Deer are majestic creatures that roam the wild, foraging for food. While feeding deer corn may seem harmless, it can harm the health of the local deer population. Deer are known to eat the tips off standing corn cobs left in fields. The corn provides them with carbohydrates and energy. However, feeding deer corn consistently can lead to overpopulation and disease transmission.
Corn is irresistible to deer in the wild, who may come running for the supply of corn left out. However, using corn as bait for deer on a food plot before hunting season is illegal in many states. Whitetail deer can smell corn even when buried under snow, thanks to their nose being four times better than a human’s.
But rather than leaving corn out, hunters should focus on managing the health of deer by improving their natural habitat and feeding the deer natural food sources. In our guide, you can learn more about husked corn and the benefits for deer. By the end, you’ll better understand that deer can eat corn, sand you can see what happens when feeding corn to deer too often. (Read Painting A Golf Cart Roof)
What is Corn on the Cob?
Corn on the cob refers to unhusked or husked ears of corn that are consumed while still on the cob. The term applies to sweet corn varieties, which are the corn typically eaten by humans. However, deer can also eat corn on the cob.
Pros of Feeding Deer Corn
A Viable Source of Carbohydrates
Corn is high in carbs, thus offering deer plenty of energy. The carbohydrates in corn can help deer maintain body weight and survive the stresses of winter.
Decent Source of Proteins
While not as protein-rich as other grains, corn does contain moderate amounts of protein. This can supplement the proteins deer get from natural vegetation.
Source of Fats
The germ of corn contains oils and fats. This adds beneficial calories to a deer’s diet.
Can be Used to Keep Deer on a Specific Hunting Property
Hunters will sometimes bait deer with corn to concentrate deer populations in certain areas. Cob corn can be an effective tool for this purpose.
Cons of Feeding Deer Corn
Lack of Vitamins & Minerals
Compared to areas where deer roam looking for food to forage, corn lacks essential vitamins and minerals required for deer health. Feeding corn as a sole food source over an extended period can lead to deficiencies. Ensure you control the deer eating, and stop feeding if they show signs of deficiencies.
Large quantities of carbohydrates and starch from raw corn can cause digestive problems in deer. It may also disrupt the natural bacteria in the deer’s digestive system. Age and health of the deer means the digestive system may not be as tough as a healthy deer. (Learn How Much Weight Can A Donkey Carry)
An easy food supply from humans can cause deer to lose their natural foraging abilities and fear of humans. This can be because cooked corn on the cob may become the deer’s favorite food, and a large part of a deer’s diet. This can stop them feeding in the regular manner, and get upset because of it.
Feeding deer corn can also attract predators like coyotes and bears to areas with high deer density.
Inadvertently Creating a Dependence on Humans
Sometimes, deer can become so reliant on humans for an easy food source that they stop migrating or foraging naturally. This causes significant problems when the artificial food supply disappears.
Will Deer Eat Corn On The Cob?
Deer can and do eat corn on the cob when given the opportunity. In the wild, deer will feed on corn cobs they find in corn fields after harvest. The corn kernels provide deer with high-energy carbs and nutrients like vitamin A, B vitamins, potassium, and phosphorus.
Deer lack upper front teeth, so they don’t “eat” corn on the cob the way humans do. Instead, they use their back molars to crush up and grind down the cob to get to the sweet corn kernels inside.
Is It Safe to Feed Deer Corn on a Cob?
Feeding deer an occasional ear of corn on the cob as a supplemental treat is not harmful. However, there are risks associated with feeding deer corn as a significant component of their diet. Since corn lacks vital nutrients, deer fed corn for extended periods can develop deficiencies in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Corn is also very high in carbohydrates/starch relative to a deer’s natural diet. Eating too much can disrupt their digestive system and cause health issues like acidosis. (Read Rice Bran Deer Feed)
Differences Between Sweet Corn and Deer Corn
There are two main types of corn commonly used for deer – sweet corn and field “deer” corn.
Sweet corn is the type of corn humans consume. It has high sugar content, making it very palatable for deer. However, the softer kernels may be more challenging for deer to fully digest. Too much can cause stomach upsets.
