A healthy herd is vital if you want a successful hunting season. Positive herd health will result in quality venison, fair chase, and a stronger herd for next year. Keep an eye out for any indicators that your herd’s health is declining. Stay vigilant and correct any potential issues as soon as you identify them.
Early Antler Shed
In general, the earlier a deer sheds its antlers the poorer its testosterone levels. Testosterone levels in deer drop in the winter, whether the deer is healthy or not. The drop in hormone levels causes the bone tissue in the antlers to dissipate, causing the antlers to fall off. Testosterone levels can also drop due to poor nutrition or injury. Unhealthy older bucks will begin shedding their antlers in December and healthier younger bucks could shed their antlers as late as March. If you’re seeing sheds in December, it’s possible that your herd needs an adjustment in their nutrition intake. Make sure the herd has the nutrition they need with our Wild Water® Mineral Supplement. The calcium in the supplement will encourage antler growth, which is vital during the spring and summer when deer’s antlers are growing.
Another factor that could indicate poor herd health is how alert the deer are. Healthy deer will lift their heads up at strange sounds and stay on guard. An unhealthy deer might have a more delayed response and won’t be as quick to react to sounds. If you notice that the deer in your area aren’t as responsive as they normally are, their health might be declining.
Change in Eating Habits
An unhealthy deer will likely not eat the same amount of food they normally would. Keep an eye on your trail cameras and make note of when and what the deer are eating. Gather a baseline for reference, that way you’ll be able to tell if anything changes. If you see a change in how often the deer are eating and the type of food they’re eating, consider adjusting the feed you’re putting in your FeedBank Gravity Deer Feeder. The FeedBank 300 Feeder holds 300 pounds of feed, so it will likely take a while for the feed to run out. If the deer aren’t eating from the feeder, it might have something to do with the type of feed you’re using.
Put a slightly different mixture than normal into your feeder and see if that makes a difference in the food intake. Try to make the change now, over the summer, so that the deer have time to get used to the new feed before hunting season. Deer don’t adjust well to the introduction of new foods in the winter. Their bodies can’t handle processing new foods when their digestive system slows down to survive the cold. Making the switch now will allow them to adjust before it’s too late.
There are a few ways to tell if your deer herd’s health is declining. Keep an eye on how early they’re shedding their antlers, how they’re reacting to sounds, and if there are any changes in their eating habits. Making adjustments to their food source before hunting season will help cultivate healthy and strong deer in the fall.
What factor do you look for when monitoring your deer herd’s health? Let us know your tips in the comments below!