Can Deer Smell Corn?

A deer’s sense of smell is impressive. Their sense of smell is acute enough that it can pick up on humans and other predators. When the wind direction is right, they can pick up on scents even from up to half a mile away with relative ease. Of course, this doesn’t just mean smelling predators. They can also smell food, but can deer smell corn?

The deer’s nose can pick up on the scent of corn, as it’s one of their preferred types of food. Farmers that grow corn and other crops often have to find ways to keep it safe from interloping animals like deer.

Deer Love Corn

Whitetails and other deer forage for their food in the forests and fields. They eat acorns, apples, grasses, leaves, twigs, and a range of other foods. They spend a lot of time near oak trees, to eat the acorns in the fall. The same applies with apple trees.

Corn is not something that’s typically found in the wild, so it’s appealing to them. When their incredible sense of smell picks up corn, they are often drawn to it. It’s filled with starch, which is a quick and easy energy source.

However, deer shouldn’t eat too much corn. It doesn’t have protein, and because deer are ruminants and have a rumen that’s part of their digestive tract, too much corn can cause health problems for them, including deformed hooves.

Instead of a typical corn pile, there are better ways to use corn as bait without putting an entire herd in jeopardy, as discussed below in the article.

How Good is a Deer’s Sense of Smell?

Can deer smell corn from a long distance away? To get a better understanding of the deer’s ability to smell corn, it’s important to learn more about the deer’s sense of smell and how it differs from human beings.

The Nose

Animals in the wild rely on their sense of smell to help keep them alive. They smell food and they smell danger. It is an early warning system for them to get out of the area if predators are around.

A mature whitetail deer’s nose is about seven inches long. Compare this to a human nose, which is only about two inches. This means that the deer have a larger nasal surface area, so they can smell far better than humans.

They also have nerve cells that are used to take in and then interpret the scents. In a human, there are about five million of these nerve cells. This sounds like a lot until you compare it to deer, which can have around 300 million. A bloodhound, which is known for its sense of smell, only has around 220 million.

What does this mean for hunters? It means that even when you try to cover up your scent when you are out hunting, there’s a good chance the deer’s ability to smell will still win out. The deer can also separate the different smells, which means that using cover scent is not as effective as many people believe. They can still smell the human beneath the cover, and that’s often enough to make them wary.

Instead, it may be more helpful to find ways to reduce the human scent as much as possible with unscented soaps, detergents, etc. This will not eliminate your scent, but it can reduce it somewhat, allowing you to get closer to the deer you hunt.

The deer don’t just note that there’s a scent in the area. They can also determine the direction. This is true for sensing danger as well as food.

Related: Can Deer Eat Bread?

How Far Away Can a Deer Smell?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any concrete scientific data that has determined how far away a deer can smell different scents. However, there is anecdotal evidence. During the rut, bucks can smell estrus from about a quarter of a mile away.

Can deer smell corn from these distances? They can likely smell food with the same accuracy that they smell other things. They can sense other deer and predators from these distances, as well. It’s believed that their sense of smell is even greater, though, and that they can pick up scents from much further away.

It’s important to keep in mind that a range of factors can affect just how quickly a deer can catch a scent. The weather, terrain, and wind direction will all play a role. When you are hunting, you should think about all of those factors to help improve your chance of bagging a deer.

How Do Hunters Use Corn?

Some hunters use a corn pile as a way to get deer to come to certain areas. The deer become familiar with the Indian corn or shelled corn and start coming to the pile. The hunters feed deer this way to get them to feel more comfortable in the area.

While it’s a hunting tactic that many use, it’s important to be sure feeding deer is legal where you live. Always check the state laws to ensure you aren’t breaking the law before you go out hunting. If it is legal, and you decide to feed ear corn or cracked corn, be sure to do it right.

Spread the Corn Over a Large Area

When hunters spread the corn out over the ground rather than putting it in a pile, it will reduce the rate of consumption. The deer will still be attracted to the area, but they will not be able to eat as much corn. This helps to reduce digestive issues and other problems that can stem from eating too much.

It’s unknown how much corn a deer can eat before they start to have issues. The best option is to keep it to a minimum. Attract deer with some corn, but don’t make it too easy for them to use as a primary food source.

Gradual Introduction and Using Other Foods

Experts say that gradually introducing the corn over several weeks, a little at a time, can help the deer to better adapt to corn. It will also continue to attract deer. It’s thought that deer can even smell food under a layer of snow. If it snows after putting out some corn, the deer will likely still smell it, so there should not be a need to add more.

In addition to corn, also consider adding some other types of food they enjoy and that are a part of their natural diet, such as apples and acorns. Just remember to make sure feeding like this is legal in your area, otherwise, you could get into legal trouble.

Farmers Dealing with Deer

Farmers, whether they are growing a commercial crop or just have enough corn and other vegetables for their family, need to protect the property from deer. Fortunately, there are a few things that they can do to keep their corn safe.


One of the best ways to help keep deer from getting into apples, corn, and other plants is to add fencing around the fields. This is a good long-term solution that will keep out deer and other animals. Either electric or non-electric fences can work, but it’s important to understand the capabilities of the deer.

A deer can jump eight feet high from a standing position. If they run and leap, they can jump 10 feet or more, although they don’t like to do this. Jumping that high has the potential to cause injuries, so they tend to avoid it. However, when farmers are putting up a fence, it’s a good idea to make it at least 10 feet high.

After the fence has been put up, it’s important to ensure it is maintained. Walking the fence line at least once a week or so can let property owners see if there is any damage they need to fix.


Having dogs on the property could help to be a deterrent to the deer. They can smell the dogs and they will hear the dogs barking. This can help to keep them away from the crops, at least for a time. However, deer can acclimate to sounds, and if they aren’t chased by the dogs, they might just head into the crops anyway.


Allowing hunters to hunt on the property could help, as well. As long as hunters abide by all of the state regulations when it comes to hunting and shooting, could help to reduce the deer population in the area and keep the deer away.

It’s important to keep in mind that allowing hunting to keep the crops safe is not necessarily a long-term solution. Often, the deer will simply change their habits and come to the fields at different times.

The best option for dealing with deer is to have a quality fence put up around the crops.

See also: Do Deer Eat Watermelon?

It’s Hard to Beat a Deer’s Sense of Smell

As you can see, a deer’s amazing sense of smell can be difficult to beat. Can deer smell corn and danger? Yes, and that’s what helps to keep them fed and safe. However, smart hunters can find ways to better their chances.

Remember, it’s not about using covering scents because the deer can still pick out the scent of a human. Instead, it’s better to reduce the amount of human scent you have with unscented soaps and detergents. Don’t smoke when you are out hunting or before you go hunting. This could kill your chance of getting a deer.

Learn more about the area where you will be hunting, as well. Consider the terrain, search for bedding areas, trails, and pay attention to the terrain. What entrance point to the area would give you the best advantage? Find several potential places to enter based on wind direction. Be smart with deer feeders, and don’t overuse the corn.

If you are going to be using a hunting stand, make sure that you have a good spot to put it that will help to reduce their ability to smell you. Learn more about the deer and their behavior during the hunting season. A bit of research will go a long way in helping you to kill the deer and harvest the food for your table.

An Incredible Sense of Smell

Deer are remarkable animals that have better senses than many people give them credit for. Hunters should never underestimate just how much better-equipped deer are in the wild than they are. They should respect the animal when they hunt and research more regarding what spooks the animals, what areas they like, etc. It can help to increase the chance of having a successful hunt.

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