Osage orange, horse apple, hedge, or hedge apple tree. Those are basically just different names for the same thing. But the question is, will deer eat hedge apples? The short answer is yes. Some deer do eat hedge apples. But there is more to it. So let’s get into some of the details.
I personally have not seen deer eating them. Maybe that is because, in my area, there are plenty of other food sources available to deer. I’ve also never heard anyone say firsthand that they have actually witnessed a deer eating one.
However, I have read stories about people who have seen it. And I know that deer can be very opportunistic when it comes to food foraging (read.. trees that attract deer)
Whitetail Deer Eating Osage Fruit
As mentioned above, I personally have not seen deer eat them. So I did some research, and here is what I found:
“Hedge apples are the lowest of the low in whitetail diet. Late winter food source that they will avoid until nothing else is available.
They stomp and bite open the ball and eat the seeds inside. When you see a hedge apple that looks like it was run over by a lawn mower, most likely a deer did it, and he’s in hard times.”
“Go check a hedge row. You will find that deer love hedge leaves and will create a browseline. Deer will eat the hedgeballs in late season, but squirrels hammer them all year long.”
“There are a lot of Osage Orange trees (Hedge as we call them in Illinois) where I hunt . I have never seen a deer even sniff a hedge apple. Squirrels will peel of all of the outer layer and eat the little ping pong ball sized “seed” in the middle.”
“I don’t think the Osage Orange is an attraction of any major influence to deer unless it’s a bedding area. I’d concentrate my efforts elsewhere.”
“! of my best sources for finding deer here in Michigan and Ohio is to fine a stand of Osage. I have seen deer munching away on hedge Apples when a corn field was right across the road from them. A lot of mixed answers about what a deer will eat, won’t eat and in what area of the country they do either. maybe it’s because the farm lands around where I hunt have fencelines that are basically Osage trees.”
“Great stuff. I have seen deer eat hedge apples on our place as well as squirrels. Deer love to browse the leaves as well and it makes a great screen given time…”
“I think hedge is great. They are getting harder to find in the midwest anymore. Farmers have cut out many of the hedge rows to grab that extra acre to plant. I have seen both deer and squirrels feed on the apples and leaves. Although I am not sure the apples are preferred food they will mess with them at times.”
Bowhunting Forum Discussion
“The buck I killed this year had a belly full of osage balls. (well, chewed up ones… )
They seem to eat them after they’ve laid around and frozen at least once and then softened up. Before that, they hit the Osage leaves pretty good.”
“I found these fruits to be a “last resort” source. I’ve seen them lying around chewed up on by deer, but I don’t think it’s a must have. It’s bitter to humans and toxic…from what I’ve read.”
“I’ve never seen a deer eat them, and around here we call them monkey Balls”
100% Prove of Deer Eating Osage Orange
If you are going through the comments, you will find many people saying that deer will eat Osage Orange – while others say they won’t touch it. One person says he has 100% proof that deer will eat Osages. His name is Chris Jackson, and he runs a blog called Dallas Fort Worth Urban Wildlife (DFW Urban Wildlife)
also read.. will deer eat dry molasses?
He has actual footage of a deer eating hedge apples! Chris Jackson set up his trail cameras and documented how bucks fed on Osage Oranges. However, he found that it was mainly the mature bucks that ate the fruit. But he also captured a few instances of does feeding on the remaining fruits.
Check out the article here: https://dfwurbanwildlife.com/2014/02/19/chris-jacksons-dfw-urban-wildlife/white-tailed-deer-osage-orange-eaters/
Do deer eat Hedge Apples? Yes, 100%! Generally speaking, deer do eat Osage Orange. But not all deer seem to be attracted to the fruit though. However, it looks like they’ll go after hedge apples more when no other food sources are available.