QUESTION: I am a public land hunter who hunts areas mostly located along the Mississippi River.
What resources would you recommend I turn to for learning nutritional facts about wild plants and other deer browse along the Mississippi River - specifically regarding acorns and dewberry briars? --Thomas C.
ANSWER: The most consistently successful hunters are those who study their quarry and learn as much as possible about them. Outside of the rut, about the only reason deer are on their feet during daylight hours is to eat. And deer are herbivores, so even a limited knowledge of botany can go a long way toward being more successful.
The first step is learning what deer like to eat. With a quick search of the internet, you can find countless sources on plant nutrition and deer food preferences. A couple good starting points would be the Quality Deer Management Association and the Mississippi State University Agricultural and Forestry Experiment station.
There are also plenty of good text references. One of the best I've found is Craig Harper's "A Guide to Successful Wildlife Food Plots," published by the University of Tennessee Extension Institute of Agriculture. It contains several appendices listing nutritional value of forbs, shrubs and browse species common to the Southeast.
Once you have a list of preferred food species, you'll want to be able to identify them. For that, I'd recommend some type of field guide. One of the best for herbaceous forbs is "Newcomb's Wildflower Guide" (Little, Brown and Company).
For woody plants, you might try "A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs" by George Petrides (Houghton Mifflin Company).
There are plenty of others to be found, often available from your local extension service.