Scientific Papers Series 1, Mushroom Consumption (Mycophagy) by North American Cervids

What difference does it make if deer eat mushrooms? Oh boy, it matters. It matters a lot. Let me ask you this, what does it matter if deer eat acorns or not? What's it matter if deer eat apples, pears, corn, chestnuts, soybeans, alfalfa, woody browse, clover etc or not? Yeah, it matters huh...
          In 1992 Karen Launchbaugh was a student out hiking near the Utah State campus when she discovered mushrooms that appeared to have been eaten by deer. She shared her observation with her professor, Dr. Phillip Urness and his reply was "you should research it." Thank goodness she did research it and the resulting work was published, because this may be the single most authoritative work on this specific subject. As of today Dr. Karen Launchbaugh is professor of rangeland ecology at the University of Idaho who has authored numerous research papers as an award winning educator. Here is a link to her paper answering the curiousness of her discovery.

Launchbaugh, Karen L. and Urness, Philip J. (1992) "Mushroom consumption (mycophagy) by North American cervids

Now that you read the paper, you see how this contradicts the accepted habitat management narrative. In the gamekeeper world, very rarely will you ever hear or see hunting content that mentions fungi as anything other than a side dish on the supper plate or seed innoculant. A big part of that is because prior to Mushroom Food Plots we didn't have a way to utilize mushrooms as an attraction for whitetail deer that was practical.
         Wildlife isn't confined to narratives and deserves our attention to truth as stewards. The scientific and Gods honest truth is, Mushrooms might be as or more important than any other natural food item in the diet of Deer and that matters. While many leading voices acknowledge that fungi are present in the diet of whitetails, if they're mentioning them it's generally passive or dismissive. No one and I mean nobody is acknowledging the elephant in the room which is that Mushrooms may be preferred by deer and that fungi may dominate the diet of deer at times of the year, especially in Autumn.  
At least they're aren't YET, I have faith that folks who are deploying the Mushroom Food Plot on their grounds are going to drive the future research into this phenomenon. Because if ANY of this information is true, we are at least partially managing our hunting property wrong in some capacity for wildlife. If ANY of this is true, our metric of value for habitat as currently evaluated is erroneous and as caretakers of creation we owe it to the maker to work with his design.


Back to blog