Yes, natural food is scarce and whitetail deer are hungry and scavenging every bite they can find right now in late winter.
NO, you should not feed them. No corn, no apples, no hay, nothing.
“Congregation of deer is a way in which Chronic Wasting Disease is spread through nose to nose contact,” explains Ryan Brown, director of Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries. “We encourage the public not to feed deer, because the deer don’t need it in Virginia to survive, and number two, attracting deer to a particular feeding location simply ups the odds that the disease will be spread within the herd.”
CWD can be spread by disease prions that live in the soil for years.
“The prions can exist for many, many years and be picked up by deer who visit those locations where an infected deer has been,” Brown says, reiterating that people should never put out food and attract deer.
The Tufts Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University agrees and says in a statement:
Changes in diet caused by the introduction of rich, unnatural foods during this season can cause disruption in the microorganisms of the digestive system. Even hay can cause problems in a digestive tract that has geared down for the winter. Supplemental feeding of deer may actually decrease its chance of survival. Encouraging deer to congregate in unusually high numbers at a feeding area makes them more vulnerable to predators and at risk for the spread of disease. Feeding deer is very often done in proximity to paved roads. This practice can increase deer traffic to the area and increase deer-vehicle collisions.
For these reasons, many states have made feeding deer illegal.
Legal or not where you live, don’t do it.