How Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts?

How do deer eat hickory nuts

Deer are known for eating almost everything in sight. They will consume herbs, trees, twigs, shrubs, leaves, fruits, nuts, and almost anything. Deer don’t mind chewing the hickory nuts. Deer is one of the most adaptive kinds, as they change their way of eating with the seasons. Deer love their nuts, but as for the hickory nuts, they are in the last stage of their diet.

So, how do deer eat hickory nuts? Hickory nuts have high nutritional value. They are suitable for the immune system of the deer. These nuts are safe and edible, but sometimes they will not sit well with deer as some nuts have a hard shell around them. As for how they eat them, deer have a unique of breaking into the hard shell.

Key Takeaways

  • As winter comes closer, there is a scarcity of food. That is why, even if they don’t like hickory nuts, they will eat them.
  • There are many types of hickory nuts out there, but the deer will prefer the ones with a softer shell.
  • Deer have their own way of finding, breaking into the shell and then eating the hickory nut.

Why Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts?

Why Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts
Why Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts

Hickory nuts are safe for the animal kingdom, and this means they are also safe for deer. But they are not always the first choice for deer. The deer does not like hickory nut mainly because of the hard shell around the nuts. And as animals, deer don’t want to put pressure on their teeth. So the deer would prefer a nut that has thin shells around it.

Deer have to spend quite some time before they open up and take the hickory nut in. And that’s why hickory nuts are not on a deer’s top list of favorites. But there are several more reasons that might suffice to explain why a deer would take on the hickory nuts despite other options. Here we include the reasons:

Loves nuts

Deer like everything that has a chewy, woody, or hard texture. And what can be more sufficing than a nut? So when deer find a nut, they tend to take it. Most deer prefer a nut like pecans or peanuts as they are easy to swallow. But there are other kinds, like the hickory nut, that will not go unnoticed. The flavor and texture of the hickory nut are good, and deer know their food. So when no other nut is available, they’ll simply eat the hickory nuts. Still, hickory nuts are not a deer’s first choice.

During the off-season

In winter, when the scarcity of food is there, deer will take on everything. The hickory nuts are available throughout, and when there are no other food options, the deer will take on the hickory nuts. And they will love to eat the hickory nut like a squirrel on winter days. But for autumn or fall, they rather eat other food.

Hickory nuts are available everywhere

When you see a large land area, hickory trees will be available more than you think. And specifically, when there’s the presence of the whitetail deer, the hickory tree will be widespread. There will not be a mile to cross without these sorts of trees, and then the whitetail deer love their hickory nuts. They don’t have to spend time looking for food, and they’ll get on with the hickory nuts.

Nutritional value

Another core point about hickory nuts is that they are packed with nutrition. For example, they have potassium, magnesium, minerals, fibers, proteins, calcium, and other essentials. And as they are good for the stomach, the deer would most likely choose the nuts over the shafts and the leaves of the trees. 100 grams of the hickory nuts contain:

  • 436 mg of potassium
  • 65% fats
  • 18 grams of carbs
  • Carbohydrates
  • 13 grams of protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Niacin
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Pantothenic acid, etc.

Filling their stomachs

Again, this might be the best reason a deer would take the hickory nuts. Simply, they want to fill their stomachs, so the hickory nut will fill that need.

What Kind of Hickory Nuts Does a Deer Eat?

Different kinds of hickory nuts are available in the landscape, but a deer will not choose all of them. Here we are including various types of hickory nuts and concluding whether a deer will eat them or not. This will allow you to conclude what nut to choose when you are going for a hunt and also what kind of nut will repel the deer.

What Kind of Hickory Nuts Does a Deer Eat
What Kind of Hickory Nuts Does a Deer Eat

Shagbark hickory nut

A deer will not eat the shagbark hickory nut. These nuts have one of the most rigid shells, and they are very hard to get into. As the deer would like a nut with a relatively soft shell, the shagbark hickory nut is out of the question. The shagbark nut will take a toll on the deer’s teeth.

Pignut hickory nut

These kinds of nuts are the favorite kind for the deer. They love pignuts, which are also the most common kind of nut preferred by deer. The hull of the pignut hickory nut is very thin, and the same can be said for the shell casing of the nut. But still, the pignuts will be overlooked by the deer when there are other options available.

Bitternut hickory nut

A deer will also consume this variety of nuts. They have a comparatively soft shell, so a deer would be able to nibble on them for a while. The shell will split into four sections when you try to bite on these nuts. 

Mockernuts hickory nuts

These kinds of nuts have a relatively rigid shell. The deer will not be able to bite the hard shell off, so the mockernut hickory nuts are a no for the deer. You might want to switch to pignuts for the deer.

How Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts?

How Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts 1
How Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts

Let’s jump to the section where the deer would take the hickory nuts and how they really eat them. As we mentioned earlier, hickory nuts might not be the deer’s favorite food of all time, but these are rather a desperate measure for the animals. For example, they’ll love their hickory nuts when it’s the freezing month, and everything’s covered with snow. Hickory nuts are edible, and they just need a bit of work. Here are some details on how deer eat hickory nuts:

  1. Looking for food: at first, the deer would look for food. The deer would choose their food according to the season, accessibility, digestibility, and needs. Mostly, a deer would go for a browse and then go for the forbs. Next up, they choose the mast, and lastly, there is the corps. So the nuts are the desert kind for the deer. But they truly love their nut. Still, hickory nuts will come last on the list of nuts that deer like. The hickory nut is available on the grounds near the tree, so they are accessible for the deer when the times call for it.
  2. Bite on to the nut: the deer’s teeth are not as strong as the squirrels’. So they will struggle a bit while eating the hickory nuts. First, the deer will break the hard top shell of the nut by biting over it. They have to bite the shell more than once to make it crack.
  3. Take the nuts: the nuts are taken by the deer in their mouth once the shell is open. They’ll slip the nuts behind their tongues. And then chew the nuts for a while. And after the nuts have softened a bit, they will swallow the nuts.


Does anything eat hickory nuts?

Deer don’t like the hickory nut that much. But there are other kinds of animals that love the hickory nut: ducks, turkeys, quail, foxes, squirrels, rats, etc.

What nuts do deer like the most?

Deer loves peanuts and acorns to eat. These kinds of nuts have a relatively softer shell, and thus they are easy to break into.

Final Thoughts

Hickory nuts are perfectly edible for both humans and deer. But as they are not very enthusiastic about the hard shell of the nuts, they will swallow them in exchange for some labor. But when you think that the hickory nuts will attract the deer, you are kind of wrong. When other parts of the tree are available on the site, the deer will never choose the hickory nuts. When you try different nuts, like a pecan or even an acorn, they might choose them over a hickory nut. And again, deers can’t be repelled with a hickory nut. Nuts are their favorite food, and when any kind of nut is available, they will not think twice about eating it. So the hickory nuts are consumed by the deer, but they do not love them.

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