So You Want To Feed Deer This Winter?

JEREMY FLINN
02/16/2016

The two biggest things you need to pay attention to when considering whether to supplemental feed deer during the winter is using the best type of feed for deer, and introducing the correct amount over a period of time.

March is quickly approaching and it is hardest time of year for whitetails. So what is going on right now that we should be concerned about? Every deer in the woods is struggling…bucks have lost up to 30% of their body weight during the rut and breeding season, does are pregnant right now, and fawns from this past spring are simply trying to survive their first winter. Bucks are looking for food sources rich in carbs and protein, to repair and recover their body condition, does are spending energy throughout their pregnancy as well as trying to get a head start before their fawns are born and lactation begins, and this year’s fawns being low on body reserves are just trying to get any meal they can come across.

The photoperiods in January and February have changed the whitetails metabolism and diet. Currently a deer’s intake will consist roughly 40% fat reserves, crop residues, and left over hard mass, but roughly 60% will come from woody browse where supplemental feeding is not already taking place. By dropping and hinge cutting small trees alone we put a lot of woody browse and natural forage on the ground, giving deer exactly what they need this time of year. But in some habitats and on some properties managers will consider supplemental feeding. This is not just putting out corn but actually introducing a supplemental feeding program, winter is not the ideal time to do this as there can be negative costs associated with feeding deer in the winter, but it can be done if desired and legal in your state.

The two biggest things you need to pay attention to when considering supplemental feeding in the winter is what type of feed you’re providing and the amount you are introducing it at the current time. In one of our past videos we talked about the concern over feeding corn in certain situations that end up killing deer by acidosis or grain overload….this is why it is important to provide the right type of food in the winter.

The best winter feed for deer

We are using record rack, a feed commonly found in Orchelans, tractor supply, rural king, bass pro Cabela’s whatever store may be close to you, other similar products are Purina, big and j attractants, whatever you find at the store you are looking for something close to this analysis…These pellets consist of 13%protein, 12%crude fat, 2-3%Calcium, 1% phosphorous, and 14% crude fiber, giving deer the main components of what their diet needs to consist of right now. In addition the feed offers several other nutrients and vitamins that help with digestion and body upkeep.  This type of feed simulates woody browse and is easily digestible because of the similarity and consistency of the feed. Deer might not have the required microbes to digest corn in the winter in certain areas but they will have the required microbes to eat this type of feed.

The right amount

Now the second concern of feeding during the winter is solved with this Moultrie deer feeder. The advantage of actually putting this feeder out is we can control the amount of feed coming out. The feeder lets us select when and at what amount we spread feed, allowing us to feed small amounts and spacing the times out, allowing us to introduce the feed slowly. Drawing this out over a slow period  or the required week to 3 weeks of microbe adjustment in a deer gut, is plenty time  to allows the deer microbes to better adjust to the diet virtual eliminating the already slim chance and risk of death.

Now once you start feeding its extremely important that you do not stop until at least spring green up, taking deer off the feed could be detrimental once you start, so don’t stop it is a commitment once started. Now once spring does arrive we can either stop feeding or change the type of feed to a higher percentage of protein for lactating does and antler growth in bucks. There are also tactics and strategies you can implement with feeders to get the most of the food source and your trail cameras on it. This includes pairing them with food plots, water, mineral and sodium attraction and security, to make the perfect micro hunting area.

When it comes to emergency deer food in the winter, habitat improvement is always an activity that offers long term solutions, supplemental feeding where legal can also offer a solution but several things need to be considered before starting a program in the winter. Evaluate your deer herd with a post season trail camera survey, look at your surrounding habitat and the browse pressure on it, and decide which solution is the right choice in your situation.

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