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Do Deer Eat Pumpkin

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Headlights are one of the many things that attract the attention of deer, as we all know, but more likely they can be found grazing placidly in fields. Deer are ruminant mammals, like cows and sheep, and therefore are heavy browsers. They feed mainly on vegetation, including grasses, shrubs, sedges, and sometimes, lichen.

Are there other things deer will eat? Will they eat your pumpkin patch, or your intricately carved Halloween decorations?

Deer will definitely eat pumpkin. They eat both pumpkin plants and pumpkin fruits. They tend to prefer eating the plants in the summer and the fruits in the fall.

Red deer in its natural habitat

When it comes to consuming the pumpkins, deer prefer eating the flesh over other parts. Hence, they are more likely to eat a smashed pumpkin than an intact one.

In this article, you will find useful information about both deer and pumpkins, and how you can manage deer around your pumpkins. So, stick around and see.

What are Pumpkins?

When the leaves turn brown, and you catch the first chill in the air, you know for sure it’s pumpkin season.

Pumpkins are large, roundish, slightly ribbed, tough, and nutritious orange fruits. They belong to the winter squash family, and you might have met them spookily carved into jack-o-lanterns when you went trick-or-treating.

Pumpkins are commonly grown for livestock feed and scary Halloween decorations. Beyond these uses, pumpkins are quite healthy and offer some benefits when consumed by humans and animals alike.

a lot of multicolor pumpkins

Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin

Not only do pumpkins make a great treat for both humans and deer, but they also offer multiple nutrients. They are a significant source of potassium, fiber, vitamins, minerals, as well as antioxidants.

Fiber Content

Pumpkin is known to be a healthy source of dietary fiber. Fiber aids digestion and provides relief for anal gland irritation in animals.

Vitamin C

Vitamins are important nutrients required by both humans and deer, and pumpkin contains some vitamins, most notably, vitamin C.

Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of body tissues. Also, vitamin C has been shown to increase white blood cell production and strengthens the immune system.

High Source of Fat

Deer need fats to insulate them during the winter months. Pumpkin contains an adequate amount of fat that deer need to survive throughout winter.


Pumpkin is an excellent source of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants protect tissue cells against damage by free radicals.

Do Deer Like to Eat pumpkin?

Yes, deer love pumpkins.

Pumpkins are one of a deer’s favorite forages. Deer eat various parts of a pumpkin, including the pulp, seeds, and even the leaves of the unripe plants.

You’ll find that in the summertime, their preference tilts towards the plants. But when fall comes, they long for pumpkin seeds and innards instead.

Baby deer eats a pumpkin in a feeder in winter

Although they love pumpkins, you should know that pumpkins are not the first choice of treats for deer.

Since a pumpkin’s outer skin can be hard, you should smash a pumpkin before offering it to deer. This makes munching on the insides easier for them.

Tips for Using Pumpkin to Attract Deer

While homeowners generally do not want deer grazing on their landscapes, others want to attract deer for hunting purposes.

If you wish to attract deer to your land, pumpkins might just do the trick for you.

Deer adore the flowers and the scent of pumpkin plant leaves, and this is usually enough to attract them to pumpkin patches during summer.

You need not dispose of your leftover pumpkins after the Halloween period. You can use the spent jack-o-lanterns to attract deer.

How, you ask? Well, follow these steps:

  • Smash open the pumpkins so the deer can easily feed on it.
  • Dump and spread the smashed pumpkins in an open area like your garden or forest where the deer commonly graze.
  • Sit back and watch as the deer keep coming back for another treat.

Also, note that fences can deter deer from grazing in your garden. Remove physical barriers so that the deer can comfortably move around after the garden has died down for the year.

Pumpkin Deer Bait Ideas

If you are thinking of ways to bait a deer, pumpkins might just be your best bet.

In order to lure deer for hunting or to generate trail camera photos, you need to understand their movements, the most commonly grazed areas, and the frequency of grazing.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is placing the bait in the wrong location. As easy as the deer bait is, it is hard to force a deer to graze where they do not want to.

Deer in autumn forest

Place the pumpkin bait near a known bedding area. This reduces the time it takes the deer to move from their resting area to the feeding location.

For hunting purposes, chop the pumpkins into chunks and leave them out on the bait site for the deer.

The position should be such that it places the bait site between your stand and the deer’s bedding areas. Again, verify the direction the deer typically move from to reach your bait.

Getting trail camera photos is easier when compared to hunting the deer. Once you have the small pieces of pumpkins spread out on the baiting site, you will get a long duration of grazing activity since the deer will spend 3-5 minutes grazing on the site.

Tips for Keeping Deer out of Your Pumpkin Garden

If you own a pumpkin garden close to an area with many deer, you may have experienced the struggle to keep them out of your garden.

Deer love vegetables, with fruits such as pumpkins being one of their favorites. They will ruinthe garden, feeding on leaves and flowers, eating all you spent months cultivating.

The good news is there are measures you can take to prevent this from happening. The following tips can help you keep your pumpkins safer from hungry deer.

Build a Fence                                          

You can build a fence around the entire pumpkin garden. The experts at the West Virginia University say deer might try to go beneath or around a fence before leaping over it. For that reason, an electric fence will do a better job keeping the deer away.

three dears in the field

The fence should be built such that the horizontal wires are spaced at 10, 20, and 30 inches away from the ground.

Plant Marigolds or Lavender

This is one of the safest methods to keep deer out of your pumpkin garden. Deer dislike the scent of marigolds. So, all you have to do is plant marigolds around the borderline of your pumpkin garden.

Deer Repellents

No one loves the taste of unpleasant foods, not even deer. Repellents give the plants an unpleasant taste and smell. Apply the repellent spray after rainfall to keep the deer away from your garden.

Use a Net

This is a cheaper method compared to constructing a fence. Cover the pumpkin garden with a tree net. You can also use this method in conjunction with any of the other methods.

Other Types of Squash Deer Enjoy

Besides pumpkins, you will find that deer browse on gardens that contain other squashes, including the following:

  • Straightneck squash
  • Pattypan
  • Butternut
  • Banana squash
  • Cushaw squash


Deer love to eat pumpkin – be it the fruit or the plant. This can be good news for you and them because you no longer have to let your pumpkin leftovers go to waste. Also, if you love having deer around your property, you will have better luck attracting them if you have pumpkin around.


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