Fall is a prime time to begin a Supplemental Deer Feeding Program. A buck can have the best genetics in the world, but without the proper nutrition, he’ll never achieve his potential. One way to stack the deck in his favor is to aid in his nutrition.
Before we talk about how to initiate a supplemental feeding program, let’s evaluate the big picture. The main goal is to produce healthy, much larger bucks with massive antlers. Seems easy enough… but where to start?
There are some big obstacles to achieve that goal. Once you evaluate the hurdles you can initiate a plan of action.
- Lack of high-quality forage in fall and winter.
- Stressors due to changing weather. In fall, deer are heading into a natural period of low metabolism and poor appetite. During the rut, a buck may spend only 20 to 30 minutes per day eating.
- Burned calories during the rut will greatly deplete any existing stockpiles of nutrients.
Antler growth is low on the priority list of functions required to sustain life, so next spring, antlers will receive “what’s left” of nutrients after life-sustaining needs have been met. Deer will not begin growing antlers until they’ve regained body condition.
- Nutritional deficiencies early in life can stunt a buck’s growth and antler size for the rest of his life, even if he seems well fed as an adult.
Now that we’ve established the need for a supplemental nutrition program, now is the time to get started. Here are a few basic steps:
- Provide the essentials. Deer need three basic things to survive and thrive—food, water, and shelter. If any of the three critical factors is insufficient, deer will go elsewhere.
- Place your feeders along frequently used runways or trails. A good rule of thumb is one feeder per 300-400 acres.
- Make sure your feeding area has good visibility, access to fresh, clean water and an easy escape route to nearby cover. Do not place feeders along fence lines, roads, power lines or in a large opening.
- Choose the right diet. AntlerMax Rut & Conditioning Deer Chow is the ideal conditioning diet to set the stage for big antler growth next spring. It has a highly palatable, strong flavor to attract deer and AntlerMax Deer & Elk Mineral supplement for strong, dense antler growth.
- Deer do not like abrupt changes in feed, so make them gradually. Once deer are accustomed to eating protein pellets from a feeder, gradually phase out the corn.
- Be sure to wear gloves when handling the feeder and feed. Human scent can repel deer.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Once you’ve spent all this effort to attract deer to a feeding area, NEVER hunt near the feeding area.
Don’t get discouraged. It won’t happen overnight. In fact, the better the forage conditions, the tougher it is to get deer to start eating pellets. But fall is a prime opportunity! Talk to your Purina dealer or visit www.wildlife.purinamills.com for more information tailored to your geographic region.