Deer are wonderful creatures that can be found in most local forests. They’re beautiful and calm in nature, and it’s nice to see them from time to time. One of the best ways to increase your sightings is to get a deer feeder.
As you may have seen at the store, deer feeders can be a little on the pricey side, especially for being so simple. Creating your own equipment at home is a great way to save a little money and make something custom-designed for your backyard and wildlife. You can make your own hunting gear, fishing rod, and yes, even a deer feeder! For hunters, having a travel-size deer feeder is a great way to lure in your prey.
There are plenty of different styles of deer feeders you can make, most of which don’t require many materials. Even a casual garage worth of tools will likely have everything you need for assembly. Feeding deer is a great way to interact with the wildlife in your area, and they’ll certainly appreciate you becoming a part of their eating habits as well.
The gravity feeder is a great choice for a simple and natural deer feeder. It doesn’t involve anything fancy and relies on gravity to bring food down to the deer, which means that there aren’t any moving parts that may scare them away.
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is essentially just a thick plastic tube that comes in a variety of sizes and lengths. They’re affordable, and a great way to make a deer feeder at home without too much effort.
- Around four to five feet of PVC pipe, four inches in diameter.
- A PVC Wye that fits the width of the pipe
- A grate
- A lid
- Straps, ropes, or wire
First, secure the wye to the PVC pipe with the wye at the bottom and the open side pointing up. Then, place the grate at the bottom of the tube, to prevent the wye from overfilling. Next, ensure that the top of the pipe is covered so that water won’t spill down into the food and spoil it. Keeping your food dry is critical for long-term feeders unless you anticipate changing out the food regularly.
Finally, fix the pipe to a tree or fence post using the straps. Make sure that the opening of the wye is at a comfortable height for the deer (around four feet off the ground should be fine).
Once you’ve gotten your gravity feeder in place, all that’s left is to put the food inside of it by opening or removing the lid. The purpose of such a long pipe is so that the feeder can hold enough food for several days.
A big tip for this style of feeder is to keep it flexible but secure. If you look out and see you’ve placed it too high or low, you don’t want to have to struggle to correct its positioning. On the other hand, it needs to be tight and secure, with several pounds of feed in it you definitely don’t want any slippage!
Similar to the gravity feeder in that it uses gravity, the 5-Gallon Bucket feeder is another great option that involves the deer a bit more. You can use a bucket smaller than five gallons if you plan on taking it whitetail hunting with you as these work great out in the field, but they’re also perfect for your backyard.
The idea of this feeder is that the bucket holds the food and only releases some when the rod or can is moved, creating interest in the deer and keeping them occupied for a little longer.
- A 5-gallon bucket
- One ¼” all-thread rod, 36” long
- Five ¼” washer
- One 2” washer
- Six ¼” nuts
- One 1”x2” board, 16” in length
- One tin can
First, you’ll need to cut a 1” hole in the center of the bottom of your bucket. Then rip two 2” sections from your board. It needs to fit the bottom of your bucket so make sure that it does by measuring and trimming appropriately. You probably already know, but to “rip” the board is to cut it lengthwise, so you’ll end up removing two 2”-wide, 16”-long pieces of lumber and then trimming the remaining to fit inside the bucket.
Now with your cut-up board, you’ll want to drill a hole in the center of it, around a ½” hole to allow the road to slip through it and swing just enough. Take the two smaller pieces you ripped off of it and trim them to about 2” and place them on both ends of the bottom of your board to work as supports.
Take your rod and put a ¼” washer and nut on one end of it and feed it through the board and bucket hole so that it dangles out. Next, you’ll place your 2” washer on the rod with one ¼” washer on both sides of it and a nut on the outside of each of those. Adding a second nut on the bottom of the rod helps keep it steady.
You want the 2” washer set up to be about an inch or two below the hole; this will help disperse the feed and make sure it doesn’t all come out at once. The last step is to drill a ¼” hole in the side of your can and affix it to the lower end of the rod with your last washer and nut.
Add your food to the bucket and suspend the apparatus from a tree using a rope or strap so that it hangs off the ground with the can at an appropriate height for the deer to interact with and you’ve got yourself a five-Gallon Feeder.
The trough design is great for large properties and landowners who don’t want to refill their feeders often. It’s very easy to put together, though it is a bit larger and probably wouldn’t fit in a casual backyard.
