Using bait to lure game is a practice as old as hunting itself. Because deer have such powerful senses of sight and smell, using an automatic feeder can be a crucial part of a successful hunt. While hunting is one of the most common uses for an automatic feeder, it is by no means the only reason to use one. A feeder can also play an important role in gardening and conservation. An automatic homemade feeder can be used for any of these applications, and is easy to construct.
A feeder helps deer become accustomed to returning to the same location, making it easier for the hunter to find them. Since venison's taste often reflects its diet, a feeder is a good way to help reduce the meat's "wild flavour," while also fattening the animal. The feeder's presence also helps the deer become acclimated to the smell and presence of human objects, increasing the hunter's odds of going undetected.
Although conservation efforts have led to increased deer populations in some regions, during a hard winter there may not be enough food for the entire population. Automatic feeders can help provide supplemental food during these times.
Anyone who has gardened in a rural setting probably lost portions of her garden to deer. An automatic feeder can be an effective and humane way to keep deer out of your garden. Place the feeder at least 100 yards away from the garden, to prevent the deer from migrating from the feeder to the garden.
A bucket feeder is an effective style of automatic feeder. Insert two screws into a broom handle, opposite each other, approximately 6 inches from one end. Drill a hole in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket, 1/4- to 1/2-inch larger than the broom handle's diameter. Insert the broom handle though the hole so the majority of its length dangles below the bucket. The screws in the other end prevent the handle from falling completely through. Pour grain or cracked corn into the bucket and replace the bucket's lid to keep the grain dry. Use a rope to hang the bucket from a tree limb so the broom handle hangs 4 or 5 feet off the ground. While small amounts of grain fall out automatically, deer will learn to bump the handle to cause more food to fall.