A Need for Feed

Wildlife feeders fill floor space and create important foot traffic.

A Need for Feed

Photo from Moultrie 

Locating, attracting and nurturing wildlife play key roles in your customers’ enjoyment of the outdoors. Deciding which feeders to stock is key to doing the same for your customer relationships as well.

As whitetail populations have continued to expand nationwide, laws restricting the hunting of deer over bait have been relaxed correspondingly. While this certainly is not the only reason customers buy feeders, it’s a significant and swiftly-growing portion of the market. This growth has accelerated innovation in the game feeder world, opening new and exciting possibilities. Today the feeder market is more varied and competitive than ever before. Deciding which feeders to stock means recognizing what balance among form, function, quality and price your own customers prefer. 

The choice takes into account:

• Size and capacity

• Setup

• Functional style (spin cast or gravity)

• Quality

• Price

Price is determined by the considerations that come before it, but arriving at which feeder to buy is not determined by price tag alone.

First Things First

Most feeders are used to distribute plain corn or corn mixed with other attractants. Corn is heavy. A bag that weighs 50 pounds sitting in the back of a truck will feel considerably heavier as it’s being awkwardly held overhead and poured into a feeder. No matter what other considerations come into play, it’s safe to assume customers will want to fill their feeders as infrequently as possible, but the size of the feeder must be balanced with the customer’s budget. Besides price, why would someone want a feeder with a smaller capacity?

• Ease of setup and maneuverability

• Ease of transport

A feeder bound for a pasture can be any size at all, while a feeder bound for a hollow far back in the woods might need to ride there on an ATV. It might need to travel a steep, narrow trail that winds past brush and between trees. It might be used in a place that does not offer room for a large piece of equipment, and the customer might intend to handle setup and refilling all alone.

As it is used, the customer might also plan to move the feeder around from time to time — either relocating it entirely from one spot to another, or moving it just far enough to put fresh ground beneath it. As a feeder is used by deer and other wildlife, the ground beneath it commonly becomes a muddy mess thanks to hoof traffic alone. Moving the feeder a few yards one way or another every few weeks is a simple, handy solution, but large feeders are heavy even when they’re empty. When it comes time to pick up and move, the smaller the better.

Some Assembly Required

Beyond attaching the legs and standing it upright, each step of assembly required to get a feeder up and running is a hassle customers won’t welcome. Therefore, fewer parts to manipulate will always be better. 

Gravity-fed feeders generally have no moving parts, which makes their assembly a snap. Spin-cast feeders have motorized parts to attach using simple tools that may or may not be included. Further, spin-cast feeders are powered by batteries. Some models call for disposable batteries, while others use a larger, rechargeable battery included with the feeder.

Stocking batteries for feeders is always a good idea, especially if the feeders you choose to carry require a special rechargeable version. Even with one battery included in the initial purchase, most users will prefer to keep a spare battery charged and change them out, rather than leave a feeder dormant while its one battery is charged back at home.

To Spin or Not to Spin

Beyond selecting the largest feeder practical for their budget and application, customers must next choose between spin-cast and gravity-fed models, each of which has attributes unique to its style.

Spin feeders are generally more versatile than gravity-fed models. The number and duration of their feeding cycles are user-programmable. This lets the user better protect the feed from pests and the elements. It also allows the user to encourage deer and other wildlife to visit during daylight hours.

Wildlife using a spin feeder can only eat what has been dispensed, which can make the feeder’s contents last a lot longer. It also lets the user better time visits to refill the feed, since a little use will soon demonstrate how many feeding cycles are required to empty the reservoir. 

Spin-cast feeders can also be set to throw feed in a specific direction as opposed to 360 degrees. Feeders might sometimes be placed in spots where feed thrown in every direction would scatter some of it into places deer won’t readily use. Directional feeders are ideal for field corners and other places with limited open areas. They’re also ideal for feeding fish, throwing feed only into the lake or pond while resting in a spot that’s easily accessed.

Gravity feeders, while less versatile, have several advantages of their own, the first being simplicity. Gravity feeders have no moving parts and require no batteries. The wildlife that use them are free to eat as much as they want, whenever they want it, maximizing the potential herd nutrition, promoting the growth of antlers and production of milk.

Top-quality gravity-fed models are engineered to be easily accessible to deer while remaining difficult for raccoons and other varmints to abuse. The location and angles of their dispensing pipes work to make robbing the feeder difficult for small, unwanted guests.

Keeping Pests Out

Discouraging unwanted animals from bellying up to the bar is a challenge every feeder customer will face. 

Spin-cast feeders dispense only so much feed at a time, giving the deer and turkeys a reasonable shot at eating it before the raccoons come along. These feeders can also be equipped with cages and guards that prevent raccoons and other varmints from turning the elements of the spin-cast motor by paw to serve themselves.

Since deer are invited to feed directly from the end of the dispensing pipes, gravity-fed feeders can’t use varmint countermeasures like these. By engineering their feeders’ outer surfaces to be smooth and strategically angled, the makers of gravity-fed feeders go a long way toward discouraging unwanted pests from making away with too much feed.

Varmints also come into consideration when deciding whether to stock what goes into a feeder. Liquid and powdered attractants meant to be mixed into corn or other grain are a great addition to anyone’s offerings. Stocking corn itself during the busiest hunting months of the year can also be fruitful, but store owners should be aware of the added pest control measures that may be necessary. The corn that will draw deer to your customers’ feeders can draw rats into your store.

What Else to Stock

Feeders bring considerable traffic to any hunting retailer’s store, both on their own account and for a number of products customers use with them.

Related products to consider include:

• Corn

• Protein pellets and cubes

• Liquid and powdered attractants

• Game cameras and mounting options

• Batteries

Any retail floor display of feeders would be well-complemented by an associated selection of all of the above.


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