Plant Species Spotlight – Honeysuckle

Posted by Jay Everett on

Plant Species Spotlight

Japanese Honeysuckle – The Double-Duty Invasive Providing Year-round Food and Cover for Deer

Wouldn’t you love to have a plant species on the property you hunt that meets all the nutritional needs of white-tailed deer? Does such a plant even exist?

Much to many hunters’ surprise, Japanese Honeysuckle is about as close as you’ll get to the perfect plant species that’ll feed deer on a year-round basis.

Depending on who you ask, Japanese Honeysuckle is either of the devil or God’s gift to the deer hunter.


For starters, Japanese Honeysuckle is an invasive vine introduced from the orient. Like a lot of vines and climbing plants, it can quickly choke out native plants and vegetation that may be preferred on the properties you manage.

However, it is a semi-evergreen that deer will pretty much browse year-round. It also provides significant bedding cover as well. If you find honeysuckle growing on your property, you may think twice about mowing it down. In fact, giving it room to grow and climb just might prove to be a move that’ll put more deer on the properties you hunt this season.

Don’t believe us? Try adding some climbing cages around “honeysuckle plots.” Add fertilizer and nurture their growth. Place a trail camera at these sites and see if you don’t experience an exponential change in deer activity.

Why It Works

Deer feed on honeysuckle leaves because of the highly digestible forage they provide. Honeysuckle provides substantial protein to a deer’s diet, particularly in the cooler months during the hunting season. In fact, in some parts of the country honeysuckle accounts for nearly half of the year-round diet for the white-tailed deer. What other food sources on the property you hunt provides that kind of staying power?

Boosting Honeysuckle Growth

As mentioned above, you can actually fertilize and develop honeysuckle plots for added growth and deer attraction. Fertilizer can boost protein levels in honeysuckle into the 16%-21% range. However, keep in mind that deer will often over-browse fertilized honeysuckle to the point of completely wiping it out. So be sure to make a rotation of fertilized and unfertilized plants each year.

Fertilize with 13-13-13 in early spring and fall at a rate of 300 pounds per acre. Fall fertilization can be substituted with 150 pounds per acre of ammonium nitrate.

What You Need to Know About Japanese Honeysuckle

  • Can be used for wildlife management and erosion control.
  • Can grow up to 80’ long.
  • Known to exist, to some degree, in every state.
  • Year-round food source for deer containing 9-16 percent protein.
  • Fertilizer can boost protein levels.
  • Will benefit from fertilizing, but deer may over-browse and kill the plant when fertilized.
  • Honeysuckle needs sunlight for sufficient growth.
  • It’s invasive. Check state regulations on planting or transplanting honeysuckle in your state. 

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