Question: “I have a small 80 acre property that is surrounded by a large ranch of about 7,000 acres. We primarily use the property as a deer hunting ranch. I am right in the middle of the big ranch and everything is low fenced. Our deer management program over the last several years has been to manage for age. Most all of the whitetail bucks we have harvested over the last 10 to 15 years have been 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 years old, with some even older. The ranch surrounding me really does not do that much deer hunting. They mostly conduct a quail hunting operation. My question is, will feeding protein help my deer herd or is it not going to matter much since they have such a large range?”
Response: Yes, feeding protein will help the whitetail deer found in your area even though their movement will have them moving off and onto your property quite regularly. Protein helps both bucks and does. It will help bucks put on additional antler growth, and it will help does with fawns big time during the late Texas summer with the high demands of milk production. Just make sure the buck to doe ratio is tight, 1:1 or even slightly in favor of bucks. Protein feeding can get expensive, so you want to make sure it is meeting your objective.
If you want bucks with bigger antlers, then I would suggest feeding. If you want more fawns, then I would suggest feeding. Protein will allow does to raise more fawns because of the stable food supply, which means in turn you will need to shoot more deer. This is why I recommended that the buck to doe ratio be tight, because it would not be wise to feed a bunch of does just to make them more prolific so that you have to shoot a bunch more does.
In addition, make sure to remove the inferior bucks relatively early in the deer hunting season based on their antler quality for their age. There will will be no need feeding these animals for several more years when the better bucks of the same age can be eating the high dollar protein. The deer hunting in your area can be improved through the supplemental feeding of protein pellets or even whole cottonseed, but make sure you know what your objectives are before you start a feeding program.
Make sure to record everything you see while deer hunting in the fall. This will give you a good idea of what’s happening on your property, as well as what you will need to harvest. Do not use game camera photos placed on protein feeders to give you survey information. Bucks tend to dominate protein feeders, so it will look like you have nothing but bucks in your area. You can use game cameras to survey deer, but make sure you put them along roadways, water sources or trails away from feeders. Good luck!
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