Do Deer Eat Hay Or Straw?

Do deer eat hay or straw

As a hunter, you need to know what deer eat. Knowing where they eat and finding the location of where they feed can save you valuable time. It saves you from searching all over the place for deer tracks and markings. They eat a variety of things, but do deer eat hay or straw?

Many herbivores like to eat hay and straw as it is an important part of their daily diet. And the deer is no exception. During the winter when it is harder to find fresh grass, deer tend to eat hay or straw to supplement their dietary needs. Therefore, yes deer do eat hay or straw. But it might not be as beneficial to them to just eat. Want to know more? Then let’s discuss more if deer eat hay or straw!

Key Takeaways

  • Hay is dried grass with fruits and seeds in them. Straw is the dry long stalks of crops that have their seeds removed.
  • Deer can eat hay and straw, but it puts them in danger if they eat too much. This is because the deer cannot digest hay properly.
  • Deer will prefer hay over straw because of the seeds and fruits inside them.
  • As a hunter, you should introduce food in small amounts. Otherwise, you risk putting the deer population of an area in danger.

What Are Hay and Straw?

What are hay and straw
What are hay and straw

Before we find out if deer can eat hay or straw, let’s first get to know what is hay and straw. Hay is the dried grass in addition to fruits and seeds that is prepared for farm animals to eat. Straw on the other hand is the hollow stalk taken from crops like wheat and barley that has the seeds removed.

Other than hay having seeds and straw having no seeds, there are other differences between them as well. Hay has a higher nutritional value, is greenish in color, and is still a bit moist. Hay is also used to feed animals. Unlike hay, straw is mostly used for bedding by animals such as deer. They are very dry, hold very low nutritional value, and are yellow-gold in color.

As a hunter, what you should be concerned about is that both hay and straw are something that deer eat only if they can’t find other food sources. This is especially the case during winter when their usual food source such as grass and berries are lacking in nature.

Do Deer Eat Hay or Straw?

Yes, deer eat hay or straw, but it’s not something they should be eating. This is because deer are ruminants and they rely on bacteria in their stomach to help them with digestion. And hay or straw is something that deer only eat if they can’t find fresh food. So now, let’s look at why hay and straw are harmful to deer.

Dangers of Hay and Straw

Dangers of hay and straw
Dangers of hay and straw
  • As I have said before, deer can’t digest food without the help of bacteria in their stomach. They obtain these bacteria from eating fresh food like grass. As food option becomes scarce in the winter, deer have no choice but to eat hay and straw to survive.
  • But the problem is that deer eat till they are full, and a stomach full of straw and hay is bad because they cannot digest it. Therefore, the deer do not eat anything else because they think their stomach is full. Eventually, the deer will get sick and starve to death by eating too much hay and straw.
  • Another thing is deer might not even eat hay because it is not usually a part of their diet. And straw is what deer use as bedding.

As a hunter, you should know that deer are particular about the hay or straw they eat. That is why when you are hunting in the winter when deer tend to eat hay or straw, their feeding pattern changes a lot.

Which do Deer Prefer?

As a hunter, you might be wondering which they would prefer. Well, I can tell you that they will mostly only eat hay or straw when they have nothing else to eat. So keep in mind that when you are hunting in winter that deer will tend to be desperate to find anything to eat. So yes, they will try to eat whatever. But they will give preference to hay for eating because of the seeds and fruits inside the hay.

Can I Use Hay or Straw as Bait for Deer?

You could use hay or straw as bait, but do know that it is harmful to deer to eat them. If you were to use hay as bait, then I advise you to use Alfalfa grass. It is the best grass to make hay and you should also introduce some corn and apple into the hay. This will definitely attract the deer a lot more. Be sure to introduce foodstuff that is easy for deer to digest in the bait.

What can You Feed Deer?

The problem with feeding deer in the winter is that their digestive systems are not accustomed to certain food. They cannot digest them properly. Therefore, it is advised to feed deer in moderation. Introduce food like Alfalfa hay, fruits, flowers, etc. In small amounts so that the deer can get used to it.

This is important for hunters who are setting up feeding troughs to attract deer into open and better hunting areas. Through small amounts, the deer will become more accustomed to digesting the food. And it will become a habit for them to come to these areas to find the food that they are eating.


What is a deer’s most preferred type of hay?

Deer will prefer Alfalfa hay. They will also prefer hay which has fruits and seeds inside them.

Are hay and straw the same thing?

No, they are different. Hay is dried grass with fruits and seeds inside. Straw is the hollow stalk of a crop after the seed is removed.

Can hay or straw make deer sick?

Yes, it can. If the deer are not used to hay or straw, they will not be able to digest it properly. Also, deer eat till they are full so if you give deer hay, they will eat till their stomach is full and then eat nothing else. As they cannot digest hay or straw properly, they will likely starve from eating too much.

Final Thoughts

Deer will eat hay and straw out of desperation. This is due to the fact they cannot find fresh food in the winter. So to answer the question, “Do deer eat hay or straw?”, yes they do. But it is also bad for them. As a hunter, you should introduce food as bait in moderation so that you don’t starve the deer population in an area. If they cannot digest the food, they will starve. So always be aware of what to feed and not feed deer you will hunt so that you do not endanger them.

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