The benefits of using food plots and feeders is year-round nutrition for the deer herd.
As land managers, we need to take advantage of every tool at our disposal to ensure the deer on our property are healthy. That means providing them with nutrients through quality food, managing the habitat to provide cover and ensuring they get hydration during the summer. Those crucial steps will benefit you and the deer for years to come.
However, the aforementioned management practices aren’t always so easily implemented. There can be issues with soil quality, drought or other forces of nature that put a wrinkle in our best laid plans. If you rely only on food plots, a hiccup in the weather can leave you with a lot of dead plants. That’s why versatility is an important asset for a hunter, especially when it comes to managing the herd. Using feeders in conjunction with a food plot is a fail safe, of sorts, in case your plants die or get eaten too quickly. It also provides another quality source of protein that produces healthier deer when your food plots can’t.
Benefit of Food Plots
Deer eat a lot. In fact, they need about seven pounds of food per day. In the summer months, 16 percent of their diet should be protein and it’s hard to come by natural browse that’ll fulfill those demanding nutritional needs. A food plot easily fills in those gaps. Deer are ungulates, which means their instinct is to browse. Food plots enable them to do so, and they’ll quickly start using them.
Perennial plants last multiple years and are the best bet for a food plot. Cool-season legumes like clover, chicory and alfalfa offer plenty of protein and are popular choices among hunters. Many will plant companion crops like cereal grains that include oats, winter wheat and rye. These plants will help to control weeds and provide shade for the cool-season legumes. Warm-season annuals include lablab, peas, corn and buckwheat, and those will die off in the winter, but they’re fast-growing and are excellent sources of protein.
The right amount of nutrients in a does’ diet aids in a healthy pregnancy and helps with lactation. Fawns grow strong. Bucks have all they need to develop their antlers. The entire herd benefits as they head into the winter.
Benefit of Feeders
While there is debate over baiting where legal, the value of providing supplemental nutrition to deer cannot be understated. Food plots aren’t always so reliable. In fact, most of them are decimated by hungry deer, die or go dormant with winter. Then, deer are left with natural food sources, which quickly become depleted. Late-winter can be a highly stressful period for whitetails, especially with prolonged periods of inclement winter weather.
A general rule of thumb is to have one feeder for every 25 deer. Typically, one feeder per food plot will suffice. Keep them filled year round and your deer will always have a reliable food source and attractant. A large tract of land with abundant deer will require a feeder with a large holding capacity, such as the Feedbank 600, which will hold up to 600 pounds of feed. The Feedbank 40 will be better suited for a smaller property and it can easily be relocated. While corn is a popular choice among hunters, use supplemental feed in pellet form. Several companies, like Big & J Attractants, provide products that will mix with corn or stand alone to give deer nutrients the they need like fiber, nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium.
It can be tempting to hunt directly over a feeder. Instead, hang a stand in another part of the food plot where deer are entering or exiting. Using a blind has several advantages, as it can be placed at the edge of a food plot, offering a view of the entire field. A Banks blind traps scent, dampens noise and keeps you protected from the elements.
At the end of the day, versatility is a hunter’s best friend. We don’t rely on one duck call in the blind, nor do we only keep one bullet with us in the stand. We want options and the ability for second chances. Deer management follows similar principles.
With healthy food plots and a few feeders, you won’t have to question if the deer are getting what they need. You can be certain they are. In the winter, you can remain confident the deer have a consistent food source and a high chance of making it to spring in one piece.