All across the country we’re seeing more and more interest in wildlife management on private properties, especially down here in South Texas. Today, we’re here at the G4 ranch, which is owned by Bernal Gates, just south of San Antonio.
One of the ways the ranchers try to help improve the wildlife quality on the ranch, especially the deer, is through the use of supplemental feeding and supplemental protein feeders certain times of the year. Whether there might not be adequate rainfall or the deer do not have access to a good quality source of vegetation or protein sources to maximize their genetic potential on their antlers, the habitat supplies the deer three things: food, cover, and shade. But the main thing it supplies is food. One of the reasons that ranchers use supplemental feeding program is sometimes this habitat doesn’t supply all the food that the deer need to maximize the genetic potential that they have and that’s why we see antler quality go down in a drought or in poor forage conditions. We also see sometimes poor fawn survival because the doe’s don’t give much milk.
Whenever the habitat is not supplying the nutrition that they need and so that’s the reason that many landowners, like Bernal Gates here, start a supplemental feeding program to kind of take up the slack so to speak when Mother Nature doesn’t supply all the nutrition that deer need. It’s a supplement and not a complete diet and so during times like this lush forged conditions deer eat very little feed and then in dry conditions they’ll eat a lot of feed but by doing that they’re able to maintain antler quality and maintain fawn production. Fawn survival, even in some pretty harsh climatic conditions, many times when people think about feeding deer, feeding wildlife, they think “Well, why shouldn’t I just, why can’t I feed just corn. Corn is kind of like candy for deer. They like it. They will always come and eat it.” But corn is low in protein and low in minerals.
If you’re interest is in increasing productivity, antler element, fawn production, things like that, then you need to feed them a well-balanced pellet like our AntlerMax Deer 20, which is what we recommend for most parts of the country, most seasons of the year. Another way that some people feed deer is with a deer block. It is much better than not doing anything or better than feeding just corn. But you need to remember that deer are cautious animals and so the main problem with getting maximum nutrition into deer using a block is that deer don’t spend enough time in one place to eat enough of it to do them the maximum amount of good. So, really to maximize productivity in a deer herd, if that is your goal, then the best way to do that is to feed pellets pretty much free choice, so that whenever the deer need them, they can come get them.
As we talk about a supplemental feeding program, it’s important to understand that just about anybody can reap the results of a program regardless of if you have ten acres or 10,000 acres. If you have native deer and you just want to see better animals, you can achieve that through food plots, through blocks or a mineral program or you can step it up to a supplemental feeding program with pellets free choice. It’s also important to understand that deer are fairly territorial normally. They’ll travel within a half a mile radius and if you’re providing food and cover they’ll normally stay within that
area. However, if you have small acreage and you’re worried about your neighbor reaping the benefits of your supplemental feeding program you may want to work together where you work as a cooperative and you can turn 20 acres suddenly into maybe 5,000 acres and have one program to produce the results that you’re looking for.