Deer feeders can be game-changers for anyone trying to get a glimpse of the wary animal. Whether you're a seasoned hunter, a photographer or a wildlife enthusiast, deer feeders can lure deer into an area where you can view their habits, snap a photo or even take a shot.
Though not legal in every state or without stipulations, feeders are useful tools. But you need to know how to use them correctly. Placement and timing are important factors for drawing in deer and a lot depends on your herd and habitat — in this guide, we'll discuss some of those factors, plus a few deer feeder tips.
Where to Place Your Deer Feeders
Placing a deer feeder is similar to buying a house. It's all about the location. To know where to place deer feeders, you have to consider things like proximity to bedding cover, trails, stand location and entry and exit strategies. A good location can mean the difference between deer feeling comfortable enough to venture out in the daylight or waiting until well after dark to grab a bite to eat.
One way to make your location more attractive is to create an environment where deer feel comfortable. These skittish creatures need to feel protected if they're going to go anywhere. Placing your feeder next to an area of cover is helpful because they know they can escape into the woods if anything goes wrong. The edge of a field or in a small opening are good places to set up. If you place your deer feeder in the middle of an open field, they are likely to feel too vulnerable and may not come out to eat until after dark. Similarly, a feeder placed in plain view of a road, property line or other area of human activity could be inviting problems from poachers.
Many aspects can influence the effectiveness of your feeding area, such as:
Traffic: Placing your feeder near a high-traffic route that you know deer travel frequently can be a good spot to start.
Seclusion: Keep feeders in close proximity to cover so deer feel comfortable enough to emerge and feed during daylight hours.
Accessibility: To refill your feeders, you'll need to be able to get to them with a truck or ATV that can carry bags of feed.
Hunting strategy: Depending on how you like to hunt, you'll want to position your feeder in a way that helps you line up a shot. You might want to place it near trees large enough to place a tree stand or an area with natural-looking ground blinds or man-made ground blinds. No matter what your weapon of choice is, be sure to position your stand downwind of the feeder and deer travel routes coming and going.
Expert tip: Darrin Durham, product manager for Moultrie Feeders, recently offered up some pre-season deer feeder tips. Like brand founder Dan Moultrie, Darrin is a smart guy with an extensive background in game management. Darrin says, “When placing a wildlife feeder on food plots, your goal should be to create a staging area. Deer will come to the food plot to feed on foliage. When the feeder goes off, the deer will go eat corn before heading back to the food plot. This creates competition. Ultimately, competition will make deer come to the feeder more often.”
The feeder's proximity to quality habitat is another huge part of attracting deer to it. Try to place deer feeders near water, bedding and other commonly accessed food sources. These resources ensure that your deer frequent the area and are more likely to feel comfortable there.
Don't forget to set your trail camera up by a feeder to offer consistent intel on the herd or just to help you admire the wildlife.
Best Times to Set Your Deer Feeder
If location is the most important part of setting up a deer feeder, timing is a very close second. With the help of a digital timer, deer feeders can maintain consistent schedules and attract deer throughout the day. So when's the best time to set automatic deer feeders? It depends on several factors. It's up to you to experiment and find out what schedule works best for your herd, climate and location.
If you're first setting up your feeder, try setting it to dispense at midday, when the deer aren't as active. This way, they are less likely to get spooked by the new feeder. Start with a shorter feed-dispense time of around five seconds. You can gradually increase this as the deer get used to it and more deer begin feeding at it. Once that happens, there are two common options to consider:
Dispense feed once early in the morning and once in the afternoon for a few seconds each time.
Or, dispense feed close to hunting time for a few seconds.
Another thing to consider when choosing how long to set your deer feeder is its location. Different areas can elicit different responses:
In a wide field, you may see better results by running the feeder closer to sunrise and sunset. Deer tend to like open areas more at those times.
Next to tree cover, you may get deer using it for longer periods, since they are more comfortable next to the woods.
Expert tip: Big bucks are smart, and you’ve probably heard the saying that “they don’t get big by being stupid.” Feeders are a great tool to help minimize your presence in the deep woods of your hunting area, but what’s the best way to condition the antlered ghosts who live there? Instead of making frequent trips to dump pounds of corn on the ground, hunters can benefit greatly from the timed feeding of a programmable feeder. We asked Rich Miller, team member of the Outdoor Channel’s The Hit List, to tell us how he programs his deer feeders this time of year.
Be careful with early-morning feed times. While they may bring bucks out sooner, you also run the risk of them finishing their meal before you can legally take a shot. Low visibility from fog or darkness can make them hard to see, and hunting regulations may limit the time you can actually shoot.
Deer Feeder Tips
Here are a few more deer feeder tips to keep in mind when you're placing your feeder and setting it up:
Pay attention to your feed type. Some feeds like corn are great for keeping deer warm in the winter because it's an energy-rich food. In the spring and summer when antlers and unborn fawns are developing, a more nutritional diet of high-quality protein can lead to healthier herds and better antler quality.
Feeders become more effective over time. During the first few weeks, focus on getting the deer used to the feeder. You can spread feed around the site and develop it as a regular feeding place where the deer will return to often.
Use a trail camera to learn more. Aside from offering photos of deer in their natural habitat, a trail camera can also help you learn about their behavior and movements. You can find out when they reach the feeder and start identifying individual deer.
Feeders can still help create the right environment if you can't hunt over bait. Laws regarding deer baiting can vary widely, but even if you aren't allowed to hunt over bait, you can still use feeders to hold deer on your property or to feed protein feed in the warm months. Even after the food is removed, you may find that deer remember the spot and are likely to come back.
Consider adding a multiple feed site. You can easily run more than one feeder on a property. Having a feeder every 50 to 100 acres will allow you to hold more deer on the land and increase hunting opportunities.
Whether you're looking to lure in a trophy buck for hunting season, get exceptional views for photography or simply enjoy your local wildlife, a feeder site is an excellent tool to have. Check out our selection of deer feeders today and start creating a food source that deer simply can't resist.