In places where it is legal to bait deer, it is often a debate about what is the best substance to use. Do we use a commercially produced attractant? Head to the feed store for a truck load of corn? Load up on acorns? In the past, I’ve been a corn man. A truck load of corn is pretty cheap, easy to get and deer love it. However, many people have different views on what attracts a deer to a bait pile.
I’ve always heard, or intuited that deer need the nutrition, protein and carbohydrates, to prepare their bodies for the winter. Corn is high in both, and my experience has been that they love corn and will slurp it down like there is no tomorrow. However, I’ve found many accounts saying that acorns have the same effect.
Of course there are other attractants that work. Another common trick is to go with a mineral based attractant. Minerals have the benefit of not being considered bait in some states, so they may be attractive for humans as well as deer. Also there are a lot of mineral deprived areas, where adding a mineral block, or loose minerals as bait can really bring in the deer. Another reason to use mineral based bait is you can easily find them in any feed store, and they are relatively cheap.
Then there are commercial based food attractants. I’ve used an apple based one before and was successful, but when you have to buy a small bag of a commercially produced and developed product, it can quickly become expensive. However, I’ve heard of hunters that have used vanilla extract, almond extract and even peanut butter to draw in deer. Of course, there are commercial deer pheromone and urine scented products as well. One benefit of using a scent over a food is that many states don’t recognize them as bait.
The newest (old) proven deer product is chestnuts. I hadn’t heard of this until recently, because even though the eastern US used to be covered with chestnut trees, they were wiped out between 1904 and 1940 by a disease. However, claims on the internet say that deer in those areas are genetically programmed to eat chestnuts. Even Dr. Deer (James Kroll) himself has said that deer will choose chestnuts over any other food product one hundred percent of the time. Since I didn’t know much about them, I looked them up and chestnuts are higher in protein and carbohydrates than other foodstuffs. Whether deer like them or not, they are the best food nutritionally for deer.
So what is best? I believe that the chestnuts probably are; however, I have to look at an all-around view. Can I create a bait that will bring deer around for a while? If so, I need quantity. Frankly, for quantity I need to have an economical choice. For me, that means corn and minerals. If I wanted a healthier deer herd, I’d plant food plots, but if I can establish a busy site below a tree stand that’s good enough for me.