Question: “We have a 700 acre high-fenced ranch located in Mason County. We have been involved in whitetail deer management activities over the past four years, improving the habitat and selectively harvesting deer based on surveys in an attempt to improve deer hunting. I know we have does on our ranch, but since we put up hog panels around our deer feeders all we see are bucks. How do we get our does back to using these feeders again? Any ideas? For reference, our feeder pens are about 30 feet in diameter.”
Response: This is something that many ranches experience across the state of Texas. Managing for deer typically means lowering the number of deer on a ranch in line with the available habitat. With whitetail deer at a proper density, hunters will see fewer deer than when deer are at higher, unhealthy numbers. This can be a part of the “problem.” However, I suspect the biggest issue is that the does not do feel comfortable at the feeders. But it has nothing to do with the hog panels.
Many ranches have experienced this “issue” with does for years. People know they have does, but they just don’t show up on the game cameras at the feeders. This phenomenon is particularly true when it comes to protein feeders, but corn feeders are also susceptible. The issue involves bucks, not so much the does, and their dominance over the food sources. They simply “hog” all of the feed.
This effect is especially evident during dry years. And we all know how dry 2011 has been in Texas. The fact that bucks are around the corn and protein feeders is because the bucks have found good, stable food sources and they are not going to give them up. If a doe shows up to a feeder, she better be willing to fight bigger, stronger bucks. This just doesn’t happen though. Does will quit going to feeders if they can’t squeeze in to eat.
The panels could be exacerbating the problem too. Does may be reluctant to enter into the pens because it makes it more difficult to get away from hungry, angry bucks. This may sound silly, but you know how a person can get when someone gets between them and a good meal, especially when there is not much food to be had. If you are keeping the deer at the property density for your piece of real estate, then I would not worry too much about it. The does will get more than enough nutrition, and they will jump in there if they really need it.
The easiest thing you can do is remove the panels from a feeder or two and see what happens. If the does return, that could be part of the problem. If they do not, then add more feeders to the property so the bucks spend less time at them, allowing does to slip in and get more grub. Good luck this deer hunting season, especially if you need to remove some does!
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