Looking out the window to see a graceful deer in your yard is one of the great joys of living in suburban or rural areas. There are 6 species of deer in north America, some of which live pretty much everywhere except for inside major urban areas. So if you live somewhere with lots of deer and you’re not seeing any in your yard, it means there’s nothing there to interest them. This why leaving food out for them is so popular, and it’s common to wonder if standard, store-bought fruit like apples will attract deer. Which brings us to the topic of this article, do deer eat apples?
Can you feed deer apples?
Yes, deer eat apples. In fact, deer will eat almost any fruit. In fact, in addition to apples, deer enjoy grapes, small plums, pumpkin, pears, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes, and peas. It’s actually good to offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables because this ensures that the deer are getting a lot of nutrition in their diet.
More on feeding deer
People often make the mistake of feeding deer corn or alfalfa, either in their natural forms in livestock feed made from these ingredients. While corn and alfalfa make excellent foods for livestock like cattle, it’s actually terrible for deer.
Corn doesn’t provide much nutrition for deer, so it’s effectively empty calories. Worse, eating too much corn can easily kill a deer. The bloating and acidosis that too much corn can cause is often fatal.
Deer can’t even digest alfalfa, but they’ll readily eat feed made from it. Deer have been known to starve to death with a belly full of alfalfa.
This is because deer are browsers, unlike cattle which are grazers. The difference is important; grazers eat grasses (corn and other grains are just grass seeds), and other low-lying plants that grow along the ground. Browsers eat leaves and fruits, not grasses.
What do deer eat?
Deer are herbivores and eat various plants, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Some of the staples in a white-tailed deer’s diet are:
- Various plant leaves and stems
- Acorns, nuts, and chestnuts
- Mushrooms and other fungi
How to feed deer
Deer actually have fairly sensitive stomachs, so it’s best to start out with small amounts of whatever food you’re leaving for them, and gradually increase the amount. Too much of a new food too quickly will make them sick.
1. Food plot
One excellent way to feed deer is with a food plot. This is a strategy that hunters often employ, but it works just as well for attracting deer just for viewing. The idea is that you plant seeds in an area so that plants that deer naturally want to eat will grow there.
You can find plenty of ready-made seed mixes like this one, which contains all kinds of seeds for plants that deer love to eat. It may take some time for the plants to grow enough to feed the deer, but in the long run you’ll have a very effective plot of land that deer will return to every year.
2. Deer feeders
Another great way to reliably attract deer to your yard or property is with a deer feeder. Devices like this store a large amount of deer feed, and dispense it at regular intervals. One big advantage of these feeders is that, since they can be set to dispense the food at the same time every day, you can reliably predict when the deer will show up.
Of course, to use one of these you’ll need to buy deer feed. Be sure to buy products that aren’t just bags of corn if you want the deer to stay healthy.
3. Feeder blocks
An affordable, low-maintenance way of attracting deer to your yard is with a feeder block. This one made from acorns is a great choice, since acorns are a natural part of a deer’s diet and they provide a lot of nutrition.
4. Salt licks
Salt is a vital part of any animal’s diet, but it can be hard to come by out in the wild. Hanging up a few salt licks is a surefire way to attract deer. In addition to drawing lots of deer in, you also won’t have to worry about how it will affect their health like you do with deer feeders.
5. Leaving food out
If you don’t want to try any of the methods above, or you just can’t wait until your new deer feeder arrives, you can also just head outside and scatter some food around. Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and snap peas are great choices. Deer love them and they won’t cause any digestive problems.
Catch deer on camera
Once you’ve gone to all the trouble of attracting deer to your yard, you don’t want to let the moment pass without recording it. What’s more, since deer tend to me more active in the early morning and late evening, there’s a good chance that most of the deer coming to your yard are going unnoticed, so it’s possible that your feeders are doing their job without you ever noticing.
To solve that problem, grab a couple of trail cameras and position them around the yard, trained on the feeder or the area where you’re scattering food. These cameras are motion-activated and they’ll automatically record video of any deer that come into your yard.
Best time to feed deer
Deer often struggle in the winter. Their natural food sources become increasingly scarce, and it’s hard for them to find enough to eat. For that reason, offering lots of supplemental food during the winter can do more than just attract deer to your property- it can be the difference between those deer surviving the winter or not.
That said, don’t just feed them during the winter. Deer have delicate digestive systems, and you should leave out supplemental feed for them all year long so they have plenty of time to get used to the feed.
There are lots of foods you can offer to the deer who visit your yard. Standard fruits like apples that most people have on hand are a great choice that deer will love, but most fruits and vegetables are also suitable foods to offer deer. Still, if you have a bunch of deer wandering through your yard regularly, consider offering them something more substantial with a deer feeder or a food plot.