To Feed Or Not To Feed

Jay E. from New York writes to ask about supplemental feed and deer antlers. “I read that putting out supplemental feed year-round will give bucks on my hunting area larger antlers. Is there data to prove that, or is it just a sales tactic for supplemental feed.”

Dr. Dave Samuel
Dr. Dave Samuel

Good question Jay. There is little data, but one study from Texas sheds some light on your question. A series of 200-acre pens were established on the Comanche Ranch in South Texas. In half the pens there was supplemental feed, in the other half, no feed. In addition, there were low-, medium- and high deer densities in different pens. They found that more yearling bucks were spikes without supplemental feed (95 percent) than with supplemental feed (41 percent). And the density of deer did not change that.

For older bucks, the gross Boone and Crockett scores decreased by one-half-inch for each additional deer in the pen without supplemental feed, with no decrease in antler score with feed, regardless of density. So, in South Texas, supplemental feeding helps antler size. Whether this holds up for your area is not known. Don’t forget to check out your state laws to make sure it is legal to feed deer.

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.

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