Outdoor Articles

Late Winter: Deer Move To Their Spring Home Ranges

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 25th, 2005 in Big Game Hunting

If you haven’t already started a nutrition program now is a good time to start.

Getting A Head Start On Nurtrition

If you want to increase the overall health of the deer in your area you should improve year round nutrition by providing food plots, adequate browse, supplemental feeding in the winter, and minerals. One of the best times to start thinking about deer health and nutrition is in mid-winter, because it gives you time to start planning for late winter and spring, which is when the deer are most stressed. If you haven’t already started a nutrition program now is a good time to start.

Late winter means a reduction in food sources for animals, while their nutrition needs increase. In northern climates cold weather, high wind chills, and damp weather cause heat loss in the animals. In order to maintain a high metabolism to keep warm deer have to burn calories, and they must either find carbohydrate and fat rich food, or utilize their own existing fat reserves. Walking through heavy snow and ranging long distances in search of foods in the winter also burns calories, which means the deer must find food to maintain fat reserves and body heat.

In order for the bucks to get a jump start on good antler growth they should come through the winter in good health. But, because they use up so much energy during the rut, and lose so much fat reserve during the winter, they come into the spring in poor shape, which hinders antler growth. To help the bucks grow better racks, and come through the winter in better shape, provide them with supplemental feeding. High carbohydrate foods like corn and soybeans are beneficial to both bucks and does in early winter. The protein content of the food at this time should be around 12 percent. As February comes around more protein in the form of pellets should be added to the deer feed. As natural food sources are depleted through the winter the protein content of the deer feed should be increased by about two percent each month until spring, when it should reach about 20 percent.

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Minerals

With the coming of spring, minerals are needed by both bucks and does as the bucks develop new racks and the does continue fetus growth. To adequately provide mineral for all the deer you should have one mineral lick for each forty acres of land. The licks should be placed in high use areas with adequate cover so that the animals readily find and use them. Minerals are most easily utilized by deer in granular form like Antler King, Rack and others. The minerals can be supplied on the ground in a sheltered area where they won’t be washed away, or in a covered bin.

Food Plots

Once spring arrives the deer will begin to seek out new green growth which you can supply through a food plot of fescue and clover. If you don’t have a food plot early April to early May is when you can start one by planting clovers, wildlife mixtures and agricultural crops (corn, soybeans) food plots. You can also plant pumpkins and squash, as long as you have a way to keep the deer out until you are ready to hunt. Many of the available wildlife mixtures contain three or more plant types that mature at different times of the year to provide nutrition from spring to winter; choose a brand that is designed for your area.

Water

There is one factor that contributes greatly to the growth of the buck’s rack that you can’t control, water. Available ground water, whether through rain, snow pack or irrigation is required for plant growth and the assimilation of vital nutrients for the plants. Too little rain means poor forage conditions for the animals, and poor growth conditions for racks. There isn’t much you can do about inadequate moisture in your area. You can provide more watering sources on your property by damning creeks and gullies to collect runoff water, and by digging wildlife ponds and wells. Make sure that existing or new water sources have sufficient and easy access for the game. Clean them out regularly to provide good water.

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