There are many different varieties of this design, so feel free to customize the idea to fit your needs. You can make it as big or small as you like and decorate it accordingly to match your yard.
- A 55-gallon plastic or metal drum, we’re making a big one
- Three 4”x4” 8’ beams
- Two 2”x4” boards
- Two sheets of corrugated panels
- ¼” bolts, nuts and washers
First, you’ll want to cut your drum in half down the vertical center. You’ll have two halves of the drum with which you can either make two trough feeders, throw one away, or use it for something else.
Then you’ll want to take your 4”x4” and create a frame. You only need one beam at the bottom to attach the drum to, but it will need to fit the length of the drum. Being able to bolt the drum half to the bottom and side beams will make the unit much more sturdy.
You essentially want to make a square with the beams that fit the drum, and two diagonal legs on either side to hold the feeder up. At the top beam attach the two 2”x4” boards at an angle to create a structure for the roof, and finish off with the corrugated panels.
The angle helps make sure that any rain that comes down slides off instead of collecting at the top while covering the feed. Especially with a drum this big, you don’t want it getting too wet as it may spoil and waste a lot of food.
Treat the entire thing with a camouflage wrap that provides style and protection, fill it with the appropriate food, and let the deer check it out while you watch from a distance!
Advice for Feeding the Deer
Once you’ve built your deer feeder, there are a few things to keep in mind as the season goes on. You want to make sure that you’re providing the proper food for the deer and that you aren’t attracting the wrong type of wildlife.
Provide the Right Food
While you probably shouldn’t be feeding your dog scraps from the table either, the same especially goes for deer. They are animals of the forest, after all, and need natural food that lines up with their usual diets so that they remain healthy.
Deer typically eat tree leaves and shrubbery, but they also munch on nuts, acorns, and fruits. You won’t find putting leaves in your feeder very successful, but fruits and nuts are always a great bet. The added bonus is that during the winter these foods provide the deer with more energy and nutrients to help them survive the cold.
Stick to acorns and chestnuts if you’re wanting to use something other than fruit. Other types of nuts might be more easily found at your local grocery store, but they have the potential to upset the deer's stomach and digestive system.
Oats are often a great choice for deer feeders for a handful of reasons. For one the deer will enjoy them as they’re packed with carbs and fiber, perfect for the winter. And you’ll likely enjoy this option as well because oats are particularly cheap, especially when bought in bulk.
There are also pre-packaged deer foods you can pick out that include a variety of options for the deer to snack on, but make sure to do your research and only buy products with natural ingredients.
Offer Multiple Feeders
If you decide that you want to start supplying the deer with food, which is how you should look at deer feeders instead of a way to increase your opportunity to see them, it’s important to acknowledge your involvement in their lives.
Offering multiple feeders on your property, if it’s large enough, helps reduce competition and stress amongst the deer. They certainly aren't violent animals, but in the winter when food can be scarce, it helps to spread the wealth.
Also, if only one feeder exists it quickly alerts predators that the deer will always be at this location, making it very hard for the deer to avoid them. This might be a good idea if you’re the hunter, but for other predators like coyotes and bears, it’s best to avoid attracting them.
Maintain the Feeders Throughout the Winter
Becoming a part of the deer’s food cycle means that you’re now a critical part of their survival. Once they realize that food is available they will depend on it, and during the cold seasons when their normal options are low it becomes critical that you maintain your feeders.
If you decide that you don’t want to keep the feeders up any longer, wait until after the winter is over and the weather begins to warm up. Deers’ natural food sources, such as clover and alfalfa, grow abundantly in springtime, so you won’t be leaving them without anything to eat if you wait it out.
Make Sure the Feeders Are Ready at Dawn and Dusk
This is when the deer will be most active and on the hunt for something to eat, so make sure that their feeders are full when they’re out and about. This is also a great time to watch and appreciate them, or if you’re on a hunting trip you can take advantage of their natural feeding cycle.
Be Prepared To Have Deer in Your Yard
This is less of a tip for the deer and more just a warning for you. Deer are gorgeous creatures and it’s a pleasure to be able to watch them in their natural habitat, but when their habitat becomes your backyard they tend to bring along some less attractive wonders.
As we mentioned, deer typically feed on trees and bushes, and although your feeder might be full of delicious acorns, they might also take a little graze at your backyard foliage. They also have the habit of doing damage to your grass and leaving little gifts for you, not to mention they can carry ticks that become an annoying problem very quickly.