Proper whitetail deer management after the season can ensure a healthy herd for next year.
As deer season comes to an end and winter bears down in earnest, neglecting the deer herd on your property can result in starvation and fawn deaths. Post-season whitetail deer management is important to stave off as many mortalities as possible until food sources return and temperatures warm. Instead of jumping right into turkey hunting mode and spring chores, consider what you may do for the whitetails on your property.
As the natural browse gets eaten or dies, competition for food increases, creating a dire situation for weaker, smaller deer. Bucks are recovering weight lost from the rut, fawns are still in a somewhat fragile state and pregnant does need as much nutrition as possible. Even if you had the foresight to leave standing crops or keep up a winter food plot, it’s still a good practice to introduce supplemental food sources throughout the duration of winter. If your state laws allow hunting over bait, your job is easier as you’ll only need to continue feeding.
Slowly Introduce New Food
For those who cannot hunt over bait, once the season ends, if state laws allow, you can begin introducing supplemental food sources, using something like the Feed Bank 300 Gravity Deer Feeder so that you’re not just dumping piles of corn in the woods. Giving large amounts of supplemental food to starving deer can be harmful. They’ll consume so much food so quickly that they won’t be able to digest it properly, which can result in death. The microflora in a deer’s gut, bacteria that aids in digestion, needs around three weeks to adjust to a new diet.
Slowly introduce a food like corn that’s rich in carbohydrates, only a pound or two a day during the adjustment period. The smaller amount will enable deer to slowly adjust to the new food. Increase the amount in the following weeks. Several companies also offer supplemental feed full of nutrients deer won’t get in corn, like fiber, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous. Supplement 365 contains several ingredients to adjust deer’s microflora to a new diet while boosting their immune system with various vitamins and other additives. Big & J Attractants provide several products designed to attract deer and give them nutrients they’ll need, some of which can be mixed in with corn.
Use a Feeder
You can simply spread the feed on the ground or use a feeder. Depending on the size of your herd, you’ll want to make sure feeding locations aren’t overcrowded, which can put unnecessary stress on the deer. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) can also develop if too many deer are using a food source, which is why many states have outlawed hunting over bait. Set out the food either near an existing food plot, or an area with dense cover and plenty of water. Also, target areas where deer have access to natural food.
If you have wild hogs on your property, they’ll also be attracted to the new food source. Consider installing an excluder pen around the food if hogs become problematic. The presence of hogs can also alter the deer’s behavior and cause them to avoid the area.
When the warm up begins in spring, natural food sources will start to become available again. Less pressure will be on the deer and you can focus on planting food plots that’ll last through the spring and summer. Until then, be diligent to ensure next season you have a healthy deer herd to hunt.