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Do Deer Eat Hickory Nuts? (Explained)

Certainly, you are aware of the widely seen hickory trees around. These trees are particularly useful for many reasons and one of them being the wood they produce.

Other than the hickory trees also produce nuts that are often seen lying around the tree itself. The question is, do nuts loving deer eat hickory nuts as well?

Do deer eat hickory nuts?

Deer eat hickory nuts when they are hungry as they would eat anything that is edible. Hickory nuts are not deer’s preferred form of food or nut when other sources would be available. This could be because hickory nuts have a hard shell which requires considerable effort from a deer to crack open.

When a whitetail deer is hunting for food, you may want to remember that they would only go for the food first which does not require a lot of hard work to eat. Deer will choose among which nuts from hickory trees to eat and which one to avoid.

Pignut hickory nuts:

One of the varieties of hickory nuts that deer will eat if they do not find acorns around is pignut hickory nuts. One primary reason why deer prefer to eat the pignut hickory nut among others is feasibility.

This means that the shell of the pignut is not as hard and can be cracked open more easily. The shell of the bitter nut splits opens into 4 sections.

Shagbark hickory nuts:

Whitetail deer would not pick not any hickory nut variety they have insight. While they would still eat pignut or bitternut, they would not eat the variety of shagbark hickory nuts.

Shagbark hickory nuts, similar to mockernut, have the most rigid shells. Native to North America, these nuts are widely available and tastes less bitter than pignuts.

Although it means more work for the deer, they would still have shagbark if they do not find another food source around the peripherals.

Can deer eat hickory nuts?

Hickory nuts are fully edible, not only for deer and animals but for humans as well. While the nuts are fully safe to eat and do not cause any health risks or even allergies to deers, these nuts are not the most favorite food source for deer.

They always prefer food that is easy to find and convenient to eat. Whitetail ranges are filled with hickory plants and there are numerous nuts to be found around, however, deer do not wish to spend so much time cracking open on the hard shells.

For the ease of eating the nuts inside, deer would prefer the thinner shelled hickory nuts like pignut. Shagbark hickory nut is species of hickory nut that contains hard shells and hence deer avoid eating these nuts.

Unlike dogs, deer have a sturdy digestive system consisting of a 4-chamber stomach where they digest their food in steps. Henceforth, they can easily digest even large amounts of hickory nuts.

4 reasons why deer eat hickory nuts

Why do we humans eat a particular food? Whether it’s fruits or bread, we always have reasons to choose one food over the other.

Likewise, deer eat hickory nuts owing to a few different reasons. Here are a few possibilities why deer choose to eat hickory nuts despite the nut’s hard shells poised as obstacles:

For their love of nuts:

One food that deer are quite fond of is hard, woody textured, and chewy food.

This includes all kinds of nuts including pecans, acorns, and nuts. It does not matter if the hickory nut is shelled or open, anything nutty and deer will eye on the meal.

Even though hickory nuts might not be their first choice in nuts, it’s the closest to their favorite peanuts as well.

Deer get a filled stomach:

The basic purpose of eating anything, including hickory nuts is to have a filled stomach for the deer clang.

To diminish their hunger, deer prefer having hickory nuts, does not matter if it’s fall or winter.

Hickory nuts are widely available:

What’s great about hickory nuts is that they are available in larger scales of lands particularly in areas where there you might find whitetail deer residing.

Because they are always found around the hickory trees, deer do not have to wonder about a long distance in search of food.

Deer get nutritional value:

Hickory nuts are highly rich when it comes to nutrition, as well as, energy.

Packed with fiber, proteins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other important minerals, the nuts provide all that’s necessary for the deer’s health.

How do deer eat hickory nuts?

There are several types of hickory nuts and each of them has a different shape and size.

However, the basic structure of all hickory nuts varieties includes a hard shell along with a hard nut inside. Some of the types also have winged sutures on the sides.

Here is how deer eat hickory nuts.

They look for food:

The first step is hunting for nuts. As they wander for food, the areas filled with hickory trees have plenty of nuts falling on the ground:

They use their teeth:

Since the teeth of deer are not as strong as rodents or rats, they would look for hickory nuts with thinner shells.

Once they find it, they nibble on the nuts’ shells for some time till hard bile breaks the shell open.

They intake the nuts and swallow:

Next, they take the nut to their mouth and push the nut pieces at the back of the tongue. They then chew the nuts slightly before swallowing them at first.

They chew and digest it:

Then they lie down and chew the remaining nuts before swallowing the food in their month again

The nut gets digested:

In the next several hours, the nuts get digested fully.

What nuts do deer eat?

Nuts are one of the favorite food sources of deer. While they are most fond of several types of nuts, there are a few which they prefer over the others. Here are some nuts that deer, particularly love to eat.


Pecans are also a variety of the hickory family of plants and are widely produced in parts of Mexico and the southern sides of the USA.

Most of the time, deer will eat a pecan when the green shell of the nut has fallen. Like other hickory nuts, pecans are also not a deer’s most favorite.


Deers love to have nuts but one of their most favorite ones that they would prefer over other specifies is peanuts.

Peanuts are not only great in taste, their thin shells take seconds to unwrap. The ease also makes deers want to reach out for peanuts more often.


Acorns are another nut that deer are fond of. For white tailed deer, the widely available acorns are the first food they reach out and hunt for when hungry.

When compared with corns, acorns might just be what deer will eat if both are available. It is not the taste that only attracts deers, acorns are full of nutrition which makes deers full as well as healthy.


Not many deer caretakers can take advantage of the nutrition that beechnuts have and can benefit the deer’s health.

These nuts are packed with all the necessary minerals, fiber, and protein that keep a deer’s digestive system most healthy.


Chestnuts are mostly found in northern regions and come from areas where there are plenty of deciduous trees. The carbohydrate rich nut is one of the nuts that deer would pick over other nut varieties.

What animal eats hickory nuts?

Hickory nuts are widely available and come in plenty of shapes and sizes. While some have hard-shells other have ones that are more forgiving and can be cracked open easily.

Hence, many animals eat hickory nuts. These are:


Although the primary food source of foxes consists of meat, they are also fond of many kinds of nuts including hickory nuts.

With their tough teeth, they can split the shell open without struggle.


One of the many nuts that squirrel love to chew on and have their day’s meal be fulfilled are hickory nuts. Squirrels will eat the nuts in both their shells or without them.


Rodents have hardy teeth that can crack open the shells of hickory nuts quite easily.

More than deer’s, rodents are quite fond of hickory nuts and nibble on the shells any chance they get.


If you have a chipmunk as a pet, you can feed them with hickory nuts as snacks. Chipmunks also love to munch on these nuts.

Final Thoughts

Hickory nuts are hard shelled nut that is found in abundance in many parts of the world. Although these nuts are not the first preferred source of food for deer, they would still eat hickory nuts to satisfy their hunger cravings. These nuts are full of nutrition, protein, and fiber.