In some states, the use of bait in a hunting area is not allowed. In other states, you are allowed to hunt right over a bait pile. Check your local laws before placing bait in the field.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, I want to discuss some alternatives for trail camera baiting... I am lucky enough to live in a state that doesn't have baiting restrictions for deer hunting. I do make use of bait for deer in the vicinity of my scouting cameras. This increases the deer traffic, and increases the number of pictures I get. I typically use corn throughout the season in conjunction with a feeder, or just spread on the ground. I've noticed steadily increasing corn prices over the last few years. One nearby store sells corn for $10.00 per 50 pound bag. A less convenient place I frequent sells it for $7.50 per 50 pound bag. The use of a feeder helps the corn last longer, because the deer can't just camp out and feast all night.
So what are some lower cost alternatives for deer bait?
How about apples? I have a friend that has apple trees on his property. In the fall, he lets me come in and pick up all the apples that have hit the ground. While this is only an early season alternative, it is like candy for the deer and they will flock to it. This past fall, I collected a large number of apples. I double-bagged them in garbage bags, and froze several bags of them in my garage freezer. This allowed me to pull out a bag here and there throughout the late fall and winter to offer my deer a special treat.
I have a friend that uses horse feed pellets. I haven't tried it, but he says the deer seem to like it just as much as the corn, and it is priced half as much as corn at the local FeedersSupply stores. I think I'll be testing this next.
Agricultural / Feed Grade Salt blocks or Trace Mineral salt blocks work well and last a long time. These are typically used for cattle. The minerals in these salt blocks are good for antler development as well.
The Halite Salt or White Salt blocks work well too. White salt blocks are dirt cheap. These salt blocks tend to dissolve more quickly, but in my experience the deer seem to like them better and favor them over the trace mineral blocks. They aren't as good for the deer's antler development, but I use them because the deer like them.
There are some more expensive options that can be cost effective because they last longer. In this category I'd place products like Deer Cocaine and flavored lick blocks like apple corn mineral blocks and persimmon blocks.
This spring I'll be investigating planting some natural food plots. If I don't go overboard, I'm hoping that this will be a more cost effective solution to corn in the long run.