White Oak Acorns Vs. Red Oak Acorns

John J. from New Jersey writes to ask about acorns. “Why is it that deer seem to gobble up white oak acorns, yet red oak acorns can be found on the ground for months?”

Dr. Dave Samuel with deer
Dr. Dave Samuel

John, this is a most interesting question. The answer lies in the fact that white oak acorns and red oak acorns are different. Deer eat both, but favor the white oak acorns because they have less bitter-tasting tannin and thus, are preferred. But the higher tannin is a benefit to the red oak acorns and to the deer. Higher tannin means that red oak acorns do not rot on the ground as quickly as white oak acorns. The fact that they remain viable on the ground for longer periods of time is a good thing because this means that the deer can find acorns to eat over a longer period of time.

By the way, red oak acorns also have a higher fat content, which is also a good thing for deer.

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for more than 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for more than 31 years.

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