Rice Bran for Hunting, Attracting Deer

Rice Bran as a Deer Attractant & Supplement for Deer Hunting & Management

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.

Rice Bran as a Deer Attractant & Supplement for Deer Hunting & Management

Rice Bran: A Great Attractant

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 micro-nutrients. 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 having to increasing total feed consumption.

Rice Bran for Deer Hunting

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 on the property can still be managed to offer good natural habitat, quality deer foods. The urge to shoot middle-aged bucks only because you think your neighbors will do so 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 other supplements and attractants such as rice bran.

Supplemental Feeding of Deer: Protein Pellets

Whitetail Deer Management: Supplemental Feeding of Deer Protein Pellets

It’s summer time in Texas and hot, dry weather is wreaking havoc on white-tailed deer habitat. That means deer will be hitting supplemental feed sources where they are available harder than ever. In fact, I’ve already heard from numerous hunters and landowners that whitetail are really hammering protein feeders, and this is on properties that provide relatively good deer habitat. Unfortunately, it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better. That has got everyone, deer included, feeling a little uneasy.

It’s the antler growing season for bucks right now, so that means game cameras have already been deployed. Reports indicate that the majority of bucks have anywhere from 3-10 inches of antler growth and that there are still a good number of does that have yet to domino (give birth). Guys in the pastures as well as camera photos are also seeing a good number of fawns already on the ground. Everyone is aware that natural foods are low, but deer are needing a lot of high quality nutrition right now.

Whitetail Deer Management: Supplemental Feeding of Deer Protein Pellets

If ever there was a time to supplement deer with free-choice protein pellets, that time would be now. Not only will deer manager after deer manager tell you first-hand what the addition of protein pellets has done for whitetail deer found on their properties, but respectable research from many different camps has found that protein pellets (16+%)  really do make a difference for white-tailed deer in a number of ways.

There are many reasons to feed protein pellets, with the most cited one being increased antler growth for bucks. Other positives of this form of supplemental feeding include improved body condition in all deer, which translates into more milk production for lactating does and better muscle and skeletal growth for fawns later into the summer. Deer, both bucks and does, that get a good start the first year of their life will be superior animals down the road.

With natural foods on hold (at best) and deer nutritional requirements on the rise, feeding protein to deer seems like the thing to do right now, but there can also be some issues that arise that come along with the management practice. The first one that comes to mind is, well, cost. Let’s face it, the price tag of the feed alone can get expensive, but then there are also transport and labor costs.

With a white-tailed deer density that is appropriate for the habitat, a general rule of thumb is to estimate average consumption at about 3/4 pound of feed per day per deer day over the course of a year (even though the majority of properties do not provide pellets during October, November, and December). This number varies depending on the rainfall each year and the amount of natural forage deer eat, but averages out to about 275 pounds of protein pellets for each deer on an annual basis. That’s about $55 in feed. How many deer are found on your property?

Another issue that arises with the supplemental feeding of protein pellets to whitetail deer is increased reproduction, as in higher fawn survival. Now, this many not sound like much of a negative, but it really can be depending on the deer management objectives of a landowner or hunter. This phenomenon is something many well-intending managers do not realize until several years into their management program. I will focus more on this topic in the near future, but until then let’s keep an eye out for those whitetail fawns, bucks in velvet and maybe even a rain cloud?

Conditioning Deer to Eat New Foods

Whitetail Deer Management: Conditioning Deer to Eat New Foods

The new year is well underway and spring is just around the corner. That is a good thing because habitat conditions are as tough as I’ve seen them in some time and bitter cold weather really works on a white-tailed deer’s body condition. But a new year means resolutions to do new things—even when it comes to deer management. Though the supplementation of a deer’s diet is far from a new idea, I am confident that many landowners and managers will begin offering supplemental feed during late winter, spring and summer for the first time ever.

Most of that feed will be in the form of protein pellets. Regular readers of this site know that food supplementation is just a small part of an overall deer management program, but it can be an important component for maintaining and increasing the overall condition of the deer herd found on a property. This is especially true during the food stress periods that occur each year, summer and winter. Right now is as good of time as any to start, but I recommend following the simple suggestions below when beginning a supplemental feeding program for white-tailed deer.

Whitetail Deer Management: Conditioning Deer to Eat New Foods

Supplemental feeding itself is not rocket science, but there are some things you can do to increase its effectiveness. First and foremost, do not use supplemental feed as a tool to maintain substantially more deer on a property than the habitat can support. Habitat management and population management are much more important than pouring feed into a system.

