Tag Archives: benefit

Does Supplemental Feeding Protein Pellets Really Work?

Supplemental feeding in the form of pelleted feed is a valuable tool in the serious deer manager’s tool belt, as it provides two things: consistency and a higher level of nutrition.  As it’s name implies, supplemental feeding is something done to augment or increase the natural feed available to deer.  Seasonal cycles, weather patterns and man-made disturbances can cause the nutritional value and availability of native deer foods to be unpredictable with a wide swings in quality.  Supplemental feeding is a safety net or an insurance policy against periods of low nutritional value and/or availability.   Of course, there are different degrees of supplementation and how it is used and its effectiveness, but a supplemental feeding program’s primary responsibility is to lessen the blows of low nutrition and keep the deer on a more level nutritional plane throughout the year.

Supplemental feeding is just that–a supplement.  When the rains are right and the stars line up, we can’t even compete with Mother Nature.  As you likely know, when it rains, deer won’t eat the protein.  They eat it only when they need it, when the habitat is stressed or defoliated. In the pasture, the deer makes the choice to eat or not to eat protein.  And his or her stomach tells them when and how much to eat.  Some deer eat two bites and leave while others camp out and eat four to six pounds of feed per day.  This is why the amount of protein on the bag means very little.  Don’t get caught up worrying about the highest amount of protein.  You need to worry about the quality of the feed, as a total package, so that when a deer does eat it, he/she gets what they need and when they need it.

Protein feed is not the magic bullet.  It simply is a supplement to level out the peaks and valleys of the nutritional swings the habitat typically goes through as the seasons or weather patterns change.  It is not a “cure all” designed for a specific period of time.  It is meant to be used year around and to SLOWLY and STEADILY help the deer stay in top physical condition.  By waiting until July or August to feed the bucks something extra or special is way too late.


A buck begins growing his antlers approximately one week after shedding the previous set.  When he is malnourished or pulled down from the rigors of the rut and lack of rainfall his body go into a self-preservation mode (thus why skinny bucks shed earlier) in order to stay alive.  If supplemental feeding was used during post-rut, the buck would not sink to such a low nutritional level and his body would not have to play “catch up” from a nutritional perspective.  As the body suffers, so do the antlers.  Antlers are a bi-product of nutrition.  Providing supplemental feed ensures that the buck will have enough to eat no matter what the native forage is providing so that his body will be healthy enough to support the growth of antlers to his full genetic potential.

The same benefits go for the does.  If you provide an additional source of feed, the does will be healthier and able to carry, deliver and nurse a healthier fawn(s).  Fawns that receive a good start at life get bigger and stronger and therefore increase their chances of survival, especially as winter approaches.

So, does supplemental feeding work?  The answer is yes, as long as it is part of the bigger management plan. Here are some situations that illustrate what does and does not allow a supplemental feeding program to be successful:

Works:  Good quality feeders that keep out moisture and are in a feed pen at least 60’ diameter to exclude non-target animals such as livestock, feral hogs and javelina.

Doesn’t Work:  Leaky feeders that let in moisture to spoil feed or placed in a feed pen so small that deer are afraid to jump in or only a couple of deer can get in at any one time.

Works:  As many feeders as financially affordable spread evenly across the ranch.  Even distribution means even use and keeps the animals spread more evenly across the landscape.

Doesn’t Work: One feeder near the ranch house, or several feeders bunched up only compounds the problems.

Works: Keeping protein feeders filled from post-rut through shedding of velvet, year in and year out.

Doesn’t Work:  Putting protein out a couple months a year, maybe this year, maybe not.

Works:  Placing protein feeders in areas of the ranch away from high traffic and near escape cover.

Doesn’t Work:  Placing feeders by the main roads with high traffic or in wide open fields.

Works:  Use protein feeding as a part of your overall management program and after you have deer densities reduced to what the habitat can support.

Doesn’t Work:  Keep providing feed with no plan for reducing the additional deer you are growing with the feed and allowing population to go uncontrolled to the decimation of the native habitat.

Works:  On small, low-fenced acreage, get all neighbors cooperating with harvesting and providing protein.

Doesn’t Work:  Be the only one in the neighborhood feeding protein while the neighbors are shooting every two year old buck that crosses the fence.

The immediate benefits of a proper supplemental feeding program include increased body weights.  During the second year fawn survival rates will improve sharply and on or about year three, improved antler production will be evident on those young bucks raised on the feeding program.  As  you can see, supplemental feeding is a long-term project and should not be taken lightly or sporadically in order for it to really work.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather

What are the Differences Between a Nutritional Food Plot and an Attractant Food Plot?

Food plots are planted primarily for two reasons:  1) to provide a nutritional supplement to deer during times of nutritional stress or when native browse is low in quality or availability, and 2) to attract or concentrate deer for viewing or hunting purposes.  This concept is similar to using protein pellets for a nutritional supplement and corn as an attractant.  A food plot by itself is not a cure-all or magic fix for any problem in deer management, just as feeding protein or corn is not a silver bullet for what ails your deer herd.  These are all just tools to be used in conjunction with others–parts to the whole of a well-rounded plan.

The idea of a nutritional food plot is to provide additional feed during times when the deer need it, not when conditions are right for growing lots of native forage.  One of the prime times that deer need that supplement is during the winter and early spring.  This is the time when much of the native browse has defoliated for the winter, soils are too cold to grow forbs from winter rains, the native forage that is available is nutritionally low, bucks are in poor shape from the rut and does are facing higher nutritional demands for developing fetuses.  This time of year is a perfect storm of conditions conducive to thinning your deer herd for you.  If you’ve done your job as a deer manager correctly, you have already reduced your density to where it should be and culled the proper bucks.  Now is not the time to let Mother Nature pull even more deer from your herd and kill off those bucks that you decided to let walk.  A properly planted food plot can help provide that supplement, as long as it is part of a bigger management plan.

