Question: “We just moved to a new deer lease near Brownsville and hopefully we’ll be on it for many years to come. We have year round lease access and like many other Texas leases cows are grazed on the property year round. Lots of turkey and some feral hogs in the neighborhood, too. There is an oat food plot on the lease that is a popular spot for anything that eats oats. A good number of whitetail have been seen foraging there in recent weeks.
On our previous place, we always feed corn from September through January. This year, however, I am considering fencing in one feeder for protein pellets and ramping up feeding beginning in March. Assuming the fence around the feeder keeps the feral hogs and the land owner’s cows out, Will one protein feeder make a difference? What results can we expect to see in the deer on our lease?”
Answer: The impact of a protein feeding program for whitetail deer will vary from property to property. A lot will depend on what your neighbors are doing or are not doing, managing or not managing. What it will do over time, if you keep feeding, is increase fawn survival each year. Like a lot of things in deer management, it will not happen overnight, although you will see more fawns a healthier deer fairly quickly.
The key to any protein feeding program is to feed for at least four to five years to see if you are seeing real results. If you increase fawn survival and total deer numbers you will increase buck numbers over time. One time I saw a ranch that was 650 acres really help their deer. They simply fed for nine months out of the year and they noticed more bucks survived the deer hunting season.
In fact, each hunting season after this was better than the year before. The third year of feeding were able to kill a four year old buck that was close to 140 inches. A year later they were able to shoot a five year old buck that went 154 gross. This was a huge change in just five years. A big key to any management program is fawn production and survival, with more fawns means turning into more bucks for the future. But protein feeding is only part of the equation. Deer management for improved deer hunting takes managing for age, genetics and nutrition. Let them go so they can grow!
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