Nova Scotia

Millions of pounds of 'deer carrots' help Nova Scotia hunters

Deer carrots — collected from the 20 per cent of carrots that do not meet grocery store chain standards — are increasingly popular among Nova Scotia’s roughly 37,000 deer hunters, many of whom use the vegetable to bait their targets.

Hunter says baiting targets allows for a 'clean, ethical shot'

Deer carrots are culled from the carrot harvest because they don't meet supermarket chain standards for produce. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Millions of pounds of carrots feed hungry mouths in Nova Scotia each year — but those mouths aren't always human.

Deer carrots — collected from the 20 per cent of carrots that do not meet grocery store chain standards — are increasingly popular among Nova Scotia's roughly 37,000 deer hunters, many of whom use the vegetable to bait their targets.

But while the carrots are popular among hunters, Feed Nova Scotia says fresh produce, including carrots, are in high demand among their own clients. 

'Clean, ethical shot'

Ian Avery, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, told CBC's Information Morning many hunters use carrots to lure deer, allowing them to shoot the animals at close range.

"It allows the hunter to be more relaxed and basically to wait for a clean, ethical shot," he said. "It's within 35 or 40 yards."

Avery said by using carrots as bait, hunters can also be more selective with the animals they shoot.

"If you're trophy hunting looking for a larger buck, you can actually let the little ones come in, feed, and they will leave, and you just have to wait out the deer that you want."

Imperfect produce

Greg Pothier, who owns Carl's Store in Tusket, N.S., sells a 23-kilogram bag of deer carrots for $8. This year, he says he thinks he's going to sell at least a thousand bags.

"I have some [hunters] that will come pick up 20, 30 bags at a time," he said.

Pothier gets his carrots from Andrew Wallace, an apple farmer in Yarmouth County who imports the carrots from Prince Edward Island. 

Last year, Wallace sold one million pounds of deer carrots. They're the same kind of carrot that you'd find in the grocery store. They come from the same field as grocery store carrots, and they're safe for human consumption.

But so-called deer carrots are culls or seconds. They don't meet grocery store standards because they're crooked, broken, or not the ideal length and width. Most carrots sold in grocery stores must be 1.9 centimetres in diameter, and 17 to 20 centimetres long.

Nova Scotia hunters use millions of pounds of imperfect carrots and apples as bait for deer. (Kerry Muise )

'Never have too many' 

Karen Theriault, director of development and communications at Feed Nova Scotia, would like farmers who have cull carrots to consider donating them to a food bank. 

She wants to get the word out about a relatively new tax credit, where farmers who donate surplus or misshapen produce to Feed Nova Scotia or a local food bank can receive a tax credit for 25 per cent of the donation's market value. 

Theriault says the donations make a difference.

"We are really pleased to see more produce being donated this fall than last fall, and we're hoping that's going to continue," she said.

"Carrots are a great product for us to be able to distribute to our food banks and shelters across the province, because they have such a long shelf life."

With files from Phlis McGregor