The Herald Bulletin

September 26, 2013

Rick Bramwell: Do deer really like apples?

By Rick Bramwell
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — Deer love apples, everybody knows that. In fact, some believe apple flavor to be tops for supplemental attractants.

One orchard owner begs to differ.

I was at the Apple Barn getting cider last week when Tom Tranbarger and I got on the subject of deer eating apples.

The Apple Barn is across the road from Pendleton State Prison property so it only seems natural the deer would take advantage of this sweet fruit on a moonlit night, but they don’t.

“A fellow down the road has penned deer. He took some of my cider pulp home. They wouldn’t touch it,” said Tranbarger. “In January and February, with snow on the ground, I will put out storage apples. The deer really eat them then, but there is little else.”

I once tossed a wild deer an apple while I was morel hunting. The young doe sniffed it and went about nibbling blackberry leaves.

Dave Schlaubaugh, who lives at the edge of Anderson city limits, has a buck come at dusk to eat apples beneath the tree in his yard. His wife even talks to the buck.

Roger Murdock has a feeding station for wildlife. He has been baiting with shelled corn and apples. “I saw a deer pick up an apple and eat it,” he told me.

I called DNR biologists Ken Hanour to enlighten me. He pointed out that in states where hunters are allowed to bait deer, apples and turnips are favored. Hanour believes deer have quite a varied diet. They like white oak acorns, persimmons, soybeans, field corn and a lot of things green.

What is accurate? Perhaps some deer do and some deer don’t. There could be another reason. I took Transbarger some apples out of a woods for identification. It was difficult to ID them because, according to the orchard man, diseased and wormy apples or those that get bruised ripen differently and maybe deer like that slightly rotten taste. Untreated and unpruned apples are much smaller than those beauties found at the Apple Barn.

I wondered if it could be the fruit tree spray. Tranbarger doesn’t think so because the applications get washed off when it rains and is not used late in the growing season. All the apples are washed before being sold or made into cider and that would include the ones being put out in late winter for the deer.

Last Saturday evening I saw a doe and her fawn cross into a woods. This 10-acre thicket is loaded with apple trees with most of the fruit on the ground. I was sure they were headed for the apples.

Perhaps, the answer could be found under those old apple trees? On a trek through the woods it was obviously too dry for deer to make tracks. Apples lay everywhere, yet I did not see deer droppings or apples with a bite taken out of them.

Were they coming from miles for this treat? It didn’t seem so.

I could use input from you readers on this one. What do you think? Email me at