Converting CRP Land To Cornfields Hurts Deer

Terry T. from Kentucky writes to ask about corn and soybeans. “I know that deer love corn and soybeans, and agricultural states that plant such crops seem to have an abundance of healthy, big deer. Thus, since we are planting more and more of these crops for use in ethanol, food and exportation, won’t we see more big deer in those areas?”

Dr. Dave Samuel

Terry, my short answer is “probably not.” I’m one of those guys who thinks that ethanol from corn is bad for wildlife (including deer) and here’s why. While deer do eat corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc., they can only eat so much. A cornfield is not the best deer habitat.

The Conservation Reserve Program paid farmers not to farm certain acres and this program was super at creating great wildlife habitat. Thus, you had farm crop fields, plus millions of acres of CRP fields that were great for deer, ducks and other wildlife. But today we have new subsidies for farmers that pay them to plant more corn. To do that, they do two things. First, they let the CRP subsidies go, and now plant crops on what were formerly CRP fields. Second, they remove timber along streams and rivers, to create more farm fields, to plant more corn. These two things cause us to lose millions of acres of prime wildlife habitat, and all in the name of ethanol. It’s a bad idea — bad for deer and terrible for ducks and other wildlife. 

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, manager of Guide Outdoors & Social Content at to Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.

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