You use bait to fish, why not to hunt deer? Okay, so maybe baiting deer is a bit more complicated, both practically and legally, but with the right approach, it can be a boon to your hunt. To make the most of deer bait, try these seven tips.
1. Use the Right Feed or Bait
The most important thing to keep in mind if you want to successfully bait deer is what feed or bait you’re going to use. Deer will eat a lot of things. They’ll even eat wood if the winter gets hard enough. Still, certain types of bait will make them come running faster than others. These are my favorites.
Corn is an inexpensive go-to that deer love year round. It’s packed full of carbohydrates and also a little bit sweet. Plus, deer can smell piles of corn over long distances.
You can use shelled corn or full corn cobs. Shelled corn is the most popular because it’s easy to disperse, and you can buy it in big, economic bags. Corn cobs are a good option too, though, because deer take longer to eat from them.
Deer love sweet fruits like apples and persimmons. Make sure they’re nice and ripe, then spread a bucket-full across the ground. Stomp on one or two to get the smell into the air, and there’s a good chance deer will show up soon.
One of my personal favorites, sweet potatoes are great for attracting deer, especially when opened so that the deer can smell them. Be careful, though. If you leave sweet potatoes out too long, they can spread weevils or rot, which can be dangerous for the deer. As a result, they’re even illegal as bait in some jurisdictions.
Deer like peanut butter because it’s dense in calories and nutrients. It has a lot of carbohydrates, fat and protein all in one.
One of the best ways is to just hang a jar from a tree. Deer will spend a lot of time licking out the peanut butter.
Salt and Mineral Licks
Salt and mineral licks don’t quite draw deer in as fast as sweet or energy-rich foods, but they do build consistency. Deer need these minerals in their diet, so they’ll return repeatedly to get what they need.
You also shouldn’t disount professional baits. With extensively researched mixes, they usually have a combination of feeds and supplements that attract deer in the first place and keep them coming back.
2. Bait the Right Locations
If you’re planning to hunt deer over bait, the best place to put it is near bedding areas. That’s because deer are nocturnal and feed during the day before returning to bed at dawn.
Of course, the precise reason they do this is so predators like you can’t see them. You want the deer to approach the bait pile when you have at least a little bit of daylight, so right as they’re heading back to their bedding area works best.
That said, you can try baiting travel routes and deer funnels as well as feeding areas or food plots. You may have some success, but if you keep going home empty handed only to return to the bait pile the next morning and find it eaten, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
However, if you’re using bait for your trail cameras, travel routes and feeding areas are ideal. Deer will be highly active in these areas at night, so when they visit your feed site, you can get great shots of the herd.
3. Tune Your Setup to Your Situation
From just strewing some apples on the ground to dispensing hundreds of pounds of corn with a spin caster, there are a lot of ways to bait deer. You should pick a setup that’s going to work for your situation and needs.
For example, if you’re managing a herd on a large piece of property, a hanging or tripod feeder with corn is a good way to create routines with your deer on remote land. You don’t have to worry about the corn rotting, and the feeder will dispense feed regularly over long periods.
On the other hand, if you want to set up some bait on public land the day before a weekend hunt, then maybe the apples are a better bet.
4. Monitor Your Bait Sites With Trail Cameras
Bait is a great way to bring deer to your trail cameras so that you can judge the health of your herd and size of your mature bucks’ racks. However, even if catching deer on film isn’t the main reason you’re baiting deer, putting trail cameras near the bait sites will give you a better idea of how the deer are responding. You can see what times of day or night they come to the site and what bait attracts which deer.
5. Minimize Contact With the Bait Site
The only time you should personally be at your bait site is when you set it up. If you’re using a feeder for extended periods of time, you’ll have to refill it of course, but otherwise, you should avoid making contact with it before you hunt over it.
In other words, if you set out some bait the day before your hunt, don’t look at it the next morning. Go straight to your tree stand so you don’t leave your human scent near the bait and scare off the game.
6. Hunt Your Bait Strategically
If you’re going to hunt over your bait, you have to do it right. For one thing, you should set up your blind or tree stand in the direction of travel. This is most likely between the bait and a bedding area. The deer will be coming towards you as they return to their bedding area and then stop at the bait for good shooting angles.
Furthermore, don’t forget about the wind just like you would any other hunt. Deer can still smell you over the bait, so try your best to set up downwind.
Finally, plan your walk into your stand ahead of time. Avoid getting too close to the bait site or coming in upwind of where you know the deer to be.
7. Check Your Local Laws
Last of all, make sure you can legally bait deer in the first place. Laws differ widely by state and even within states. Some have no restrictions on baiting while others ban it entirely. More common is a complex set of rules that only allows certain types of baits at certain times. Check both your state and local laws before you start baiting.