Do Deer Like Cracked Corn or Whole Corn Better?

Through my day job and this website, I get to have lots of conversations about the diet of a whitetail deer, including all the food items they do and don’t seem to enjoy eating. One question that comes up frequently has to do with feeding deer cracked corn. The actual question being asked is usually something along these lines: do deer like cracked corn or whole corn better?

Cracked Corn vs Whole Corn for Deer

You could ask 10 different deer hunters about this topic, and you likely won’t get a clear answer.

I will attempt to answer this question and include my reasoning as to which deer like better and which I prefer to use for deer.

A Quick Overview of Deer Corn

Deer corn is a loose name that describes corn grown specifically as a food source for various animal species. This corn is a different species from the corn grown for human consumption because deer corn isn’t as sweet or tender as corn grown for the dinner table.

Deer corn is commonly available in the following formats:

Loose Corn Kernels

The deer corn is dried and then removed from the cob so each kernel is intact. This is probably the most common form of deer corn, and it’s usually sold in bags of 50 or 100 pounds.

Corn on Cob

This corn format is very similar to loose corn, except the dried corn kernels are left on the cob. In some cases, the cob is still covered by the outside corn husk.

Cracked Corn

Cracked corn consists of loose corn kernels that are processed through a machine that breaks each kernel up into smaller pieces. The sizes of the corn pieces vary depending on the planned use.

Do Deer Like Cracked Corn or Whole Corn Better
Whitetail Doe eating shelled corn in the snow

Why Deer Like Corn

White-tailed deer are attracted to corn for several reasons:

1. High energy and nutrition: Corn is a carbohydrate rich grain that provides a good energy source for deer. It is high in calories and contains essential nutrients like protein, fiber, and minerals.

2. Palatability: Deer find corn palatable and enjoy its taste. It is easily digestible and provides a satisfying meal for them.

3. Availability: Corn is commonly grown in agricultural areas, and deer are often exposed to cornfields during their natural habitat. They have developed a taste for corn due to its abundance in these regions.

4. Seasonal availability: In the fall, corn is harvested and left in the fields as a food source for wildlife. This coincides with the mating season for deer, and they are attracted to these easily accessible food sources.

However, as a supplemental feed, corn has some potential issues for deer, including:

  • Digestive issues
  • Acidosis
  • The potential to become dependent on corn to survive.

What Are Some Common Uses of Cracked Corn?

Cracked corn is predominately used as an additive in animal feed. The most common use of cracked corn in this context is birdseed mixes. Cracked corn is a major component in many commercially produced birdseed mixes because of its low cost and the fact that birds love bits of corn.

Cracked corn is also sometimes used in commercially sold deer and turkey feeds.

Cracked Corn vs Whole Corn – Which Do Deer Prefer?

In my experience, whitetail deer prefer whole corn over cracked corn. I’ve tried both corn formats in feeders, and the whole corn option has always been the clear winner between the two.

That’s not to say that deer won’t eat cracked corn because they certainly will.

However, cracked corn requires more effort because the broken pieces are so much smaller than a whole corn kernel. Plus, cracked corn doesn’t seem to stay fresh as long as whole corn kernels and seems to mold much faster than whole corn.

Why I Prefer Whole Corn Over Cracked Corn

I touched on my experiences with both formats of corn, but let me take a second and talk about why I prefer whole corn kernels over cracked corn for whitetails:

Cracked Corn Molds Faster Than Whole Corn

I touched on this briefly above but wanted to address the point in more detail. One of my biggest complaints about cracked corn for deer is the fact that cracked corn seems to mold so much faster than whole corn.

I suspect that once the corn is cracked into smaller pieces, it becomes less resistant to mold and mildew.

Small Bird Will Consume Cracked Corn at a Rapid Pace

Whole corn can be eaten by several animal species besides deer. Those species include:

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Bears
  • Turkeys
  • Raccoons

There are a few bird species that will also try to feed on whole corn.

However, cracked corn is a whole different situation because the smaller corn pieces can be consumed by all bird species. And birds can absolutely clean out cracked corn from a feeder or corn pile.

In my experience, cracked corn lasts about half as long in a feeder compared to whole corn.

Cracked Corn Requires More Effort for Deer to Consume

The size of the cracked corn pieces can be so small that deer may struggle to get the corn pieces into their mouths. Whole corn is larger and easier for whitetails to consume.

Once cracked corn pieces get into the soil, it’s challenging for deer to pick those pieces up to eat.

Cracked Corn is More Costly Compared to Shelled Corn

The extra step of cracking corn generally means that cracked corn costs more than whole or shelled corn. In addition, the finer that the corn is cracked directly affects the pricing. For example, cracked corn that has to go through the cracking process more than once to get the corn pieces as small as possible tends to cost more than cracked corn that was processed once.

Young Whitetail Buck Eating Corn on the Ground

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions commonly associated with deer eating cracked corn:

What type of corn do deer like best?

Wild deer seem to prefer shelled corn over cracked corn. In fact, in my experience, deer prefer deer corn on the cob over cracked corn, even though the corn on the cob requires some effort to get to the corn.

Is whole or cracked corn better for a deer feeder?

Although whitetail deer will eat cracked corn, shelled or whole corn performs better in a deer feeder. The larger shelled corn kernels are more difficult for birds to eat, and the shelled corn will stay fresh longer than cracked corn.

Does cracked corn attract deer?

Most any kind of corn, including cracked corn, is an excellent deer attractant. However, shelled deer corn or deer corn on the cob is a more effective food source compared to cracked corn.

Is corn a good deer food?

Corn is a decent nutrition source and extremely popular as a deer food. It’s commonly planted in crops, food plots, and left out in piles for the local deer population. Corn is high in carbohydrates and contains some vitamins and minerals necessary for a deer diet.

What do deer eat?

Whitetails have a diverse diet, but they predominantly eat vegetation such as grass, leaves, and twigs. They also consume nuts, fruits, and agricultural crops like corn.

Can I feed corn to deer?

Yes, corn can be a suitable food source for deer. Many deer hunters and wildlife enthusiasts use corn as a feed to attract and support deer populations.

Is whole corn better for deer?

Whole corn is often considered better for deer as it offers higher nutritional value and requires more effort to consume, which helps keep their digestive system working correctly.

Can I feed cracked corn to deer?

Yes, you can feed cracked corn to deer. Cracked corn is a popular option as it is easier for deer to consume and digest compared to whole corn. However, I prefer to use whole corn for all the reasons I noted above.

Can I feed other food sources to deer?

You can provide deer with various food sources, including alfalfa, sunflower seeds, and pellet feeds specifically designed for deer.

Will feeding corn attract more deer?

Feeding corn is a great way to attract deer to a specific location. Deer are naturally attracted to the scent and taste of corn.

Can feeding deer cracked corn help during hunting season?

Feeding deer cracked corn can help attract more deer to a specific area, which may increase hunting opportunities during the season.

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