Below are two bucks feeding near a year-round scrape that I captured on the game camera. Can you tell what they are eating? If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, I’ve written about this plant before.

What they are chowing down on is a species of smartweed (Polygonum spp.). There are many different species of smartweed and they are not easily distinguished from one another. However, “weed” is a misnomer! Native vegetation can be more nutritious than something you can plant and fertilize. And these “weeds” are free!

Unlike people, deer are not nearly as judgmental about where and what plants grow on the landscape. A weed is simply a plant that people don’t want growing in a particular place. Many of the plants we deem weeds are beneficial to deer providing benefits such as fawning cover and a food source.

For deer, you want to promote the growth of forbs. Generally, forbs are any non-woody herbaceous plant that is a perennial. Smartweed is a forb.

If you are interested in creating habitat for deer, consider what is already growing there. A great source of information are books and materials available through the University of Tennessee Wildlife Extension. You also may want to listen to this podcast with Dr. Craig Harper, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, to find out what’s for dinner.

-Duane Diefenbach

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