Question: “What’s the deal with rice bran? I hunt on 40 acres in Northeast Texas with heavy deer hunting pressure on all sides and I usually just throw corn on the ground to attract deer. I am very low budget and cannot afford the feeding of minerals and protein pellets. I have tried salt blocks, livestock blocks and wildlife blocks. The deer in my area seem to like flavored rice bran like apple or peanut butter but it is hard to find. Does rice bran have any nutritional value to deer? Any suggestions and recommendations on how to attract deer in this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”
Response: Stabilized rice bran is a common ingredient used in many commercial feeds for whitetail deer. Many of the products that contain rice bran in high percentage are better described as deer baits or attractants. For example, it is the main ingredient in the commercial deer attractant “Buck Bran” which is produced by Wildgame Innovations and “Buck Grub” that is sold by Evolved Habitats. Rice bran can also found in lower quantities in truly supplemental feeds (protein pellets). In short, rice bran is a good source of easily digested vegetable fat, but that is about it.
If you just want something to use as an attractant for deer hunting then don’t turn up your nose at it. The deer will not. Whitetail deer absolutely love rice bran and it can be used to attract and pattern deer before and during the deer hunting season. Bucks readily respond to additional foods in the areas where they live, and they especially take a liking to rice bran. It can be purchased in the smaller prepared bags or some feed stores carry straight rice bran in 50 pound bags. Costs will vary based on location and it is cheaper in the Southern US. If bought in bulk it will not be “enhanced” with things that make it smell good. Deer will still eat it, but may not take to it right away. Bulk bran can be mixed with the commercial attractants or with something like molasses to add some smell and sweetness.
Remember, rice bran is not the best stand-alone supplement for deer. The thing to keep in mind is that rice bran offers a high fat content, about 20 percent, and little else in terms of macro- or micronutrients. It can be used somewhat like cottonseed, for increasing body condition in post-rut deer during the late fall and winter. Cottonseed, however, offers high protein and phosphorus levels in addition to high fat content. Neither will work by themselves, but when provided free-choice on properties providing good deer habitat these supplements can whip run-down deer back into shape rather quickly. The good thing about high fat foods is that deer can increase energy intake without increasing feed consumption.
A friend of mine hunts a property located in the Post Oak Savannah region of Texas and he swears that rice bran is the best whitetail deer attractant he has ever seen. He has found that if he switches from rice bran to corn the deer visits to his feed stations will decline. Will it work this great for everyone? Can’t say for sure because a lot depends on what is already out there for them. A lot depends on habitat conditions. Most of the calories in corn are carbohydrates whereas most of the calories in rice bran are fat. Deer, like people, like fat. We like our carbs too.
With regard to hunting on 40 acres, there is no doubt that deer can be successfully harvested on small acreage. Deer management options are admittedly more limited, but the plant communities can be managed to offer good natural habitat. The urge to shoot middle-aged bucks because you think your neighbors will should be avoided if you goal is to harvest older and bigger bucks. The best advice for deer hunting on smaller properties is to keep it quiet and offer something that deer can not find within other parts of their home range. That could be refuge, water or even rice bran.