Quality Whitetail Deer Management Using Supplemental Feed

Quality whitetail deer management has not been around for very long, but lately has taken off throughout the country. Areas that come to mind include Florida, Kansas, Iowa, the meca of bow hunting the northeast and of course Texas. Deer management has been around since the beginning since anytime an animal is harvested, its impact will be reflected in the health of the herd. With recent introduction of “quality” to the program, one wonders what does that mean? The hunting community now realizes the power we possess while in the field. And, how we help or hurt the herd is determined every time we step into the woods. Quality deer management has as many variables as there are fish in the sea. I will discuss supplemental feeding using feeders in this article.

I hunt in Texas under a state sanctioned MLDP program (Managed Land Deer Permits). The state gives us extra privileges with the expectations we will conduct ourselves with the health of the herd in mind first. We have fun with the end result in mind. Our ranch, as with most in Texas, utilize deer feeders to help accomplish that goal.

During deer season we will feed a corn/protein mix. The corn provides a strong attractant so we can make solid judgments on the right deer to remove based on predetermined criteria. The corn also provides a carbohydrate replacement which is crucial in order for bucks to maintain a healthy physiological being while they push themselves during the demands of the rut. Hopefully, the deer go into the spring season in decent shape. The better shape they are in coming out of winter, the larger the antlers will be the next season. Once spring is upon us, it is time to start feeding protein.

I convert all my spincast feeders to free flow gravity tubes by removing the timer mechanisms and installing the gravity tubes. A product call a deer feeder helper makes this a breeze, taking only minutes to convert. The optimal way of feeding protein is to use the spincast feeder and ensuring the pellets are contained or delivered into a trough or feed tube, which keeps the pellets off the ground and from being destroyed by moisture.

Creating a housing (bucket) around your timer connected to a tube works well for this. Eliminating untargeted animals is also encouraged as there is no need to supplement the diets of raccoons or feral hogs. Feed pens and varmint guards are always a must. There are hundreds of different types of protein feeders out there. These are used solely for supplemental feeding and not normally hunted over. Usually placed in sanctuary type locations.

They can be quite large and require auger type loading to be efficient. Loading 4000 pounds one bag at a time can be very taxing and costly. Buying bulk is always considerably cheaper. Protein pellets come in many different types. I recommend shopping for an affordable 16%-20% brand containing extra minerals to help with antler growth. Some are water repellant which is beneficial if you chose to dispense on the ground.

Protein pellets will tend to clog in spincast feeders due to moisture swelling the pellets, however, this is not detrimental if you use a feeder helper as you can simply unlatch the feeder helper and remove any obstruction or clog. If you chose to spincast your protein pellets, you might consider feeding after dark. Deer are nocturnal by nature and this helps ensure the protein is eaten promptly and not left to be ruined by the elements. I believe this also helps the whitetail trophy bucks to claim this as his territory, which hopefully could prove fatal if you done your part at the range.

Of course, there are many different mediums to use trying to achieve a healthy deer herd such as food plots, prescribed burns, removing excessive cedars and mesquite, and adequate harvesting of the deer. A game biologist is always key for those eager to hear his/her opinion and advise.

I hope you find this information useful and informative.

Happy hunting. Chris Nicholes