Deer are intermediate feeders, which means their diet is made up of a combination of browsing and grazing, and they are always on the move looking for new food sources.
Typically they rely heavily on scent and will follow their highly sensitive noses to the source of the most nutritional food in the area.
On average it will take deer 1-3 days to find corn.
Average Time For Deer to Find Corn
As mentioned above it generally takes deer 1-3 days to find corn. However, there are many contributing factors to the time it takes for deer to find corn.
Things like weather, quality of the corn, neighboring food sources, and if the deer are resident or not, all affect the time it will take for them to find the corn.
These are deer that you know are in the area. The e-scouting maps look good and show plenty of suitable places for the deer. There are scratches, bedding areas, or maybe you have already seen them on your trail camera.
If you are lucky enough to have these deer in your area, then they could find your corn in less than a day.
We have had deer feeding on corn in as little as an hour. It helps if you mix something with the corn to attract them faster.
If you are trying to attract deer to an area by using corn it might take a little longer for them to find it. In these types of scenarios, it depends greatly on the weather as well as the deer’s travel routes.
I generally wait for up to three weeks for deer to find corn. However, in these situations, it’s really worth mixing the corn with some attractants.
It’s difficult to be patient, but deer will nearly always find corn. Try not to visit the area too much. The best thing to do is set up the corn pile, set up the trail camera, and give it time.
If after three weeks the deer still haven’t found the corn, try placing a smaller pile closer to a more established trail to draw them in.
How do deer find their food?
A deer’s sense of smell is more closely adapted to that of a dog than a human’s. In actual fact, they have slightly more olfactory receptors than a dog.
They can use these to help locate food that is covered by snow, and some suggest they can smell food from up to a mile away, although less than 500 yards is a more probable distance to entice them over.
One of the things that will play a role in how long it takes deer to find corn is whether there are any corn crops farmed in the area.
If so, you can safely bet that the local deer will be familiar with the smell of corn and will come to your corn pile more readily than deer not accustomed to eating corn off the land.
How scent is best distributed
I am sure you are all familiar that wind directions play a huge role in whether or not the deer can smell something. If they are downwind of a corn pile it will attract them from much further afield.
Whereas they may completely miss it if there is a strong wind blowing the scent of the corn away from the deer, even if they are only a few yards upwind.
So researching the prevailing wind direction when deciding where to make your corn pile is worth the extra effort to attract the deer right to your feeding spot.
What is a less obvious consideration, but also plays a role in how successfully a deer will scent corn, is the ambient temperature.
This has a simple explanation… Hot air rises. As the air is heated and travels upwards, it takes the scent molecules with it, hence scent trails do not carry as far on extremely hot days.
Now if you add elevation into the mix, the best place to put your corn pile to create the maximum scent trail is in a valley.
The air is cooled and pushed down into the valleys overnight and takes longer to heat up the next day.
As the air is warmed and starts rising up the mountainsides, it will cover a greater distance along the earth’s surface than air heating on a hill and rising straight up into the sky for instance.
A slight breeze is best to carry scent, as even though stronger winds cover a longer distance overall, the scent funnel is narrow as the scent is carried swiftly along.
With a gentler breeze, the scent can dispense, or balloon, over a greater area as it spreads out while it is being blown along.
The other extreme is if the air temperatures get too cold, the air molecules can freeze in place, which in turn limits the movement of scent molecules.
The goal is to get the scent from the corn to travel as far and wide as possible to have greater chances of being discovered by passing deer.
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
Influencing behavioral factors
Studies have shown that deer can even smell the difference between more nutritional corn hybrids and pick out the differences.
That is why deer sometimes will congregate in a neighbor’s field and completely bypass your corn plot where you have skimped on fertilizer and opted for cheaper seed.
No, your neighbor is not herding the deer to his side of the fence, he is simply a better farmer and the deer can determine from a quick sniff test that his crop is of superior quality.
Deer will approach a corn pile sooner when it has enough cover provided for them to feel safe. The aim is normally to get them feeding out in an opening, but with enough nearby brush or trees to combat their flighty natures.
Deer feed on the move and in loosely clumped herds. Generally, flat ground is the best place to establish your feeding site as it allows more deer the chance to stumble across it.
Take a minute to think about how a search party approaches a missing item. If the deer population is spread out over flat ground while they are feeding, the chances of one discovering your corn pile is a lot greater than if they are all congested into a narrow passage.
Once one deer has found the corn it will lead the others back to it.
The limiting factor is probably not whether or not deer can identify where the corn is, but whether or not they think it is worth the effort and risk to get to it.
If there are noises or lots of human smells surrounding the food, it will reduce the chance of deer coming in to feed.
Leave the pile or feeder undisturbed for a week or more for the deer to familiarize themselves with it and let down their guards.
How to establish your corn feeding site for the best results
Another strategy to ensure that deer find the corn quickly would be to put out numerous small gravity-fed feeders but concentrate them in one general area.
This ensures a greater chance of a buck walking past a feeder and discovering the food source, while still attracting deer into a specific area for hunting ease.
If your plot has marked footpaths that the deer use frequently then it may make less work for yourself to have one large deer feeder along the highway. Having to refill the feeder less frequently than smaller feeders or a corn pile.
Most deer are wary by nature and may require time to become accustomed to new shapes or sounds. Therefore they will approach a corn pile much quicker than an automatic feeder.
From past experience, it will only take deer 1-2 days to find a corn pile, but you should allow up to 3 weeks for deer to become comfortable feeding at a feeder.
In the same breath, you don’t want to start your corn pile weeks in advance as you will just be wasting money feeding all sorts of undesirable animals such as squirrels and raccoons as well.
What to do to attract deer to corn quicker
If you are in a pinch for time, there are ways that you can improve the deers’ chances of finding the corn you put out for them.
Mixing apple slices, molasses or peanut butter with your initial corn feed will increase the chances of deer responding to your feeding spot.
These all have stronger scents that will be far more tempting than corn on its own and once the deer have discovered the corn pile then they will return to it without the additional (pricier) additives.
So the optimal temperatures to carry the scent of your corn pile to deer are mildly warm days. You should also place your baiting site in a valley and make sure that the prevailing wind blows from the corn towards the best grazing areas, in order to ensure the greatest chance of the corn scent to be carried to the deer population.
Make sure that the location you choose is easily accessible to both you and the deer, on flat ground and with enough nearby cover to entice the deer in. Then pile your corn high and wait a day or two for the deer to discover it.