Mushrooms: Prime deer food

Don’t overlook tasty fungi

Mushrooms are one of the most-overlooked deer foods available during just about every month, including fall and the approaching winter. Deer just love mushrooms and will go out of their way to get a mouthful of these tasty creations.

Since mushrooms are just the reproductive structures for subterranean fungal organisms, they will typically show up in the same places when conditions are ideal. Hunters better believe that deer will remember where to find these feeding centers after a rainfall event, too.

Mushrooms are members of the fungi kingdom that provide a decent food source for deer and some other species of wildlife throughout the year. Summer rains promote the emergence of mushrooms and other fungi deer will flock to when available.

Fruits

Technically, mushrooms are fruits. The living component of fungi is called a mycelium and is made out of very small filaments webbed together (also called hyphae).  Fungi live within or on their food source, which will be found buried underground or within the tissues of living and dead biomass.

This buck is eating mushrooms attached to a tree stump.

Fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually, but the fruits — galleries or mushrooms, as they are commonly called — carry billions of spores. These spores are a lot like seeds and will grow when attached to another food source under the right temperature and moisture conditions. Consequently, deer are very important to the propagation and dispersal of certain species of mushrooms. The warm and acidic conditions within a deer’s digestive tract promote the spore germination after defecation.

Deer are immune

The select wild mushrooms that are deadly to humans have no effect on deer. The deadly spores in certain species of wild mushrooms pass straight through their digestive tract.

Mushrooms and other fungi are flavorful, palatable and contain some excellent nutritional components. Wild mushrooms are both high in protein (25% to 50%) and in carbohydrates (30% to 70%), as well as minerals. Hundreds of individual mushroom and fungi species are common in the southeast, including members of the genuses Amanita, Mycena, Suillus, Gomphidius, Pluerotis, Grifola, Morchella, Geastrum, Gymnopus, Cantharellus and several others. Various species of fungi will be available throughout the fall and winter to supplement deer’s daily diet. Places with recurrent emergence of mushrooms can be excellent places to watch during deer season.

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