How To Attract Deer: The Top Methods For Hunters
The pursuit of deer has hunters learning how to attract deer and increase the odds of an encounter. Whether you want to draw these animals into an area for hunting or pure entertainment, there are many ways to achieve this.
Over the years, humans have learned that certain plants, foods, and scents have special appeals for deer. Understanding the lure of them and knowing how to attract deer can be a very big asset for any hunter or landowner.
What You Need To Know First
“Deer attractant” is just a generic hunting term that encompasses a wide array of methods and tools you can utilize to attract deer into a desired spot.
Most of them rely on the uses of deer scents, mineral sites, baiting, and food plots to encourage deer into a specific area. Hunters can make use of one or multiple methods at once to attract deer, depending on the terrain of the hunting area, available resources, weather, and local regulations.
Deliberately growing specific plants in a food plot as a deer attractant is a classic method. Large crop fields have been known as a common draw for deer. And the intentional use of food plots in hunting has become more and more popular. Learning how to attract deer to your yard with a food plot is never unnecessary.
You are free to go for big or small plots. Any size can work. From small parcels of brassica to large plots of soybeans, from alfalfa, clover, peas to turnips, milo or corn, there are plenty of ways to lure deer to your hunting area via their stomach.
Why Food Plots Are An Efficient Attractant
Deer are ruminants, meaning they need a large quantity of fiber and protein to survive. When the resources are scarce, a fully grown patch of forage species can be a paradise in the mind of deer.
The nutritional needs of deer usually spike during the late winter and early spring. Deer will pay more visits to your food plots during the fall if acorn crops are poor that year, for example, much more than the years during which mast is plentiful. As a result, perennials that can last through the winter can be irresistible to deer.
Supplying an alternative food source like this when natural vegetation in surrounding areas is declining is a great way to draw deer into your plot, including the amount of time deer spend in your preferred hunting zone.
On the other hand, if the farmland around your intended hunting area has abundant sources of forage crops or natural foods, your food plots won't look so attractive to deer anymore.
Common plants that attract deer in food plots include high-protein crops like corn, kale, turnips, sorghum, chicory, alfalfa, soybeans, and peas. You can also mix your food plots with grasses and clover, like rye, oats, and wheat.
Acorns and chestnuts are excellent options as well because deer also like those nutritious nuts. You may need to wait a long time before seeing the results, but these mast trees will make your food plots stand out when they start to bear nuts.
Apples, pears, and persimmons are some other best food to attract deer.
A common recommendation is to create a mix of 60% cool-season perennials, 20% cool-season annuals (like kale or turnip), and 20% warm-season annuals (like alfalfa, soybeans, and corn).
Forage mixtures like that can maintain forage in your food plot over a longer period and prevent a single point of failure. In addition to common suggestions, what attracts deer the most is virtually a limitless selection. Just make sure that those plant species have similar maintenance requirements and planting dates.
If you decide to go for a mixture, plant about one-third in warm-season annuals in the summer - the period during which deer often experience nutrient stress.
Your local authority's wildlife resources agency can have a list of recommended forage species for deer that have been proven attractive to deer. They may also provide suggestions about planting and maintenance, including planting dates, seeding rates, and so on.
If you are confident about your experience and want to create something new, don't hesitate to experiment. Try different mixtures to see which ones stick and yield the most consistent results.
Check out other suggestions in this video.
How To Grow A Food Plot For Deer
Check The Law
Your local authorities may discourage or ban all methods of feeding deer, including food plots, at certain times of the year because they may become a big nuisance.
Check the local laws before you go ahead with your planting.
Choose The Plant Wisely
What to plant to attract deer? Before setting out to grow your first-ever food plot, spend time consulting with experienced hunts as well as nearby farmers and experts in your area to find out which kind of food you should grow to achieve the best results.
Planting several food plots in a big area is also a great choice. But ensure to be realistic about expected outcomes. From land preparation, fertilizing to seeding and maintenance, taking care of a food plot can cost several hundred dollars an acre.
The key to this selection is to make sure that your planned plants aren't abundant in the area during that time of the year. Because if so, deer will simply ignore your foot plots and get their food elsewhere instead.
For example, if your region also has plenty of cornfields, another food plot of corn won't do much to make your hunting area stand out, no matter how much corn it has. What attracts deer in that area should be a different crop.
You can find seeds for food plots in many hunting stores, which sell specific mixes designed for attracting deer. You can also buy bulk seed from a local store and make your own blend later.
What to plant for deer to eat is not always an obvious decision. Choose wisely so you won't regret this decision later and waste your time and effort.
Choose The Location Of Your Food Plot
The best place for a hunting food plot is away from high-traffic areas. Cars and people getting around can scare deer away, or worse, deer crossing a road because of your food plots can lead to serious consequences.
Make sure that your food plot doesn't sit near any gardens, shrubs, ornamental trees, or fruits that you don't want the deer to eat.
Use old woods roads, firelines, log decks, and rights-of-ways to bring down clearing costs.
If you are going to grow a food plot in a stormy season, place it in an area not prone to flooding, or everything could be wiped away in just a single day. Avoid a food plain and steep terrain.
Your food plot should be wide enough to get adequate sunlight and fertile to reduce maintenance and cultivation costs. It should be located within the home ranges of deer, which don't discover a food plot too far away no matter the food it has.
After coming to your choice of plot location and type of plant, it is time to prepare the land.
