Whether your are growing pumpkins in your garden for the Halloween season, or you are a curious hunter or wildlife photographer…you may be wondering: Do deer eat pumpkins?
Do Deer Eat Pumpkins?
Although pumpkins are not considered a traditional food source for deer, they will eat them when the opportunity arises. Whitetail deer prefer to eat the plants, flowers and soft new growth, however, they will also eat the flesh and seeds of pumpkin fruit.
If you’ve ever set out a carved set of pumpkins, only to find the next day they were eaten and nibbled to bits, it was more than likely deer activity at night, or other small rodents and pests looking for an easy meal.
Deer are opportunistic herbivores, meaning they will eat plants in proportion to their availability and their diets vary widely in response to seasonal changes in forage quality, quantity, and the metabolic needs of the animal.
It is reported that deer consume up to 600 different types of plants, fruits, nuts, and acorns.
Are Pumpkins Healthy For Deer?
Pumpkins are considered a healthy, nutrient-dense food source for deer. They are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, including potassium and vitamin C, and are a great source of dietary fiber which can aid in deer digestion.
They are also an excellent source of energy that can help deer survive the cold winter temperatures.
Should you put out pumpkins for Deer?
Before intentionally feeding any wildlife, you should first check with the game laws in your state or province. In many locations, it is illegal to feed or bait deer.
In states where baiting is legal, hunters have been known to use old pumpkins leftover from Halloween to bait deer.
The pumpkins are usually thrown out into a food plot and broken up, or simply placed along an edge or browse line where deer feed.
Can Deer Smell Pumpkins?
Everyone knows deer have an excellent sense of smell. With over 297 million olfactory receptors, their sense of smell is their ultimate superpower!
As pumpkins ripen they release a pungent odor that deer can smell. It is said deer are particularly attracted to the odor produced by newly sprouted pumpkin leaves.
Will Deer Eat Pumpkin Plants?
Deer are known to eat various parts of a pumpkin, including the flowers and leaves of an unripe plant, the fleshy seeds and innards, and the soft parts of the rind.
During the summer months, deer prefer to eat the edible leaves of the pumpkin plant. As fall approaches, the fruit of the plant becomes more enticing.
Will Deer Eat Whole Pumpkins?
Deer are not likely to eat a pumpkin whole as their hard outer shell is difficult to, penetrate.
However, they have been known to crack open the outer shell during cold winter months or when food storages are low.
Deer prefer to eat the flowers and sweet fleshy parts of the pumpkin and therefore generally prefer a smashed pumpkin over an intact one.
Can You Bait Deer With Pumpkins?
Baiting deer with pumpkins is an excellent option since deer love the scent and flavor of pumpkins. The best way to lure deer into your area with pumpkin bait is to crack them open, expose the flesh, and place the bait in a known bedding area.
The success of baiting deer with pumpkins depends on the food sources available to deer at that time.
Even though deer love to eat them, pumpkin is not their first food choice so deer are typically more attracted to them during winter months or when food is scarce.
Hunters are notorious for trying to lure in deer with all sorts of baits…everything from peanut butter, to corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay and even salt.
Disclaimer: Before using any deer baits, be sure to verify the state laws with your local wildlife authorities concerning deer baiting and the restrictions that are in place. Some states permit hunting deer over bait while others may strictly prohibit it.
Why Do Deer Like Pumpkins?
Deer like pumpkins because they are a fruiting plants rich in fiber and carbohydrates. They grow on the ground, making them easy for deer to locate.
Although pumpkins rarely grow in the wild, whitetail deer are notorious for feeding on the edges of suburban sprawl in gardens and parks where pumpkins, flowers and other landscaped plants are grown.