Feeders are a great way to manage the deer population on your land and effectively grow the bucks you want. By using cameras at these feeder sites it can also aid in observing the growth and deciding which deer meet your criteria for harvest. Feeding throughout the seasons is crucial in proper maintenance of the herd. Spring feeding is the primetime to affect antler growth and give proper nutrients to does rearing healthy fawns however continuing throughout the year is the best practice. Feeding after the rut allows deer to build up fat reserves and sustain throughout the winter. It is important however to research what mixture to feed deer throughout the seasons.
In some areas, especially those across the northern states, deer stop eating grains once the corn and wheat are gone from the fields. Their bodies won’t process these as easily if introduced in a feeder and can lead to digestion issues and even death. This process is called acidosis or corn toxicity. This occurs because the diet over the winter for these deer is mainly high fiber and not the low fiber carbs provided by corn. With an increased and sudden intake of carbs occurs the microbial variations and increase in the rumen, or stomach, occurs it can produce high doses of lactic acid that can be fatal in as little as 24 hours. However, Midwest whitetails usually have access to corn stalks well into February and can handle corn additions to their winter supplements. Having a mixture of 15-22% protein is ideal and this is the number that will fluctuate based on season. There is geographical research available to help determine the appropriate amount of protein needed for your deer population. Seasonal weather can also dictate how much protein the deer need. When the spring and summer are “normal” with average rainfall a higher protein is ideal and can be digested well. In the more arid regions or during dry spells lower protein content is encouraged.
The two most common types of feeders are gravity and spin-cast. There are different variations of these and even a gravity feeder can be turned into a spin-cast with an attachment. A gravity feeder is simply a device that allows free flow of feed. These are also often called free-choice feeders. Spin-cast feeders operate with a mechanism that spins feed from the supply to the ground. These are usually automated or digital feeders so you can set the frequency and amount delivered. This can help train your deer to feed on your schedule. No matter the feeder or the mix of protein selected you will attract unwanted animals or varmints. Learning how to combat these is a battle most of us will encounter. The different type of feeders can provide some relief yet testing different methods of detraction will prove most beneficial. Most feeders can be equipped with some sort of varmint guard – although not foolproof – including barbs or upside down funnels on the legs to prohibit climbing, varmint shock that will shock any animal that touches the metal poles and even species recognition technology that opens only for those you choose.
When scouting locations to set up your feeders consider the accessibility. These feeders are usually cumbersome in size and some can even hold over 300lbs of feed. Being able to access with a truck or ATV is ideal. Seasonal access is also to be considered. The edge of fields or openings work great to draw the deer out of the woods and also allow for the best camera placement to monitor the feeder. Be sure to check local laws and regulations to see when or if feeders need to be pulled for hunting season. Even though most states prohibit hunting over feeders that fact doesn’t make them invaluable. In addition to the nutritional aspect feeders and food plots provide it allows for inspection and monitoring of the herd before hunting season.
Cameras are the best way to visually manage the growth of deer in your area as well as the habits and socialization of the deer to provide further understanding of hunting strategy. Game cameras are perhaps the most important tool available to hunters today. Essential to trail camera usage is proper set-up. When putting cameras out at a feeder site it is important to look at proximity to the feeder, direction of the sunrise/sunset and the right settings for camera operation. When using a game camera in the field for trail activity a fast trigger speed may be beneficial. For using cameras over a food plot or feeder the functions that are highly recommended are time-lapse and video. Although most cameras have all of these features you may need to select a different mode upon set-up. Over a food plot you should set cameras up high to see the overall usage of the plot. Over a feeder you should ideally be within 10 yards to see the detail of the deer coming in yet far enough away to see what other predators or animals are near the site. If able to aim the camera north you will typically get the best result in clear photos and the least amount of accidental exposures from the sun. If able, only check your camera when you fill the feeder – this will limit the human interaction to the site.
Combining the use of supplements and cameras will contribute to the abundance of data available to manage your land and provide a beneficial hunting experience. Creating a management co-op with neighbors can be valuable and is done so by a group of hunters agreeing to a common set of guidelines. The larger the area the greater the gain can be if all hunters stay engaged. Knowing that you may not have control of neighboring properties though will help you maintain focus on your own activities. There are many options available to help grow and manage your deer population but always check your local laws and regulations before deciding on a route.