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Whether it’s hunting season or not, today may be the day to start attracting deer to your property.
In fact, depending on your local laws, it’s a bad idea to (get caught as you) feed deer on your property!
But deer feeding adds a lot of extra expense to your already-limited hunting budget.
The solution may come in the form of a homemade deer feeder.
Why fork out for an expensive deer feeder when you can save that money on more essential hunting gear?
And how do you build one yourself, anyway?
Why Make a DIY Deer Feeder?
The goal isn’t to make the deer so fat they can’t wander away, but rather to get them used to visiting an area you can easily hunt.
Put up a game camera (or save money by scouting in person) and you’ll be able to learn when they come by!
Also, supplementing your local buck’s nutrition can help them grow larger antlers!
However, there are several reasons why you may want to make your own deer feeder.
The primary reason is expense.
Chances are good that you’ll be able to make your own deer feeder cheaper than one you have to buy, especially once you take gas or shipping fees into account.
Why not save money and get a bigger feeder capacity by building your own? You’re already building your own deer blind, right?
A deer feeder can be as simple (or complicated!) as you want. Gravity does most of the work!
Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of making an effective tool with your own hands.
Homemade Deer Feeder Plans
Here are five different ways to make a deer feeder. I’ve ordered them by expense, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
5 Gallon Bucket Deer Feeder
If you’re like me, you have a few 5-gallon buckets banging around your garage, collecting nothing but dust.
Why not turn one into a deer feeder?
The way this feeder works is simple.
There’s a hole in the bucket’s bottom which is covered by a washer. That washer is connected to a large, light object.
When that object is bumped (such as by a deer) then the washer is moved out of the way and some feed falls to the ground!
- 5 gallon bucket
- The bucket’s lid
- 36″ long 1/4-20 threaded rod
- 5x 1/4″ washers
- 2″ washer
- Six 1/4″ nuts
- 1″x2″ lumber, at least 15″ long
- Metal coffee can
- Drill a 1″ wide hole in the bottom of the bucket
- Cut the wood to fit inside the bottom of the bucket, slightly longer than 10″ long, and cut two 2″ sections off the rest of the wood
- Drill a hole in the center of the wood a bit wider than the threaded rod (this will be the pivot point so it needs to be able to swing slightly)
- Nail or screw the 2″ sections vertically to the horizontal 10″ section to form a bridge
- Drill a 1/4″ hole into the coffee can or similar object
- Assemble the hole blocking portion by threading onto the middle of the rod one nut, one 1/4″ washer, the 2″ washer, another 1/4″ washer, and then two nuts
- Use a nut and washer on either end of the can to attach it to the bottom of the rod
- Set the bridge into the feeder then insert the rod up through the both holes and attach it with a nut and a washer
- Adjust the 2″ washer up and down until it’s an inch or so below the bucket hole
- Tie the feeder to a tree so the can so deer find the can easy to bonk
- Fill it up with some deer feed
- Adjust the 2″ washer height so each nudge allows some feed to drop but doesn’t cause a cascade
- Enjoy your homemade deer feeder!
Poor Man’s PVC Feeder
The 5-gallon bucket feeder is fine and all but it’s a little bit complicated.
How about a simpler, but little more expensive, PVC feeder?
First of all, you need to choose if you want to make this out of 4″ or 6″ PVC. Smaller is cheaper but holds less feed.
- 10′ section of PVC
- 2x pipe caps
- 45-degree Y coupler
- Camouflage spray paint
- PVC cement (optional)
- Optional: Cut the 10′ section down to a more manageable size, such as 6′ (this will cut into the feeder’s capacity)
- Cut a 4″ section off the long PVC (or from the discarded section) for later
- Drill drainage holes in one of the caps
- For a more permanent assembly, cement all connections except the top cap
- Attach the Y coupler to the bottom long pipe so the other top of the Y faces up and the bottom of the Y faces down
- Attach the 4″ section to the bottom of the Y and stick the hole-y cap to the very bottom
- Spray paint the feeder and the other cap in your favorite camo pattern (such as blobby brown and green)
- Attach the PVC feeder to a tree so the open end of the Y coupler is facing up, near the ground, by using your favorite tree-friendly attachment method, such as large zip ties or a rope
- Fill ‘er up and put the non-drilled cap on top to keep out water!
- The hardest step is to not forget where you’ve put this feeder!
55 Gallon Gravity Feeder
PVC tubes and 5-gallon buckets can only hold so much feed.
What if you want to feed the deer without having to refill the feeder frequently?
This is an economical option if you already have a 55-gallon drum. Smaller drums will work as well, though.
Gravity pulls the feed from the drum into a tray.
