What to Feed Deer Instead of Corn?

Corn is the first choice for many people to feed deer. But is only corn enough? If not, then what to feed deer instead of corn? Moreover, what is the need for feeding deers in the first place? Today we will talk about this. 

Feeding deer or white tail deer is a fun activity for people who like this animal. Many of the states have rules and regulations in this aspect. Usually, deers graze on their own. But in times like winter, finding food becomes hard for harsh weather. In this situation, you can consider feeding deer. Let’s find out everything you need to know about feeding deers.

Reasons not to feed deer

Before jumping into feeding deers, let us first know not to feed them. The first reason is very simple. Is it allowed by your state government to feed deer? You have to know this. If it is illegal in your state, then you must not feed deer. 

You need to know what to feed them. Also, when to feed them. Deer’s stomach adapts to their current situation. For example, deer’s natural food for winter is high fiber foods. Their stomach adapts to digest high-fiber foods in winter. If you start to feed them high carbohydrates, their stomach will not digest. As a result, a deer may die. 

Other than these, feeding deers will hamper their natural foraging. They will wait by the feeding place rather than look for food. This will make them dependent. Also, this may attract other animals. These animals will eat feeds intended for deers. 

Regulations for deer feeding

Many of the states have made laws to prohibit deer feeding. The states that didn’t prohibit deer feeding made laws to feed deer.

What to Feed Deer Instead of Corn?

Following are some regulations you need to follow if you intend to feed deers. The government determined that no individual is to feed deer:

  • More than 2 gallons of deer feed regardless of his property size.
  • Within 50 yards from an occupied residence.
  • Inside 100 yards of a motorway which has 45 mph or above speed limit.
  • Without the permission of the owner or residing occupants.
  • At a site which is known for bears or elk.
  • In any place where the law prohibits deer feeding.

Keep these regulations in mind before feeding deers.

Risks associated with deer feeding

There are certain risks associated with feeding wild animals. You have to take measures of these risks before feeding deers. Not only deer, but any animal belonging to wildlife also has risks when you feed them.

If you are willing to provide supplemental feeding for deers, talk with your local wildlife expert. The risks that come with wild deer feeding are genuine and serious. 

From your supplemental feeding, deers can have chronic wasting disease or CWD. CWD is hurting deers across the country. Also, there are risks for acidosis.

Acidosis happens when deers are fed high carbohydrates in winter. As I said earlier, a deer’s stomach adapts to the current situation. If you feed corn in winter, their digestive system will not adapt to digest corn. This will cause acidosis. As a result, deers can die. Also, don’t feed bread to deers. This also causes acidosis. 

Nutritional needs across the year

As discussed earlier, deers eat differently throughout the year. Below, I will discuss their nutritional needs at different times of the year.


Winter is the stress period for deers. Snow covers possible grass or other food sources. But deers are made to tackle this problem. 

During the winter months, deers mainly eat woody browse. Because of any vegetation around, it is probably under snow. All it is left are branches. Branches have very low nutrition. But they are rich in fiber. Branches and bushes are winter deer food.

The four-chambered stomach of deers is adapted to digest branches. It allows deers to survive on branches. 


Spring comes with fresh leaves and vegetation. After the stressful winter, fresh leaves, grasses start growing. Deers also change their diet accordingly. 

They start to eat fresh leaves, grasses, forbs, and tender tips of new branches. These are high in protein and minerals. In winter, they only get fibers to survive. But this results in weight loss. In spring, from these proteins and minerals-rich food, they start to gain weight. Rebuild their muscles.

Supplemental deer feed will not do any help in spring. Because the natural resources are so rich in food values. 


What to feed deer in summer is a good question. In the summertime, deers maintain a routine. They seek out different food sources. In summer they like agricultural crops or young clear cuts as food. Feeding deer corn in summer is a good choice.

They search for high protein and carbohydrates. Summer is also the rebuilding time for them. They mainly eat to regain their lost body weight during winter.


Autumn is the fourth quarter for deers and many other wild animals. As winter comes after autumn, they need to gain as much weight as possible. 

They switch their diet from high protein to high-fat foods. Fat will help them survive during the winter. During autumn, they mainly eat different nuts and fruits.

What to feed deer instead of corn

From the above discussion so far, it looks like there is no need to feed deers. They already have plenty of food naturally. Moreover, there is no need to alter their natural feeding process. 

But if you still intend to feed deers, read the rest of the article. 

As we saw earlier, deers need supplemental feeding during winter. Because summer, autumn, and spring already have plenty of food for them. Feeding deer corn year-round is not a wise thing to do. We already know that feeding corn during winter can cause acidosis. You can cut some bushes and branches for them. This is also a very inexpensive way to feed deer.

Other than this, the following are some suggestions that you can follow to feed deers.


