Inexpensive Way To Feed Deer

Written By John VanDerLaan 

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Feeding deer can be expensive, but we love to do it, so each of our experts weigh in on an inexpensive way to feed deer in the winter and year round.

Habitat destruction, disease, weather, and predators are just a few of the factors that can affect the deer population. Food loss is one of the most common causes of dwindling deer populations. A variety of crops, from corn and soybeans to apples and cherries, can be introduced if they are not there naturally, in large enough areas to attract deer and provide enough food for them to thrive.

Feeding Deer the Proper Food on a Budget

Feeding deer doesn't have to break the budget. There are ways to avoid the money pit. There are ways to add natural nutrition to their diets instead of empty caloric mass produced marketed options. Let's explore some of those choices.

Clover and Alfalfa

Deer Feeding On Clover

It can be very beneficial to plant clover and alfalfa seeds on the land. This is a cheap way of making sure that they always have something to eat.

If planting clover and alfalfa seems feasible, consider buying seeds in bulk from seed distributors. They are available in several sizes. They are usually inexpensive and produce exponentially. Hi-tech or advanced machinery is not necessary for planting these food plots. Search the areas where you have found signs or wish to lure the deer and sprinkle the seeds by hand. In most states, this trick is not considered to be baiting, and so it is within your legal limits.

Fallen Fruit and Nuts

Deer eating apples on the ground

Relocating fallen fruit is not just an inexpensive way of feeding deer, but depending on nearby offerings, it could be completely free. A bit of commitment, groundwork, and planning is all it takes to get it done. Check for fruit trees around your hunting sites or other accessible areas.

Going to your local market to stock up on fruit during hunting season is not a financially realistic option. However, there are many apple orchards that will sell fallen apples for a drastically reduced price.

Everyone can benefit from collaborating with fellow hunters in the community. Fellow hunters may find it beneficial and inexpensive to join an exchange system. Rotten fruit is not a deer's first choice, so you may want to consider options that can be frozen or kept after the fruit is gone.

Acorns and nuts are popular because of the abundance of trees that produce them and great for deer because they don't rot at the same rate as fruit.

Homemade Deer Feed

Homemade deer feed is not only more cost effective than store bought deer food, but it is also much more nutritious. Using ingredients like apples, molasses, corn, nuts, acorns, oats, salt, and other nutrients can be cheap and better for herd health.

There are many different recipes available online. All that is needed is a little research. Use recipes that include ingredients that are cheap, readily obtainable, and sustainable in your area, such as fruit, plants, and tree nuts. Many recipes call for natural salt, and this is needed and loved by deer.

Here are some ingredients that you can use to make homemade deer feed.

Peanut Butter

It is no secret that Peanut butter is a favorite food of many different species of animals, including deer. 

It is plausible to use peanut butter in a mixture of seeds and fruit or even by itself makes a great way to lure deer into an area for hunting or to enjoy watching them. It is cheaper to use peanut butter to attract deer than it is to use commercial deer attractants and mineral blocks.

The easiest way to feed peanut butter is to screw the cap of the peanut butter container to a tree and cut the bottom of the container off.

Here is a video showing the easy method.

Quaker Oats

For deer, oats are a great source of fiber and carbohydrates. Oats are a natural source to provide deer with a balanced diet that doesn't interfere with their digestion. Oats can be included in a homemade recipe or can be used alone.

You can buy oats in bulk online.

Corn

Deer Eating Corn In Winter

Corn is a cheap source of food for deer. Many hunters rely on corn for supplemental feeding because deer love corn. Corn does not contain enough protein, which is crucial for nursing fawns and growing healthy antlers, so many people add deer mineral attractants to corn in order to increase the nutritional value.

Knowing When to Feed Deer

Feeding deer throughout the year is crucial for those who want to maintain a healthy herd. There are several different types of feeding plans, but providing a steady supply of food year round will keep deer in your area consistently.

The late spring and summer seasons are the most critical time for proper whitetail nutrition. Bucks are in the antler growth season, and does are recuperating from giving birth and nursing newly born fawns.

It's essential to feed deer during the fall and winter seasons to increase their fat reserves. This helps to sustain them during the rut and colder weather. Fall feeding that is done consistently can produce great results for the freezer.

Ensuring you're not feeding too much is the key to a good feeding plan. Overfeeding can result in deer that don't eat well, and you may even have to deal with a sick herd.

Feeding Deer in the Proper Location

Deer Feeder

It's vital to choose the best location for feeding. It would be best to locate a place where you already have a tree stand or plan on using a climbing tree stand. A place with tree cover and natural feeding offerings would be an ideal location. Consider scouting the area with trail cameras to detect what kind of activity is already happening in the area.

If possible, find a place on a major trail or just off the edge of the field. Inside the tree line next to the trail is ideal. The cover of the tree line will make them feel safer to frequent the area more often. Keeping placement consistent is beneficial from year to year. The deer will continue to frequent it because this puts them at ease.

If you are using a deer feeder, be sure to put the feeder out long before the season so that the deer become accustomed to it.

Tips

  • It's a good idea to leave the area undisturbed for at least 2-3 weeks to prevent deer from vacating the area.
  • Freshen the feed site every month if possible and refresh the salt every few months.
  • Deer, like humans, can benefit from eating carrots as well. One of the benefits of eating carrots is that they are rich in vitamin A and minerals that are needed and vital for a healthy body.
  • Deer may be afraid of sudden changes in their environment, as they are naturally shy. If you leave a small amount of food out and gradually increase the amount over time, the deer will be more likely to accept it.

Warnings

  • It's crucial to ensure that feeding wildlife is legal in your area or the area you will be preparing. Some states allow providing feed only at certain times of the year, while others prohibit it. You can find your local laws by checking your local Fish and Wildlife Agency. Laws in some states also dictate or limit how much you are permitted to feed a deer.
  • Consider when you are feeding your game that it may bring in other predators and endanger the herd, such as wolves, coyotes and  bears. Be careful to know what species of animals are frequently inhabiting the feeding area.
  • Do not feed deer kitchen scraps as most of these offerings are not able to be digested and could cause certain illnesses
  • Feeding deer is not recommended in areas with a known outbreak of CWD.

Final Thoughts

Feeding and attracting a deer population can be inexpensive when you consider the different varieties of foods available. Planting ground cover plants, fruit, nuts and seeds can offer a variety of options. It is important to make sure the supplements meet the nutrient needs of the herd with local and naturally available substances. Feeding deer all year can increase the success of your hunting experience without debate. Reach out and collaborate with other sportsmen to benefit the whole community. And as always, may your hunt be productful and your aim be steady.

Photo of author

John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at DeerHuntingGuide.net. He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

2 thoughts on “Inexpensive Way To Feed Deer”

  1. Feeding deer can be expensive, but there are some inexpensive ways to provide them with food. Here are some ideas:

    Plant a food plot: Planting a food plot can provide deer with a natural food source. You can plant clover, alfalfa, soybeans, or other types of plants that deer like to eat.

    Supplement with hay or straw: You can provide deer with hay or straw during the winter months when food is scarce. You can buy hay or straw in bulk to save money.

    Set up a mineral lick: Deer need minerals like calcium and phosphorus to maintain their health. You can set up a mineral lick by placing mineral blocks or loose minerals in an area where deer frequent.

    Provide apples or other fruits: You can provide deer with apples or other fruits that they enjoy. You can often find discounted or bruised fruits at your local grocery store.

    Use corn: Corn is a popular food for deer, and it is relatively inexpensive. You can buy corn in bulk and place it in a feeder or scatter it on the ground.

    It’s important to note that feeding deer can also attract other wildlife, so it’s important to monitor the feeding area and make sure it’s safe for both the deer and other animals. Additionally, it may be illegal to feed deer in some areas, so it’s important to check your local regulations before setting up a feeding station.

    Reply
    • Hi Coller,

      Thanks for adding value to the article.

      These are all great suggestions, but some of them are expensive. Corn, for example, has increased dramatically in price over the last few year. Although, you can still find deals on corn by buying direct from farmers.

      You suggest finding discounted apples at the grocery store. We have found that it is much better to go directly to the orchard. Apple orchards have a ton of fruit that falls to the ground and cannot be sold as picked. You can usually negotiate very desirable prices on these apples.

      Thanks again Coller!

      Best,
      John

      Reply

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