There is no standard when it comes to the size of a good food plot for deer. The area you choose can be as large as several acres or just a few hundred square feet in size. The bigger your food plot, the greater chance of deer discovering it. But small spots work as well, especially when there is nothing around for deer to eat.
Get rid of all the stumps, large rocks, and brush out of the way before you prepare the food plot for seeding with cultivators and tractors. A tractor does a great job of clearing and preparing the ground, depending on the density of your plot's existing vegetation.
Do some soil nutrient and pH tests to see if they match the crop you plan to plant. You can buy a test kit yourself or get it through your local authority if they have a soil testing lab.
Take the test a few months before planting if you haven't done it for three years.
A 6.0-7.5 pH is typically great for plant growth. If the tests yield a result out of this range, you need to adjust the soil chemistry with some amendments.
Use some lime and fertilizer suitable for the plants to help them reach optimal growth. Incorporate them until a proper depth so the rain won't run them off.
Lime can have long-lasting effects, but you may need to apply fertilizer every year.
Follow the instructions in the package to seed each specific crop, especially the amount of seeds per acre of land. Spread the seeds across the food plot and rake or disc it where you have distributed the seeds to allow for the best soil contact.
Use non-electric or electric fences to prevent livestock from getting into your food plot.
Take necessary action to protect your crops from other animals like birds that may gobble up the seeds.
Watch this video to learn some more tips on food plots for deer.
Deer can find water next to a food plot appealing too. It can come from a tank or a watering hole. A pedestal birdbath or a kiddie pool can also work.
Baiting works in the same way as food plots, albeit you need much less maintenance. A prepared liquid, a feeder filled with grains, and a simple corn pile can be too tempting for deer to refuse.
When nutritional demands during the breeding season or harsh conditions increase, deer will try their best to seek additional supplies of nutrient-dense food. That is when your bait has the biggest chance to work.
Like other animals, deer need certain minerals to survive and remain in the best condition, including improving the utilization of the nutrients they digest from food sources.
Solidum and calcium are essential minerals that can act as natural attractants. Many authorities don't consider them as deer baits. Still, be careful about your choices as many places see minerals incorporated into the soil.
Deer can detect smells much further than humans. Using scents to attract deer is a common practice that can be traced back decades.
By strategically placing a stand, taking advantage of wind currents, and choosing proper scents in line with deer's biological phases, you can bring them into your range easily.
Hunting stores sell a variety of scent products, but the most popular choices include rutting buck and estrus urine scents. The goal is to trick a buck into thinking a doe or competing buck is nearby. Ultimately, you are going to use deer's top ability to your advantage.
While deer lures are usually used during the hunting or rutting seasons, landowners can also use them to invite deer into their area for viewing pleasures.
For beginners, start with deer urine - one of the most effective scents out there. Spread it in a liberal manner over the area you want to lure deer into. It creates an illusion that a strange deer is in your territory, making other deer visit it to check out.
Also, apply the scent onto trees, leaves, and grass around the area. The optimal timing is about 8-10 weeks before the breeding season peaks, which is around mid-November in most places.
When learning how to get a deer to come to you, it is important to note that deer lures can be easily contaminated by humans. Be mindful when handling them and avoid any contact with your skin. Otherwise, your scent can interfere and minimize the attraction.
Deer are smart animals, and they can sense a potential trap better than other species. A strong human scent is a huge red flag for them, prompting deer to avoid entering the property.
Deer scent wicks are incredibly simple to set up and use. Often saturated with urine, they can be hung around a tree stand.
Place them in front of your stand and several feet above the ground so the wind can disperse the scent effectively. Handle the scent wicks carefully, so you don't mix them with your human scent.
The sweet-smelling aroma of apples is another smell deer can't resist. You can consider planting trees like crabapple along the perimeter of your yard. Deer love not just the tender apple fruit and leaves during the late summer months but also the cover those trees provide.
When your climate doesn't allow you to plant apple trees, baiting with some apples is also possible. Set up a bucket and pour some regular deer feed into it. Cut up some apples into quarters and toss all of them into the mix, cores included. This is a good way to attract deer into your property.
Blocks that consist of salt and mineral or cider and apple salt can be an effective tool to attract deer. You can buy them from hunting goods stores.
Place them along the perimeter of your property or near a feeder. Be patient as it may take deer some weeks to find the salt block you have buried.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can I Plant To Attract Deer?
Depending on the season and your location, plenty of crops can act well as deer attractants, including turnips, alfalfa, soybeans, and peas.
What Food Attracts Deer The Most?
Deer love food rich in nutrients that they can find elsewhere. For example, turnips can be a valuable source of protein during the winter, and therefore, a favorite of deer.
How To Lure Deer If I Don’t Have A Food Plot?
You can try other deer lures like scent or salt blocks.
Can Peanut Butter Attract Deer?
It can serve as deer bait, but you must use it properly.
Do Deer Go Into A Food Plot In The Daytime?
Deer tend to enter food plots during daylight in cool seasons.
What Are The Cheap Ways To Attract Deer?
Deer baits and scents are widely available and don’t cost much.
Deer can be a difficult animal to attract because they have specific needs and crave only some foods and scents. But generations of hunters have discovered the best ways to attract deer to encourage those creatures into a land area.
Learning how to attract deer to your property is not a straightforward process. Have a look at them and try different methods to see which ones work best for you.