Wild deer primarily consume leaves, twigs and buds. In the fall, they eat beechnuts and acorns, while in the winter they switch to hardwoods, hemlock, fir and cedar. They can subsist on commercially blended feed, but they must be fed continuously to avoid shocking their digestive systems.
Artificial feeding is generally not recommended unless the financial resources are in place to support a herd of deer. The Vermont Agency of Natural resources estimates that each deer costs over $50 to feed per month, but since deer attract other deer, the costs can multiply rapidly.
Artificial feeding sites can lead to problems for deer. The close quarters promote the spread of deadly diseases amongst a herd, while deer that rely on artificial feeding sites often lose their wildness and are attacked by domestic dogs or other predators. In the long term, deer that are no longer afraid of humans are more likely to invade gardens and shrubbery, destroying property. Artificial feeding sites also create fierce competition among deer, preventing smaller and weaker deer from feeding.
Deer should never be fed human food such as bread and corn. Not only do these foods harm a deer's digestive system, they also attract scavengers, such as raccoons and skunks, that may carry rabies.