Price of Deer Corn Expected To Climb This Fall

By Steve Knight Outdoor Writer
If deer hunting wasn’t already expensive enough, the price of corn could be skyrocketing out of sight.
Considering Texas hunters buy an estimated 500 million pounds a year, a dollar or two difference in the price of a bag of corn can mean a significant amount of money.
The price has already gotten so high in recent years that some stores are trying to camouflage it by downsizing to 40-pound bags. The price per pound works out the same, but if you are only buying a couple bags at a time it doesn’t hurt as much.
Drought is the issue once again. Not in Texas, but then Texas only produces about 2 percent of the nation’s corn crop.
It is drought conditions in the Midwest that have created the worst corn production in 25 years, pushing corn prices to record highs. On Monday wholesale corn was selling for $8.13 a bushel or about 56 pounds. That is up 26 cents from the previous high set in 2011.
The climb is already beginning to impact grocery store prices, so it stands to reason that deer corn prices aren’t far behind.
“I would expect deer corn prices to increase right along with corn prices generally,” said Dr. Mark Welch, AgriLife Extension grains marketing economist, College Station.
While from September through December it may seem like deer corn is a major commodity, Welch said if deer hunters do indeed buy 500 million pounds a year that represents just 3½ percent of the corn production just in Texas.
If it seems like corn prices have increased tremendously in recent years, they have. Corn was selling for $1.86 a bushel in 2005. While there is debate, some blame the long-term run-up in price on ethanol. Despite the amount of corn production there is still a 4.9 billion bushel demand for corn for the fuel additive.
There are talks of reduction in the mandate, but experts argue a drop of two billion bushels would reduce corn prices either as little as 28 cents or as much as $2.
“Our price (for corn) at our Comanche facility is $461.10 a ton,” said Kent Mills, a nutritionist with Hi Pro Feeds out of Friona. “Grocery stores out here have been selling deer corn for $10.95 and $11. We have the potential to see it at $14 if this doesn’t change.”
At $461 a ton for bulk corn, deer corn is a $115 million market annually in Texas alone. It jumps when you consider the added cost of corn in a bag.
Mills said there are options, but they aren’t necessarily going to be cheap as increases in corn and soybeans are carrying other commodities up with them.
“Even our lowest priced deer feed is over $500 (a ton), so corn is still cheaper,” he explained.
Looking at other viable options, Mills said whole cotton seed should be over $400 a ton, and while slightly cheaper it doesn’t come in sacks and has to be fed from a trough or something other than a spin feeder.
Cull peas and beans are also a small segment of the game feed market, especially in portions of the state where quail exist. Unlike with corn, there isn’t a concern about peas being tainted with aflatoxin, a fungus that can be deadly to birds.
“We used to get split peas for $6 a hundredweight, but the human market would get $9 or $10 a hundred. If you can find splits, they are good. The problem is they are small pieces and a deer can pick up something only so small,” Mills said.
If there is a silver lining, and it appears only to be a small one, is that there is a good corn crop about to be harvested in the Hillsboro/Waco area. Unfortunately, it may not be big enough to offset what is happening to corn prices in the rest of the country.
“If someone is offering a real good price, be careful. There is something wrong with it or it has aflatoxin,” Mills said.
Mills said deer corn has become  as much a part of Texas hunting as rifle shells and deer blinds. Prices may go up, but corn isn’t going away.
“As we see corn prices increase and as the economy has put the pinch on the average hunter, we have seen them turn back the time on the spinner. The deer still come, but it takes longer to empty the cylinder,” he noted.