to early January mature northern whitetails consume between 5-7 pounds of food a day, which is about 30% of what they consume in early autumn. In big timber country browse is a whitetail’s food of choice. In agricultural regions it’s browse, left over farm crops, and food plots. Unfortunately, in regions where there are too many deer there isn’t enough quality winter food to go around. If whitetails happen to enter winter where the habitat has been damaged or good food is not present, their condition deteriorates quickly.
The accompanying photo shows a bachelor group of bucks feeding in a brassica food plot in early January here in western New York State. Food plots such as this are highly nutritious and play an important role in ensuring that whitetails come through winter in the best physical condition possible.
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