Deer, like horses and cattle, survive on plants, but because they are free ranging, and not restricted to a particular grazing area, they will go where the food is best.
By providing some of the edibles that they prefer, you can attract these beautiful wild animals to your property where you can enjoy watching them up close.
Deer love quality hay, alfalfa, clover, corn, soybeans, and other cereal grains. If you want to plant food plots, your local agricultural extension office can advise you on when, where, and what to plant for deer and wildlife in your area. Deer really love "candy crops" such as apples, pears, sweet corn, and white oak acorns. If you have these, or any combination of them, you will have deer.
It also helps to have deer salt and vitamin blocks. Salt and vitamin blocks attract deer when these minerals are naturally lacking in the soil.
Space the blocks about 15 feet apart to prevent fighting. Then sprinkle some good quality whole kernel corn around. You may wish to use wheat, barley, or rye in far northern climates. Deer won't readily eat something to which they aren't accustomed. Be sure grain is clean, and not dusty, dirty, or moldy.
The amount of feed you put out will usually determine how many deer will come in. If you wish to feed about 20 deer, set out a five-gallon bucket of corn or grain every day, spreading it in a 20-foot radius around the salt and mineral blocks.
Try to feed at the same time each day so the deer will become accustomed to this and come in at that time. You'll be amazed at how tame and friendly the deer will become once they get to know and trust you.
However, take extra precautions from October through December. Even though bucks are more shy and cautious during other times of the year, fall is the breeding period and bucks can become aggressive.
Plan on keeping fresh water available, because they like fresh water while eating. You can use anything from an automatic waterer to a simple five-gallon bucket in a hole in the ground. But you will be surprised how much they will drink, so prepare to keep it filled.
You'll want to feed wildlife under some kind of cover, which is made up of trees and brush that hide deer from danger and protects them from the elements and predators. Almost any cover will do, but deer are particularly attracted to large conifer stands that contain pines, cedar, hemlock, spruce, and similar vegetation because they are cooler in summer and provide excellent thermal cover during winter.
By taking these few simple steps to attract deer, you'll be able to enjoy one of the most entertaining and gratifying experiences ever.
Theodore J. Janke has been feeding and watching deer since he was a youngster.