All of us love deer and many people enjoy attracting them to their yards but some do not know how to do it well or at all. I have received many requests in regard to deer feeding and tips to do so properly. To begin with, feeding deer is very simple. Their sense of smell will direct them right to the feeder and your offering. When other food sources are becoming scarce, they will follow the scent of good quality feed over long distances. Once they have found it, they will be more than happy to stay around as long as there is a fairly consistent supply.
There are various aspects of feeding deer that need to be addressed before setting out a feeder. First and foremost. Deer are beautiful creatures and look to be friendly, cuddly and approachable. This is very far from the fact of the matter. Deer can become aggressive, although rarely, for many reasons and I advise to keep your distance and do not approach them for any reason. If you find a wounded deer, or any wild or domestic animal, call your local wildlife control organization and do not approach the animal. Any wounded animal is potentially very dangerous.
In order to feed deer properly and safely, pick a location away from your home with a good viewing area. Do not set a feeder near a doorway or other area that is or may be frequented by people or pets. If someone walks around a corner or through a doorway and comes face to face with a deer, that deer needs to make a decision. It will go into one of two modes, flight or fight. It prefers to flee and usually does but if it feels it cannot, it may decide to fight instead. Keep your feeders away from any area where people may come into close contact.
With that said, feeding deer is a wonderful hobby and one that can be done safely and enjoyably. Once you have picked a safe location for your feeder, it’s time to feed. We highly recommend whole shelled corn as the staple food. Whole shelled corn is the dried corn kernels that have been stripped from the cob as a whole seed. It is a high protein feed, readily available at any feed supply store and is the least expensive to buy. Most importantly, it remains edible for many days under high moisture conditions. When you start looking for suitable deer feed, you’ll find many types of deer feed on the market. Some are excellent and some are not. We’re often asked about commercial deer chows.
Deer Chow is a manufactured, pelletized product utilizing a mix of various feed types and may contain animal remnant by-products from slaughterhouses or the like. If these by-products are not processed correctly they may contain various diseases that can be introduced to the deer population through a feeding activity. Please do not use deer chows unless you are positive they are tested safe.
Another issue with deer chow, and my personal dislike for them, is their inability to remain palatable to your wildlife once it gathers moisture. Deer chow has no resistance to water and even humidity will render it worthless. Any rain, melting snow or high humidity will “puff” the chow into a mass of sloop. Think of a bowl of bran type cereal. By the time you have reached the bottom of the bowl, the cereal is mush. This is deer chow when it gets wet and your deer WILL NOT eat it. You have now wasted money on an expensive product and it must be discarded. Whole shelled corn is by far a superior food type. The encased kernel of corn protects itself from moisture and will remain edible for many days, wet or dry. Some people use cracked corn in hopes of feeding their turkeys or other large birds such as crows, blue jay and cardinals. Cardinals love my own deer feeder and use it all day long. This is a great idea as long as the feed is consumed quickly, within a day or so. Since the kernel, or pericarp or outer shell of the seed, of corn is “cracked” open, it losses its capability to protect itself from moisture. When exposed to wetness, it too will absorb water and my not be eaten by your deer. Turkeys and other birds have no issue with it though and if you have a good population of turkeys, they will readily consume your offering.
The MOST important rule of feeding deer is to offer one type of feed consistently. Deer are ruminants, like cows, and to properly digest their foods they develop a bacterium in their stomachs to start the process. Many unaware people start feeding their deer when the weather gets very cold or after other food sources are gone. This is a nice gesture but it takes many days for deer to produce the bacteria. Hence, your offering fills their bellies but they are getting little if any actual nutritional value. No matter when you start feeding, keep the same base food type available throughout the year or season. Once your deer have built up the appropriate bacteria, corn will become a premium food source. Its high levels of protein and complex sugars will do wonders in sustaining them through the hard months or helping them grow to their full potential.
Why feed deer? Besides the obvious reasons of our own enjoyment, Doe Deer that receive good nutrition throughout winter will produce the healthiest fawns in late spring. Most Does carry two fawns and it takes a lot of energy to grow them in a healthy manner. Feeding deer throughout the year will help hold them in your area which means they will bring their babies in late spring. Believe me, this is a treat you will not want to miss. Watching a pair or groups of baby deer feeding and frolicking around your yard will warm your heart like few other experiences. It is one of my most awaited wildlife moments of the whole year, I guarantee it will become one of yours too.
I highly recommend adding this new level of wildlife feeding to your home. It is easy and when done correctly, is perfectly safe and extremely rewarding. For more information regarding deer feeders and deer feeding tips, visit the web link below to read the full version of this article which includes some excellent information regarding white-tailed deer and their abilities to survive.