Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.
Elk are large animals and need a lot of food on a daily basis. This forces them to continue feeding and moving throughout the day, often seeking out agricultural fields where the food is easier to find. But are elk the same as deer, and do they like corn?
Elk will eat corn, given the opportunity. There are not many corn fields close to natural elk habitat, but in places where corn is left, or there are standing fields of it, elk will eat it as they would with other agricultural sources.
Because of how popular corn is as a bait source for whitetail deer, many hunters often wonder if elk eat corn and will be attracted to it as well. Continue reading to learn more about corn and how it can be properly used to hunt elk.
Do Elk Eat Corn?
One of the biggest questions about elk is what they will eat. Deer absolutely love corn, but will elk eat it as well? Elk will eat corn when they get the chance, but they are not attracted to it as much as whitetail deer or wild hogs.
Because elk are browsers, they do not usually feed on grains such as corn. Coupled with the fact that large corn fields are not usually found anywhere near where elk are found, it is easy to see why elk do not make it a habit to feed on corn.
But elk, like other wild animals, are opportunistic feeders. If they come across a feeder filled with corn or a pile of it on the ground, they are sure to taste it and feed on it. Once they have a taste of it, they will want to return to the area in search of more easy meals.
Can You Use Corn As Bait for Elk?
Although corn is not as effective at attracting elk as it is for deer, many hunters still wish to use it to attempt to draw elk into a particular area during the hunting season. The problem with this, however, is that there are few places in the country where baiting elk is actually legal.
In most western states where elk naturally reside, it is illegal to place bait in an attempt to attract elk and hunt them. This includes corn and other food that elk love to eat. Other places where elk have been transplanted or where they reside on private farms and ranches have been known to use a little bit of corn to bait elk.
Elk Dietary Needs and Habits
Elk are large animals and have very specific dietary needs. The bulk of their diets consist of what they can find to browse and feed on in the mountains, so it often varies from other animals such as whitetail deer or wild hogs. Their favorite feeds are a variety of grasses, and only a little bit of grain substances (like corn) actually go into their usual diets.
Various trees and shrubs also provide great browse for elk, especially during the harsh winters. Grass, leaves, twigs, and small plants make up the bulk of their diets, with bark, pine needles, and tree lichens being eaten in much smaller amounts.
On average, an elk needs to eat anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds of food per day for every 100 pounds of body weight. So a big bull elk, weighing in at over 800 pounds, will need to eat around 20 to 24 pounds of food every single day. In order to get all of this food, they will readily head into agricultural fields if they can in search of easy food.
Can Corn Kill Elk?
It might be surprising to learn that too much corn can actually kill an elk. This is due to how an elk’s stomach functions. When an elk has rapid and fast exposure to a highly concentrated diet of grains (eats too much too quickly), it can cause an imbalance in its digestion system.
This imbalance is caused by the corn raising the animal’s acid and base balance. There are countless elk on record that have died, especially during the winter, from feeding on high-energy but low-fiber food like corn. Even the animals that manage to survive this corn overload will often die in a few days or weeks afterward due to other complications from the corn.
States That Allow Corn As Bait
Currently, there are only two western states that allow the use of corn to be used as bait. These two states are Oregon and Washington, although these laws are constantly changing and it is important to stay up to date on the state and area laws.
You can view the most recent baiting laws in Oregon at the state’s game agency’s website at https://myodfw.com/big-game-hunting. For the same laws as they apply in the state of Washington, visit their website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations.
Of course, it is legal to bait elk in other states where elk are raised on private ranches or farms. For example, elk are not native to the state of Texas and are considered exotic. Therefore, it is legal to use corn or other substances to bait elk if you want to.
It is true that elk like corn, but not as much as many hunters might think. Even if elk were obsessed with it, corn still is not the best thing to use as bait. Not only would other foods or substances work better, but too much corn can actually hurt and even kill an elk if they digest it in large amounts.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.