Post Winter Feeding Critical To Sustain Whitetails
By Mike Lambeth
In most regions of the United States, this past winter will be recorded as one of the harshest on record. Record snowfall blanketed most of the country causing many global warming theorists to rethink their positions. No doubt this winter was probably the last for some deer, and many will unfortunately succumb to its deadly effects after having dodged arrows and bullets for several seasons.
Truly, this is a critical juncture for supplemental feeding. Many whitetails face critical nutritional needs. In most areas, bucks have shed their antlers and will begin growing their fall headgear in the next few months. Proper nutrition is paramount now, to guarantee that the bucks in your area have the necessary vitamins and minerals necessary to grow their best antlers.
Is Spring Feeding Necessary?
During any discussion of feeding whitetails, most hunters believe that corn feeders or “bait piles” are a cure all for a whitetail’s woes. Though corn is probably the most widely used food by some wildlife managers, the benefits of these high-energy, carbohydrate infused, nuggets does not meet the entire nutritional needs of whitetails from December until May.
Corn does provide deer with energy for short periods of time and heightens their ability to stay warm in harsh weather, but their bodies receive minimal nutritional benefits. So while deer can be “programmed” to come to corn feeders daily, their bodies are better served by consuming wheat, oats, acorns, alfalfa, soybeans, natural grasses, and a variety of clovers.
Spring feeding is paramount for the health of a deer herd. It’s true: Deer are survivors and have an uncanny ability of flourishing in the toughest of conditions. However, after the rut and during a hard winter with substantial snow cover, both bucks and does face a nutritional crisis in their lives. Both sexes have diminished body weights and require good nutrition to rebuild their weakened immune systems.
Terry Knight of Lifetime Hunts in Macon, MS, believes that supplemental feeding plays a huge role in replenishing his herd’s vitality. Knight manages the hunting operation there that spans 10,000 continuous acres of some of Mississippi’s finest hunting land. With over 40 food plots strategically placed on the vast pine strewn plantation, this savvy wildlife manager has learned that food plots alone won’t don’t do the job, so he relies on supplemental feeding.
To accomplish this task Knight employs eight feed stations, where he estimates he feeds several tons of a protein mix. The mixture consists of soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, alfalfa, along with a host of antler building minerals, providing 18 percent of crude protein. The quality of the bucks on the hunting lodge’s property has dramatically improved since they began using the scientifically formulated Moultrie nutritional products.
Last spring, Knight began using Moultrie’s M1 Trophy Maker Spring mix
and has noticed impressive results. “It is my goal that the deer at Lifetime Hunts achieve their maximum potential,” he said. “The deer here really like the sweet berry-scented ground mineral.”
“Most hunters stop feeding deer when deer season starts,” Knight opined. “It is critical to continue feeding year round, in fact, from February until May supplemental feeding is something that you can’t afford to overlook.”
The Benefits of Spring Feeding
Some bucks and does emerge from the winter in an emaciated state, having lost critical body mass. To regain their muscular physiques and to recover from the difficult winter months, they must feed on the right foods and minerals immediately. This allows deer to go into spring and summer with healthy boosted immune systems, capable of helping them fight against a number of potential disease threats.
During the summer months, deer are susceptible to a host of deer diseases that are spread by mosquitoes, flies, and midges. Unhealthy or weakened deer are more susceptible to these herd thinning plagues, and this past decade has brought this malady to light.
Does that are supplementally fed, will have a healthier gestation period and produce healthier fawns with stronger immune systems. Boosted immunities are passed on during lactation periods. Therefore, you can see the overall benefits of supplemental feeding - especially in late summer. Buck fawns sport better antlers during their first racks and have increased potential for better growth in later antler production.
Supplemental feeding may seem like an expensive proposition, but it is one luxury that deer hunters really can’t afford to overlook.