Field corn or “deer corn” has less sugar and more starch. The harder kernels are easier for deer to digest. However, deer corn lacks the appeal of sweet corn for attracting deer to a feeding area. It also has lower nutritional value if not properly supplemented.
How Much Corn Can You Give A Deer To Eat In A Day?
An adult deer can eat between 4-6 lbs of corn per day on average. This amounts to roughly 2-3 ears of corn on the cob. Very large male deer in peak condition may consume up to 8 lbs of corn per day during the summer and fall when they need extra calories.
It’s important not to overfeed deer with corn, as excess corn can cause bloating, diarrhea, founder, and other health issues. Ideally, corn should comprise no more than 30% of a deer’s diet. The other 70% should come from natural browse and forage.
Do Deer Like Corn On The Cob?
Deer love corn, especially sweet corn on the cob. The sweet taste and high carb content of corn makes it very attractive to deer. Corn is low in fiber and protein compared to the deer’s natural diet. But it is extremely high in calories and energy, packing about 400-600 calories per ear of corn.
This makes corn a sought-after supplement food source for deer, akin to a sugary treat. Given the choice, deer will gobble up corn on the cob greedily.
Do Deer Eat Corn Cobs?
Deer will eat corn cobs after they’ve eaten the corn kernels off, but the cobs themselves hold little nutritional value. Cob material provides some insoluble fiber, but lacks the energy, protein, and nutrients deer need. Deer will chew and ingest the shredded fragments of bare cobs left over after the corn kernels are gone. But they gain very little benefit from the cobs themselves.
Will Deer Eat Corn Off The Cob?
Deer will readily eat corn kernels cut off the cob. In fact, shelled corn, or corn kernels may be preferred over corn on the cob, since it requires less work for the deer to ingest. Shelled corn can be poured into a feeding pile or corn feeder, making it easy for deer consume. The lack of cob means deer can take in more corn calories with less chewing effort.
Older deer with worn teeth or young fawns may have an easier time eating shelled corn compared to chomping down on tough cobs. For these reasons, deer are very likely to eat corn kernels off the cob when offered. (Read Bow Deer Kills)
How To Feed Deer Corn On The Cob
Here are some tips for safely feeding corn on the cob to deer:
- Limit portion size to two to four ears per deer daily at most
- Provide high-quality natural forage besides supplemental corn
- Offer corn in late summer and fall when deer need extra calories
- Use corn feeders to minimize crowding and resource competition
- Clean up any old cobs not eaten to avoid waste buildup
- Look for signs of bloating or diarrhea showing too much corn
- Gradually introduce corn and slowly increase amounts over 2-3 weeks
- Avoid fields treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers
- Select non-GMO corn or organic corn when possible
When feeding responsibly and in moderation, corn on the cob can be a great supplemental feed deer will relish.
In summary, deer enjoy eating both the kernels and cobs from corn on the cob, though the kernels offer the most nutritional value. You’ll find sweet corn kernels are an excellent source of carbs for energy, and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
However, corn lacks proper amounts of protein and fiber, so it should only supplement a diet dominated by natural forage. Fed in the right portions at the right times of year, corn on the cob can be a safe, nutritious and much-craved treat for local deer.
Why do deer like corn so much?
Deer are attracted to corn because of its sweet taste, high carb content, and high calorie density. The carbohydrates in corn provide deer with readily digestible energy.
Can too much corn be bad for deer?
Feeding deer too much corn can lead to obesity, bloating, diarrhea, malnutrition and the cob can also lead to an unbalanced diet, and other health issues. Corn should comprise no more than 30% of the total diet of deer food.
Is it OK to feed deer whole corn ears?
Corn and the cob is a safe addition when eaten in moderation during summer and fall when many deer would need extra calories. But shelled corn may be safer and easier for deer to consume. Don’t let deer eat corn alone or replace natural forage.
What is the best type of corn to feed deer?
The best types of corn for deer are whole-kernel, sweet corn varieties. Look for non-GMO or organic corn when possible. Don’t feed field corn, which is harder on the deer digestion system.
Can I Feed Turkeys Corn On The Cob?
You can offer corn on the cob to wild turkeys, but turkeys won’t eat the corn cobs. Turkeys will peck the corn kernels off the cob.