Nutritional food plots can be either fall-planted or spring-planted.  Just about anything you plant in the fall can be considered a nutritional supplement, though some are more beneficial than others.  Cereal grains such as wheat, oats, rye and triticale will grow through the spring and so are available during the critical times they are needed.  Even though they are not especially high in nutritive values and decline in palatability through late winter and spring they still provide some additional nutritive forage when most needed.  Turnips and winter peas are more nutritious, but typically have a smaller window of use during the season.  Alfalfa, clovers and medics are very beneficial during the critical periods where they can be grown.  These species are planted in the fall and grow through the spring and remain very palatable and nutritious into the spring.  Since they are legumes, they are high in protein and are an excellent source of supplemental nutrition for deer.  While the main area of adaptation is north and east of the Hill Country and South Texas, there are some of these legumes that can be planted with success in these areas.  The key is choosing the right one for your soil type and planting it on a site that has better soils.  Although weather conditions in these areas may prevent some of these legumes from coming back every year as they would in wetter climates, they still can be a valuable nutritional supplement with at least average rainfall.

Spring-planted nutritional plots are generally intended to provide a supplement to bucks growing antlers and does carrying and delivering fawns.  This is usually in the form of legumes, especially peas and beans.  Iron & Clay cowpeas, lablab, blackeye cowpeas and other cowpea and vining bean varieties are used extensively for this purpose.  They are easy to grow, very high in protein, have good regrowth and are very palatable.  Other non-legume plants can be planted in the spring with these, though they do not have the same high level of nutritional quality.  Grain sorghum, or milo, is one of these.  Deer will browse the young plant but will then leave it alone until it makes a seed head and then eat the grain, which is a good source of carbohydrates.  As milo is drought-hardy and can last into the summer, this grain is sometimes all that is left in a food plot and so becomes important as a supplement.  Combinations of legumes and sorghums in spring nutritional plots work very well together.

Food plots planted for attraction of deer are typically only fall-planted, in order to use them for counting/surveying, observation and hunting purposes.  Any plot planted in the spring could be considered as an attractant, especially for observation of fawn numbers, body condition and antler growth, but are generally not planted specifically for that reason.

Cereal grains, such as oats, wheat, rye and triticale, are used most often and in the biggest percentage of fall food plots.  Even though they are not very nutritious, these grains are relatively cheap, easy to grow, regrow well and are very palatable to deer late into the winter.  Since most of the time spent in the deer blind is from fall into the winter, these grains are very useful for attracting deer during this period.  There are many other things that can be planted in conjunction with these small grains, though their windows of use by deer may be smaller or not at the same time that the grains are preferred.  Purple-top turnips are often used as they also grow well and seem to be palatable after the first frost of the year.

Food plots, when done correctly, are very valuable in any deer management program.  Not all food plots are created equally and they are used for various reasons.  Make sure you are planting the right crop at the right time and for the right reasons in order to maximize your money and energy.   Food plots do work.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather

Livestock Management for Wildlife Production

Grazing management is the planned manipulation of livestock numbers and grazing intensities to increase food, cover, or improve structure in the habitat of selected species. Grazing management includes kind and class of livestock grazed, determination and adjustment of stocking rates, implementation of a grazing system that provides planned periodic rest for pastures by controlling grazing intensity and durations, and/or excluding livestock from sensitive areas to prevent trampling, allowing for vegetative recovery, or eliminating competition for food and cover. Planned deferments can be short or long term, depending on the conditions. Seasonal stocker operations may also be appropriate to manipulate habitat.

Livestock should be considered as “tools” that can be used to maintain good wildlife habitat. A well-planned livestock grazing system is one that allows adequate rest periods for plants to recover after grazing. Most domestic livestock are selective grazers and consume the most nutritious and palatable plants first. Whenever a plant is eaten, there is not only a reduction in top growth but also a reduction in root growth. This reduces the plant’s ability to rapidly regrow following defoliation. During the growing season, herbaceous plants need at least 30 to 60 days of rest to recover from grazing. Woody plants need as long as 4 to 6 months of rest to allow for regrowth. The recovery period depends upon the severity of defoliation, moisture conditions, and temperature.

Several livestock grazing methods and systems have been developed which provide adequate periods of rest and allow vegetative recovery. There are many variations of these systems and the land manager needs to select the one that fits his particular situation. Some commonly used deferred-rotation grazing systems are: Three pasture/one herd rotation, four pasture/one herd rotation, high intensity/low frequency, short duration, and four pasture/three herd rotation. Regardless of the type of deferred-rotation grazing system used, the length of time that an individual pasture should be grazed and the length of time that it would need to be rested before being grazed again would be dependent on the size of the pasture, its grazing capacity, the time of year (growing season versus non-growing season), the amount of rainfall received since being grazed, and the class of livestock. Grazing schedules and livestock stocking rates for pastures within a grazing system need to be flexible and continually re-evaluated based on rainfall patterns, seasons of the year, and the local range conditions. Knowing how long to graze and how long to rest is more an art than a science, dependent more on environmental factors and the on-site conditions than on the calendar.

Determining cattle stocking rates in can be tricky. As mentioned earlier, the quality and quantity of forage and rainfall are most important considerations; however, so is the class of livestock, soil and brush types, and past and current condition of the range. For optimum wildlife production, however, any cattle stocking rate determination should fall on the conservative side of things. Cattle are a great compliment to wildlife management when incorporated correctly.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather