Feeding White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
popular feeders and for good reason. The fun and joy of watching deer is like no other.
Having these beautiful creatures grace your yard adds a whole new dimension to your wildlife feeding sanctuary and doing so with a Hurley Byrd Deer Feeder is so easy.
Due to the popularity of our Deer Feeder, we receive a lot questions
regarding the facts surrounding feeding deer in a home's back yard. I wrote this article to
answer these questions and get people going in the right direction from the beginning.
In this article I wish to highlight the White-tailed Deer with feeding tips targeting the same.
Keep in mind the tips here will also apply strongly Black-tailed Deer and even Moose and Elk to a degree. They all can and will use Hurley Byrd Deer Feeders.
White-tails are now the most wide spread deer in North America and it is directly
due to its ability to adapt and survive. It's found from the least humanly populated regions of
the continent to city parks teaming with our society’s hustle and bustle. Besides humankind clearing
vast forests to plant crops, grow grassy lawns, etc... what is the MAIN reason there are so many white-tails?
It’s relatively simple. The White-tail has the tremendous ability to adapt and survive. It will eat nearly
anything (when pressed to do so), has fabulous senses including the ability to spot the slightest
movement, possess incredible hearing, and their sense of smell equals that of a Bloodhound.
But, in my years of observation, it is the White-tails phenomenal athletic abilities allowing it to
escape danger. It can go from a standstill to full speed faster than any sports car built today,
can leap horizontally ten body lengths and jump over 12 foot fences when required.
White-tails are also extremely tuned into their environment. If you have had the
pleasure of watching a group of deer at a deer feeder, you will noticed they are always on guard.
I call it their “Twitchy Nature” and I mean it too. Watch for just a short while and you’ll see them snap
(twitch) their heads and ears up, back, to and fro in a consistent monitoring of their environment.
Then, at the first sign of ANY trouble, they are gone in a flash.
A large number of people love the beauty of deer and wish to attract them to their yards.
But many don't know how to do it correctly or at all. We receive lots of calls and emails requesting
information on how to feed deer properly. To begin with, feeding deer is much like feeding birds, it's very
simple. Put out your deer feeder, fill with food and a deer's sense of smell will pull them right to 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 hang
around as long as there’s a fairly consistent supply.
Yet there are various aspects of feeding deer which must be addressed before
setting out a feeder. First and foremost; Deer are beautiful creatures and look to be friendly,
cuddly and approachable. This is far from the fact of the matter. Although VERY rarely, deer can
become aggressive for many reasons and we advise you keep your distance. Do not approach them
for any reason. If you find a wounded deer (or any wild animal actually) call your local
wildlife control organization and do not approach the animal. A wounded
animal is afraid and potentially extremely dangerous.
To feed deer safely and successfully, first you need pick a location away from
your home with a good viewing area. Do not set your feeder near a doorway or other area
that may be used by people or pets. If someone walks around a corner or through a door and comes
face to face with a deer, that deer needs to make a split second decision. It will go into one of
two modes, flight or fight. It prefers to flee and 99.999 times out of 100 does. But if it
feels it cannot, it may choose to fight and that is a battle you will not win... Period!
Keep your feeders away from any area where people or pets may come into close contact.
With that being said, feeding deer is a fun and addictive 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 your staple offering. Whole shelled
corn is dried corn kernels that have been stripped from the cob as a whole seed. It is a high protein feed,
readily available and is relatively inexpensive. Most importantly, it remains edible for many days under high
moisture conditions. When you start looking at various deer feeds, you will find many types available in the
marketplace. Some are excellent and some are not. We are often asked about commercial deer chows. Deer
chow is a manufactured, pelletized product utilizing a mix of various feed types that are compressed into
pellet. Historically, they have been known to possibly contain animal slaughter by-products or the like. If
these by-products are not processed correctly (aka: sterilized/pasteurized/etc...) they may contain various
diseases that could be introduced to the deer, dairy cows and or beef cattle populations through your
feeding activity. Please do not use deer chows unless they have been positively tested safe.
Another issue with deer chow, and my true/personal dislike for them, is their
inability to remain palatable to your deer once they have gather moisture. Deer chow has
no resistance to water and even humidity will render it worthless. Any rain, melting snow or the like
will “puff” the chow into a mass of slop. 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. (But your turkeys will LOVE 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 Jays and Cardinals. All of these
birds love my own deer feeder and use it regularly. Because of this, I throw a few handfuls of sunflower
seeds into the trough too. This encourages the birds to enjoy the feeder and I gain more pleasure from
the feeder itself. Using cracked corn is a great idea as long as the feed is consumed quickly, within
a day or so. Since the kernel, or pericarp (outer shell of the seed) is “cracked” open, it losses
it’s capability to protect itself from moisture. When exposed to wetness, it too will absorb
water and my not be eaten by your deer. Turkeys have no problem with it though and
if you have a good population of them, they will readily feed from your deer feeder too.
The MOST important rule of feeding deer is to offer one type of feed consistently.
Deer are ruminants, just like cows, and to properly digest their foods they develop a
bacterium in their stomachs to begin the digestive 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 get 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. You will find
scads of articles on-line stating the idea of feeding deer corn is worthless. They state deer
cannot digest corn. That is absolutely incorrect. To prove it to yourself, search for information
regarding the process of fattening beef cows before slaughter and you will find the number
one product used is corn. Deer, being bovines like all cows, can positively digest
corn as long as you follow the information noted above.
Why feed deer? Besides the obvious reasons of our own enjoyment, all deer
receiving a good supply of nutrition will grow to be their biggest and healthiest. Bucks grow
their largest antlers when supplied with good feeds, minerals and nutrients from very early spring
through early fall. Doe Deer who receive proper 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.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of feeding deer through winter is the Does will more than likely
bring their babies in late spring. Of all the nature moments, there is no better wildlife treat than
watching a pair of or groups of baby deer feeding, playing and frolicking around your yard.
They chase each other, kick up their heels and bounce around the yard like children
overdosed on sugar. It’s one of my most awaited wildlife moments of the
whole year and I guarantee it will become one of yours too.
Pick out a new deer feeder today and add a whole new dimension of wildlife feeding to your yard. If you have questions or comments, please write or call us. We love wildlife and
will help you feed them correctly now and for years to come.