Most people use 4 trays, but you can use more or less if you want.
- Large drum with lid
- Concrete blocks, wood, or PVC pipe to build a platform
- 2″ PVC elbow joints
- 12″ drywall mud pans or similar trough-like trays
- PVC cement (optional)
- Screws or bolts
- Rope or ratchet strap
- Drill 2″ holes in the side of the drum, near the bottom
- Drill 2″ holes in the middle of the side of the trays
- Trim the PVC joints so they don’t stick up too high inside the drum and shove the PVC elbow joints through the hole
- Stick the troughs onto the end of the PVC pipe
- Cement everything if you want
- Screw the trays into the drum next to the pipe (or use bolts if you want to be fancy)
- Assemble a platform so the bottom of the drum is 2′ above the ground
- Place the drum onto the platform and hold it onto the platform with rope or a ratchet strap
- Fill the drum up with a hundred pounds of feed and leave it be for a long time!
What if you don’t necessarily want to drip the feed to the deer or you live someplace where gravity doesn’t apply?
Well, that’s unlikely.
Still, you may prefer building a feeding trough instead.
This style of deer feeder is a large basin full of food, lifted from the ground and protected from the rain with corrugated metal roofing.
This does require a modicum of carpentry skill, though.
- 55-gallon drum with lid
- 3x 4″x4″x8′ treated lumber
- Several 2’x4′ boards
- Corrugated roof panels
- 1/4″ bolts with washers
- Cut that drum in half or use a trough-like huge tray you already have
- Use your carpentry skills to create a 6-foot tall frame with a crossbeam 1-1/2′ from the ground and another crossbeam at the top using the 4’x4’s
- These crossbeams should be just wide enough for the drum to fit between the posts
- Use the 2’x’4’s to add diagonal legs to the posts under the crossbeam and to create a roof frame
- Attach the corrugated metal to the roof part of the frame to keep water away
- Bolt the half drum open-side up to the crossbeam and posts
- Now, take it into the woods, put it where you want to attract the deer, and fill it full of deer food!
Automatic Tripod Feeder
But what if you want to dispense feed at a certain time of day rather than “whenever” or “anytime the deer want it”?
Then you’ll need an automatic feeder, which ups expense a bit.
But it still won’t be as expensive as a store-bought deer feeder!
- 30-gallon or 55-gallon drum
- Automatic motorized deer feeder
- Power source (solar preferred)
- Funnel as wide as your drum
- 3x 1/4″ coupler pins
- 6x 1/4″ bolts and washers
- 3x 1′ aluminum tubes
- 3x 4′ aluminum tubes thin enough to fit inside the other aluminum tubes
- Drill a hole in the bottom of the drum wide enough for your chosen automated feeder
- Flatten half of each 12″ aluminum tube and bend to a 30 or 45-degree angle
- Drill two holes in the flat part for bolts and drill a hole in the round area for the coupler pin
- Insert the longer, thinner aluminum tubes, mark the area under the holes, and drill the marks out so the coupler pins hold the legs in place without bearing the stress
- Take the legs out for now
- Drill holes in the drum to match the aluminum bolt holes then mount the flattened aluminum with the round portion facing down
- Follow your motorized feeder’s instructions for mounting to the bottom of the drum
- Insert the funnel so all of the feed will go to the feeder
- Plug in the power supply (if needed) and test to make sure the automated feeder works
- Head to your hunting spot
- Insert the legs, coupler pins, feed, and then put on the lid
- Let the deer nom their food!
All of the deer feeder styles above will be effective at attracting deer to wherever you put the feeder.
Which one you should use is mostly a matter of personal preference, though you should keep in mind your budget and handyman skills.
Make sure to follow all local laws when setting up your deer feeder, and enjoy the easier hunting!
Are Deer Feeders Legal?
Deer feeder legality depends on the state.
Delaware lets you feed deer at any time, even as you hunt.
Some states allow you to attract deer during most of the year but don’t allow you to leave the feeder out when you’re hunting.
Some states, like Alaska, don’t allow you to place any deer attractant whatsoever, whensoever.
You’ll have to find your local laws from your local hunting authority.
Which Food Should I Use to Attract Deer?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple one-food-fits-all solution for deer feeding.
That’s because a deer’s diet changes from season to season and location to location. Feeding them lots of corn when their stomachs aren’t used to corn can cause acidosis, or corn toxicity!
The best advice is to seek out your local hunting authority (Fish & Game, Department of Natural Resources, etc) and learn from them which food they recommend.
Generally, you want to give deer nutrition, not just calories, so shoving shucked corn down their throats is rarely the right thing to do.