Do deer eat oats? The answer is yes. Oats are the best deer feed, arguably. Oats contain protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Oats have a protein content of about 12%, which is higher than corn. You can feed oats to deer at any time of the year. Oats help in antler growth. 


Soybeans contain protein. It has a protein of close to 40%. If you are looking to feed deers with corn, it is better to mix soybeans. Corn will give carbohydrates, and soybeans will provide protein. An equal mixture of corn and soybeans is good for deers. But if you limit corn to 25%, the result will be much better.


Alfalfa is always a better alternative to corn. It is easily digestible. You can call it the best food for deer.  It also contains more protein. Depending on the cut, alfalfa can contain 15%-20% protein. But alfalfa is expensive. So if you are planning to feed alfalfa to deers, you need to spend more money.

Rice bran

Rice bran doesn’t contain much protein. But it is more than corn. Whereas corn contains 7%-9% protein, rice bran contains around 12%. But keep in mind that you must not feed rice bran alone. You have to mix it with other feeds. 

Creep feeds and formulated food mixes

Creep feed is a mixture of oats, alfalfa, soybeans and other minerals. This is mainly given to deer claves. You must keep in mind that your homemade deer feed or creep feed must contain 15% protein. Formulated deer food mixes are one of the best supplemental foods for deers. You can also try Purina deer feed. Creep feeds are good for antler growth. You can also search for how to make high-protein deer feed.

Hard and soft mast

Hard and soft mast is a year-round food source for deers. You can mix different mast-producing trees and feed them to deer. 

You can plant different species of oaks. This will help you in feeding deers as acorns grow in cycles. As for soft mast, you can use pawpaw, wild grapes, blackberries and crabapples. These are best for the summer months.


Turnips are also a good food source for deers. Turnips are high in protein. Their protein content is between 15% to 20%. If you feed turnips in winter, it will help the deers because of their protein content. 

Also, cold weather causes a chemical reaction in turnips. As a result, they become sweet. This will make sweet feed for deer.

Feeding tips in different seasons

If you have read this far, you surely understand that you can’t feed the same thing year-round. Some feeds are suitable for summer; some are best for winter. Below I will discuss feeding tips for three seasons of the year. 

High protein for winter

Winter is a time of food scarcity. So if you are feeding deers in winter, make sure to give them high protein. Proteins help in antler growth. You must avoid high carbohydrates during winter. 

High-Fat for autumn

Autumn is just before winter. In autumn, deers prepare for winter. So instead of protein, you need to feed them high-fat feed. This will help them gain body weight. They can also keep these fats as fat reserves for the winter.

High protein for spring

After the cruel winter, spring comes with freshness in nature. Deers lose a significant amount of body mass and weight during winter. So if you are to feed deers in spring, you must give them high protein feed. This will help them gain body weight and mass.

How to feed deers

Feeding deers can be a challenging task. Because they belong to wildlife. In order to feed them, you have to keep track of the deer herd. I will give you some ideas to feed deers below.

You can make a food plot. Make sure your food plot contains the necessary food for deers. Otherwise, your food plot will be of no use in deer feeding. You can also create multiple food plots.

There is always the option of using a deer feeder. Feeder helps in a lot of ways. The feeder will save your feed from other animals. 

You can also use pellets to feed deer instead of feeders. Pellets can help you in concentrating on deer. Deer hunters use feeders and pellets to bait during deer season.

Plots can attract deer yards. Then you can use cracked corn in the corn feeder to feed these amazing whitetails. You have to catch the attention of bucks. Because normally, bucks are in charge of leading the way. So if you have the attention of bucks, you will have a deer herd in no time.


What attracts deer better than corn?

Peanut butter’s smell spread faster than corn. It also covers a large area. If you are willing to attract deers, then peanut butter is best. It will attract deers effectively than corn.

What is the cheapest way to feed deer?

Corn is the cheapest deer feed across the country. It is also trendy. But before feeding deers corn, make sure it is the right time. Because feeding corn in winters can kill deers. You can also mix up oats, turnips, and soybeans to make cheap feed for deer. 

Do deer eat carrots?

Carrots are one of the best vegetables for deer feeding. Carrots are root vegetables. Deers love carrots. Moreover, they are available in a number of colors. 

Does deer eat tomato plants?

Deers normally don’t eat tomato plants. But don’t be relieved. Because if they discover what is under the plant, then you are done. Also, when they are hungry, they will eat anything. Including your tomato plants.

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White tailed deer or deers are amazing creatures. Feeding them is a good practice if it is allowed by your state. But feeding them is not easy. You have to keep a lot of things in mind. Feeding deer will maintain the deer population.

Feeding them the wrong type of food causes harm to them. CWD, acidosis is a problem across the country. So before feeding deer, read this article properly. If you feed according to this article, there will be no problems. This is all there is to know about deer feeding. 

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