Feeding deer requires a flexible plan throughout the year to ensure a healthy herd.
Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with a land manager’s quality deer management goals. Food plots fail and droughts and harsh winters happen. That’s why most hunters who are intent on growing the healthiest deer herd possible take matters into their own hands and implement a supplemental feeding program.
A solid feeding plan doesn’t just consist of piling corn around the property year round and hoping for the best. Instead, feeding deer the right way involves providing the correct food in your feeders at the times that will maximize the results of your efforts. Here are some deer feeding tips to help you make the decisions on what and when to feed.
Fall to Mid-Winter
Feeding deer during the fall and early stages of winter is all about increasing fat reserves to sustain them through the rut and colder months. But first, check the local laws for baiting in your area. Some states require that all supplements be removed prior to hunting season.
Food plots, acorns and mast crops do a wonderful job of priming deer for the taxing rut, but you want to be sure to have some supplements available during and after the rut to limit weight loss. Fill deer feeders the following mixture:
Fat: 50 pounds – rice bran
Carbohydrates: 100 pounds – corn
Protein: 50 pounds – high quality protein pellet
Growing fawns will make use of the protein, while bucks and does will benefit from the carbohydrates and fats.
Late Winter to Early Spring
Google “what to feed deer in the winter” and you’ll see some crazy headlines. “Are You Feeding Your Deer To Death?” is one example. This stems from the generalization that all deer have stopped eating grains back in the fall. This can lead to digestion issues that could make the deer sick if an abundance of corn suddenly shows up on the property. But what about those deer in agricultural areas, like most of the Midwest, where they are picking corn out of cut fields well into February? They sure look healthy.
Whether or not to provide supplemental feed during the winter is your call based on your knowledge of the herd and its diet. In timber country, maybe you don’t want to start a feeding program in the winter. It’s likely that the deer will not be used to the supplements and their digestive system will struggle to break down the feed. If this is the first year you are going to introduce supplemental feed, wait until the spring when a deer’s stomach has the right microorganisms to digest it. Next year, you can keep the deer feeders full throughout winter, as they will be accustomed to it by then.
Mid Spring to Late Summer
This is prime antler growing time for bucks and does need nutrition to rear fawns. Fill your feeders with high-protein feed that also includes minerals. Pellets, depending on the brand, can contain anywhere between 16 and 21 percent protein. The ideal percentage used to fill your deer feeders with depends on the conditions. If it’s an extremely hot and dry summer, deer will not have an adequate supply of leafy greens and a pellet that is too high in protein can be troublesome for them to digest. If the summer is mild and rainfall is normal, a pellet with higher protein content can be ingested with the natural vegetation.
In the beginning of this phase, you may need to mix the protein with corn to make it more attractive to the deer. You can gradually wean the deer off the corn as summer goes on. In addition to high protein supplements, don’t forget to supply minerals as well.
Choose the Right Feeder
One of the reasons we developed the Feedbank was to have a more effective way of growing and managing our deer herds. We tested numerous feeders over a multi-year period and ultimately decided that we could build a better product. And we did just that.
The Feedbank features a one-post system that comes in handy with setting up multiple feeding stations throughout a property. To move the feeder, simply pick it up and haul it to the next post, which is beneficial during the summer because you can get an accurate survey of your deer herd with some trail cameras located nearby. Since no legs extend past the feed ports like they do on a tripod feeder, bucks will not hit or damage their delicate antlers during the growing season.
Along with its ease of use, the Feedbank’s UV-stabilized polyethylene construction withstands the nastiest of weather. The gravity style feeder comes in several sizes that will fit any land manager’s desires be it a 40- or 600-pound feeder. As you are preparing for hunting this fall, take the time to start a feeding program.