9 Best Deer Baits For Early Season

Baiting deer is a long-standing and proven tradition for luring in does and bucks alike.  Deer are herbivorous creatures with an almost insatiable appetite, but which baits are actually the best for early-season hunting? 

A multitude of scents and foods will have the deer flocking in no time, most of which are comprised of fruits, vegetables, and minerals.  

It is best to use a bait that naturally occurs in your area but that is also not overly abundant, this will make your bait seem like a delicacy among the other options in the surrounding environment.

Scents

Scents are an effective way to lure in both does and bucks no matter the time of year, but only certain scents can be used earlier in the season.

Doe Urine Without Estrous

Doe urine is undoubtedly the most tried and true method for replacing your scent with one that will draw in deer. That being said, if you are going to use it early in the hunting season be sure to use a solution that doesn’t contain an estrous scent.

Does don’t begin their estrous cycle until later in the fall, which spurs the rut. Using a scent containing estrous won’t be useful because the mating season hasn’t started yet. Doe urine will effectively attract bucks as well as other does.

Buck Urine

Buck urine can also be used early season, long before the rut is underway. The only downside of buck urine vs. doe urine is that it will generally only attract other bucks. This is a win-win for hunters with buck tags, but those with doe tags won’t benefit from this.

Food

Best Deer Baits For Early Season

Another popular method of baiting deer is by using foods that they are known to love. Using food sources that are common to the area, like farm plots in agricultural areas, will provide a free source of bait but this isn’t always possible depending on your location. 

Corn

Corn is hands-down the most prevalent crop within the United States, especially in the midwest, which is why so many hunters recommend this bait. Cornfields provide cover and a food source until they are harvested later in the season.

Because corn is such a massive agricultural commodity, it is very cheap to buy if you aren’t lucky enough to live in an area that supports corn production.

Corn is a great source of minerals like calcium and phosphorous, which happen to make up a large percentage of a deer’s antlers. It is always a good bet to use this bait since deer need a steady supply of these minerals.

Corn is so effective as an early-season deer bait because it is high in complex carbohydrates like starch and easily obtainable. Deer need energy-packed foods like this to grow and stay healthy until their feeding habits drop off during the rut.

Acorns

Acorns are another favorite of deer hunters across the globe. They can be found anywhere that oak trees are present, especially white oak stands since they produce acorns every year, unlike some red oaks.

Acorns make a great bait because of how voraciously deer consume them. They are low in protein and easily digested by deer, which causes them to eat large amounts whenever they are present.

Acorns are particularly effective at baiting deer earlier in the season because they tend to start dropping in the late summer. Acorns are great sources of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals which is part of the reason that deer eat them so frequently.

Though not as cheap as corn, acorns can be purchased in bulk if your region isn’t home to many oak trees. Just make sure to check the tannic acid content of the acorns before purchasing them, because acorns that are high in tannins aren’t nearly as palatable for deer.

Apples

Best Deer Baits For Early Season

Apples are another favorite of deer and hunters alike. Hunting near orchards is a great way to utilize this sweet treat, though store-bought apples will work fine as well.

Although apples aren’t as easily digested as acorns, a big reason why they are so popular as bait is because they take deer much longer to eat, giving the hunter more time for a perfect shot.

They are great for baiting deer early in the season because they are readily available at any grocery store and mature in the summer and early fall. Fruits have a high water and sugar content which will keep deer coming back for more.

Just be careful when using this bait because deer aren’t the only creatures that love them! Bears, raccoons, and rodents will all feast upon a pile of free apples. Keep this in mind when baiting for deer to keep away unwanted visitors.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are another great option for bait, especially if you live in an agricultural area. Sunflower fields are littered with fallen seeds, even in the early season before they are harvested.  Like corn, these fields also provide cover for deer to bed down in.

Sunflower seeds are a great source of oils and fats that deer need to pack in during the summer months in order to keep them warm for the winter.

If you don’t live in an area where sunflowers are grown commercially, they can be easily purchased online in bulk just like corn and acorns. They won’t break the bank and they can be easily combined with other baits to create a smorgasbord that will have the deer flocking.

Field Dressing
Pocket Guide

This is a handy pocket guide you can bring with you to the field. It will take you step by step on how to field dress big game animals

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Peanut Butter

This one may sound odd since it obviously doesn’t grow in the wild, but take my word when I say deer love peanut butter.

It makes a great attractant due to its abundant scent that deer can detect from far away. It lasts longer than a small pile of corn or acorns, and its strongly salty and nutty taste will keep deer coming back for more.  

An added bonus of peanut butter is its thick and sticky consistency. You can combine it with other loose baits like salt crystals or corn, to prevent your bait pile from blowing away during a storm.

Unfortunately for deer (and hunters), it doesn’t grow on trees so you will have to purchase jars from your local supermarket. 

It isn’t as cheap as other baits that you can buy in bulk, but because it isn’t naturally occurring you can depend on it any time of the season.

It works particularly well early in the season because it is always readily available, making it a great bait even before natural food sources are ripe and ready.  

Like sunflower seeds, peanut butter provides a protein and fat-packed snack that deer will need to bulk up before the winter. 

Salt And Mineral Supplements

Best Deer Baits For Early Season

Technically these aren’t food per se, but deer will nonetheless fall over themselves trying to get to a well-placed salt block.  

Salt blocks contain tons of minerals and micronutrients that deer need year-round to survive, which is what makes them such a favorite.

Like peanut butter, they are great additions to hunting areas especially early in the season when other food sources aren’t yet present.

Salt and mineral blocks contain large amounts of the micronutrients that deer need to develop strong and healthy bones, which is especially important in the spring.

Salt blocks are one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to deer bait. They are inexpensive and they will last much longer than loose baits like corn and acorns.

Chestnuts

Last, but certainly not least, are chestnuts. Like acorns, these nuts are a favorite among deer populations. If you live in an area with chestnut trees, you can be sure the deer will be close.

There are a few reasons why chestnuts make such a great early-season bait. Compared to acorns they contain fewer tannins, have higher levels of protein and carbs, mature earlier in the season, and chestnut trees produce more often than some oaks.  

Deer will be more drawn to chestnuts over acorns because of their flavor, so they are a great addition to any area, whether acorns are present or not.

Final Thoughts

Scents are an effective way to bait deer that aren’t affected by their diet or local cover.  They are also a great way to eliminate your scent while waiting for your feeders or piles to attract deer.

Deer certainly aren’t picky eaters by any stretch of the imagination, but there are certain foods that will attract them better. Ultimately, this depends on the food sources available to you as a hunter.

Utilizing naturally occurring food sources is a great way to obtain free bait, but it is just as effective to purchase your own bait to add to the local deer menu.

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