Question: I recently made a trip out to our deer hunting ranch in northern Concho County. We manage it for whitetail and that’s about it. Deer have slowed way down at the protein feeders. For the past few months, deer were eating about 2,000 pounds of 20 percent protein every two weeks at our 4 free-choice protein feeders. However, it now seems that they have cut way back, only consuming about 1,200 pounds every weeks. There has been little to no rain and the habitat is in pretty poor condition. It just looks way too dry.
I know that the whitetail deer have not left the ranch since it’s high fenced, so do you think the animals are finding food elsewhere? There are mesquite beans on the ground everywhere. Do you think that is why the whitetail have quit hitting the feeders? Or is it maybe because most of the antler growth is done or something else?
Response: Sounds like deer have no shortage of supplemental feed on your property, but you are on the right track. In your part of the state, whitetail deer are eating mesquite beans heavily right now, which is good. Anytime deer are consuming naturally-produced foods they are saving you money. In addition, it is very common for deer to pull away from feeders when higher quality natural foods are available to them.
Mesquite beans are a very good source of nutrition for deer, offering about 18 percent protein or more! Additionally, there are some other great foods that deer can find available in the habitat right now. Cactus tunas, the fruit produced by prickly pear, are often consumed by whitetail deer. These two fruits, mesquite beans and pears, are produced concurrently each year, and feed consumption by deer will drop off drastically when deer turn to these coveted food items.
This summer fruit fest can start in May in “early” years, but usually takes place in June, but it all depends on the precipitation. I suspect whitetail use at protein feeders will increase as beans and tunas decrease into the summer. However, if you get a second crop of mesquite beans on your Concho County ranch then expect continued, decreased protein consumption by deer. High quality foods produced naturally are preferred by whitetail, something that many hunters have also experienced while deer hunting in the fall, but they will hit supplemental pellets and bait corn when high quality foods are in short supply.
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