What To Feed Deer Instead of Corn? – 6 Alternatives Of Corn

Corn is probably the most common deer feed in the country because of how cheap it is. But is corn the best deer feed? Research on deer feeding habits and the digestive system suggests it’s not, which is probably why some states have strict rules on feeding deer and deer baiting.

During winter, deer predominantly survive on woody vegetation such as stems, twigs, and buds. As such, their digestive system is not equipped to handle a high carbohydrate diet. And feeding deer during winter more often than not leads to death.

Since the idea is to attract deer and not feed them to death, you may want to find an alternative feed. This brings us to the question of today, what to feed deer instead of corn? There are some excellent alternatives that offer more benefits to deer than corn.

What To Feed Deer Instead of Corn

List Of What To Feed Deer Other Than Corn

  • Soybeans
  • Turnips
  • High Protein Pellets
  • Hard And Soft Mast
  • Rice Bran
  • Oats

1. Soybeans

Soybeans are slightly more expensive than corn but offer more in terms of nutrients. Moreover, they are cheaper than commercially prepared high-protein pellets. As such, they make an excellent alternative deer feed to corn.


On average, soybeans have a protein content of between 35 to 45%. This is considerably higher than the 5 to 7% protein content of corn. Soybeans offer value for money.

2. High protein pellets

Protein pellets are commercially produced for the purpose of feeding deer. These pellets are usually rich in proteins and have a protein content of between 16 and 21%. They also have other nutrients as part of their ingredients.

Unlike some of the other alternatives on this list, protein pellets are not available naturally. These have to be prepared and can be sourced from most stores that sell deer feeds.

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3. Turnips

Turnips are great for deer because of their high protein content. Turnips have a protein content of between 15% and 20% depending on the type. This is considerably high protein content and will benefit deer during winter.

Also, the winter cold causes a chemical reaction in turnips that leads to the plant producing more glucose. This means during winter turnips become sweeter for deer. Because of this, turnips are better suited for Northern states.


In Southern states, turnips are best for the late season when temperatures are usually extremely cold. It is worth noting that both the leaves and roots can be used as deer feed.

4. Hard and soft mast

Hard and soft mast is a great all-year-round source of food for deer. A low-maintenance food plot can be a great alternative to corn throughout the year. The food plot can have a diverse mix of mast-producing trees and shrubs. Learn which are the best deer feeder for these kinds of alternatives.

Acorns are probably the most essential mast. Acorns make up to 71% of deer food during autumn. In autumn, deer are drawn to acorns, especially from white oaks. The reason being that acorns help them add on weight as they prepare for winter.


In winter, red oaks and other similar plants become more critical. Since acorns produce in cycles, it is recommended you plant different species of red and white oak. Also, you can plant other mast-producing trees such as chestnuts, beech, and hickory.

In summer, soft mast foods are essential to deer. Some of the soft mast sources you can use include pawpaw, wild grapes, crabapples, and blackberry. Domestic apples are also excellent sources of the soft mast during the summer months.

5. Rice bran

Compared to other alternative feeds rice bran has a relatively small protein content. What it has in plenty is fat. It has about 20% of fat. Also, deer love rice bran and will make for an excellent deer attractant during the deer hunting season.


However, since it is not as rich in nutrients as other feeds, it is not wise to use it alone. It works best when mixed with other feeds. This can be molasses to sweeten it or commercially prepared attractants.

It is very much similar to cottonseed and is ideal for helping deer add weight. Other than that, it does not have a lot to offer compared to other feeds.

6. Oats

Anything that has a high fiber and protein content will be good for deer. Therefore, one of the best alternative feeds is oats. Oats are rich in fiber and have a protein content of about 12%. Also, they are easy to digest, which is always a plus for deer.[source]


Deer Feeding tips In Different Weather

The question of what to feed deer other than corn is one that has many answers. However, it is essential to know how deer feed at different times of the year. This will help you identify which feeds are ideal for which season.

1. High protein feeds for winter

During the cold of winter, deer need protein as it is a source of energy. As such, feeds rich in proteins are recommended for winter deer feeding. Also, proteins help in antler growth. Feeds high in carbohydrates are not recommended during winter.

2. High-fat content for autumn

Autumn comes before winter. This is the time that deer, just like all other animals are preparing for winter. During autumn, deer will prefer foods with high-fat content. Most animals, deer, including deer, will be looking to fatten up before winter.

More body fat means that deer and other animals are able to produce and maintain more body heat.

3. High protein for spring

Spring is the season when deer transition from the winter. This is the time that bucks are preparing for antler growth. Does, on the other hand, are preparing for fawn rearing. As such, deer will require proteins to build up their energy.


When it comes to feeding, deer, planning and understanding deer habits are essential. And while corn is cheap, it is not the best deer feed. There are a lot of deers that die as a result of bad feeding, especially from consuming corn during winter.

Thus you need to know what to feed deer instead of corn, especially during the winter.

Therefore, for the upcoming hunting season, remove corn from your deer baiting and feeding equation. All the alternatives mentioned above will make better deer feed than corn. Also, most will help in maintaining a healthy deer population in your area.

3 thoughts on “What To Feed Deer Instead of Corn? – 6 Alternatives Of Corn”

  1. Great info for a brand new deer fan. Just need to know…….am I supposed to cook the oats before putting out for deer or just put raw oats out in a bucket??
    Hope that’s not too stupid but I’m honestly trying to learn here.

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