If a deer manager can combine good habitat and the appropriate number of deer with a supplemental feeding program kicker, then the result will be far superior to just placing out feed and expecting quality deer to simply show up.

It also needs to be said that protein pellets should not be put into timed, spin-feeders. The unfortunate hunters out there that have tried this delivery method will attest to this advice. For one thing, dispensing “supplemental” foods from timed feeders is not really supplemental. It’s bait. And deer can not consume enough in this manner for it to truly supplement their diet.

Protein pellets contain much more moisture than corn or roasted soybeans and will sweat inside a feeder once temperatures begin to rise. It does not take much heat to make the temperature rise rapidly within a confined area. Because pellets move through timed feeders very slowly, this release of moisture will cause the feed to mold and cake-up. Use free-choice feeders.

Do not be disappointed if deer ignore your tasty offerings. Whitetail know a lot about their natural environment, but deer do not have an understanding of manufactured feeds or any new-to-them feed for that matter. Although deer are quick studies, don’t expect them to hammer your protein feeder right off the bat. There is a learning curve involved.

I’ve been contacted my numerous managers and hunters over the years that have filled new protein feeders with tons of high-protein pellets only to be disappointed when they return to their property and not a deer has touched it. In many cases, the problem is simply about timing.

Properties that have offered free-choice feeds for years know that deer consume supplemental foods in varying amounts during different times of the year. This phenomenon is especially evident during the spring and fall, when forbs and mast are abundant and readily available. This happens even on properties where deer have been supplemented for long periods of time. When available, whitetail deer prefer high quality natural foods over any supplemental food we can offer. This is why good white-tailed deer habitat is so important.

To get to the point, do not expect a lot of activity around your feeder when habitat conditions are good, such as after spring green-up or when acorns fall or during those rare years when rains continue throughout the summer. And although habitat conditions come into play, the time of year is not the only factor that can impact deer use of supplemental foods. It also depends on deer density and feeder density.

Lastly, when new foods are introduced onto a property deer must be conditioned to consume these new foods. Managers can either introduce the new food and just wait them out, or the new food can be mixed with foods that are familiar to deer. For example, if deer on a ranch commonly eat corn, then mix corn with the new feed to introduce it to them. Then, decrease the amount of corn and up the percentage of the new food. This is by far the best way to transition white-tailed deer to consume new foods.

Again, getting deer to eat new foods is not terribly difficult, but there are some factors that can effect how fast they hit new food sources. Habitat conditions, food availability, deer density, season and other deer management practices can all impact the consumption of supplemental foods. Simply keep all of these variables in mind if you plan on introducing new foods to whitetail and prepare to be surprised. Because once deer begin using their new food source you may be looking for supplemental income to help pay for it all!

Supplemental Feeding in Perspective

Deer Management Techniques: Supplemental Feeding in Perspective

Hunters and landowners actively involved in white-tailed deer management know that age, genetics, and nutrition are the rule when it comes to maintaining a healthy deer herd and consistently producing quality whitetail bucks. Because it takes time for bucks to get older and because one can not change the genetics of a deer once it is conceived, a lot of attention gets placed on deer nutrition by hunters and managers on their lands.

When it comes to providing proper nutrition for deer, more than a fair share of this attention gets wrongly placed on supplemental feeding through food plots or protein pellets. I will be the first to tell you that both food plots and supplemental feeding have their place on almost every property, but all too often hunters consider the management practice of adding food to the equation as taking the place of proper deer habitat management. Wrong. Continue reading “Supplemental Feeding in Perspective”

Winter Tough on White-tailed Deer

This whitetail buck is going strong in late winter.

As the snow falls today in Central Texas, I can’t help but think about the white-tailed deer throughout the country. I’m not just talking about the animals living right outside my door, but everywhere throughout the whitetail’s range. This is the time of year when habitat conditions are tough and when the nuts and bolts of deer population management are tested. After all, the white-tailed deer hunting seasons are over and the remaining deer are carryover, the core herd of the upcoming hunting season.

At the heart of deer population management is food availability. With late winter upon us, even though spring is just around the corner, white-tailed deer food is scarce over the landscape. Late winter is the most nutritionally stressful time of the year for a deer. At this point in time, the deer herd on every ranch should be at or below its base population size—the maximum number of animals that the habitat can support. Otherwise, the deer herd is at risk of a die-off from being malnurished due to inadequate food resources. Continue reading “Winter Tough on White-tailed Deer”