One thing that was established beyond a shadow of a doubt with this trail camera survey is that White-tailed Deer have a certain affinity for Bois d’Arc trees. When I set my cameras for this project I never expected that deer would be the most frequently photographed animals over the course of the survey. They were, though, by far and away.
But does this also mean that White-tailed Deer feed on Osage Oranges? Well, let’s find out.
Deer started coming to my sets just hours after I had left my cameras. At first it was does with their yearlings. Several came through and some stop to sniff the fruit on the ground or up in the tree, but none were seen to feed.
The occasional young buck would pass through, and they often seemed slightly more interested in the horse apples than the does and fawns, but I did not record them eating the fruit either. The most compelling pictures were like the one below. In this picture the young male deer seen licking a hanging Osage Orange.
It wasn’t until the first big mature bucks showed up on the scene that I finally got my answer.
As you can see in the following pictures, the older males do feed on Osage Oranges, and they eat them with relish!
This spot was visited frequently by several big males. Each time through they seemed to be motivated to partake of an Osage Orange, but they never ate many at one setting. Usually, they would consume a single fruit. On occasion a hungry buck might eat a second.
So in general it was the big mature bucks feeding on the Osage Oranges. One can only imagine what the attraction is. Perhaps the fruit and the tree are aromatic. Maybe the fruit is calorie or nutrient rich in a way that helps them stay fit for the ongoing rut. Not surprisingly, there was some sparring activity recorded on some of the busier nights toward the end of the survey period.
Finally, there is the exception that proves the rule. As the project began to wind down in late November, the trail camera recorded a few instances of does feeding on some of the remaining fruit. A resourceful yearling even stands upright on it two hind legs briefly in order to reach the lower branches of the Bois d’Arc tree.