The notion of herd balance is one that not all deer hunters consider. The term "herd balance" most commonly refers to the ratio of bucks to does in a given area, but it is also related to a deer's habitat. The overarching goal of herd balance is to have a quality deer herd. A quality deer herd means that the population of deer is in balance with the available forage and cover. A balanced herd has deer that are healthy, well nourished, and the herd has a well-balanced ratio of bucks to does. A balanced herd will produce healthy fawns that survive winter and will also have an even distribution of deer age classes.
A significant number of hunters prefer to harvest antlered deer in comparison to antlerless deer, which leads to unbalanced sex ratios in the population. Dr. Dave Guynn, professor in the Department of Forestry, Clemson University and a member of the QDMA's Executive Board posted a great article on herd balance on QDMA's web site. In his article he asked the question "Why should we concern ourselves with maintaining a natural social balance in a managed deer herd? Because, to survive as long as they have, deer long ago developed social rules or mechanisms that would keep deer herds and their individual members fit and competitive. However, when harvest regulations allow hunters to deplete certain social classes (with deer, this is usually most or all bucks 1.5 years old or older) in an unscientific, haphazard manner, the herd's social mechanisms can become stressed". As hunters harvesting deer every year we should keep the concept of these social classes in mind. If we only harvest the largest bucks we see then we?re causing an imbalance in the herd that can have longer-term effects on the quality of deer in a given area.
It?s evident that managing game on one's land can have long-term benefits for hunting. In this blog series we're looking at the concept of Game Management. So far in the journey we've discussed Food Plots, Selective Harvest, & Herd Balance and with this entry we're going to look into the concept of deer surveying.
Deer surveying is exactly what is sounds like, surveying the deer on your land. Recent technology has made surveying deer (and any species of game) a whole lot easier, mainly via the creation of the game camera. The invention of the game camera has undeniably changed the way we hunt. Game cameras give hunters an advantage by providing valuable information about the deer in our area. Obviously game camera pics don't give an outdoorsman a 100% accurate read on the deer in a given area, but they do give way more insight about the deer herd than if we didn't have game cameras.
Game cameras are the most common (and affordable) way to survey one's deer herd. Though, there are more scientific and expensive methods of surveying deer. I heard one speaker at a conference say that in some locations they were flying airplanes over tracks of land taking thermal imagery to survey the game on the land. I imagine thermal imagery is more accurate and way more expensive too! I also know that DNR uses some more advanced, scientific techniques for surveying deer population & growth. These are all neat methods that provide more accurate data, but any method besides a game camera falls out of my financial range. Nevertheless the importance of having a feel for the game on your land is the main point to be noted.
Why is having knowledge of the deer in an area important for game management? If you are herd balance conscientious then surveying deer can give you a feel for the ratio of bucks to does on your property. Sure it's not accurate down to a finite percentage, but it does allow more informed decisions to be made about the herd in a given area. From this insight a hunter can help determine which deer he or she should or shouldn't harvest based on numbers. Essentially a hunter can get a feel for the herd balance in the area they are hunting through surveying the game on their land. You'll find that die-hard hunters survey deer year round and move their game cameras around a few times a year. Surveying deer, like game management, is a year round process.
Surveying the game in a hunter's allotted hunting area also helps one determine the age class of deer in the region. Viewing the size of deer in a game camera's pictures can help hunters determine the age of bucks based on body size, rack size, and other traits of mature bucks. Along with viewing the different age class of bucks any recent fawns, yearlings, and does can be observed as well. Viewing the deer in your area helps you get a feel for the health of deer as well.
Knowledge of the game in a track of land is a must in any effective game management strategy. Whether you survey deer through more expensive techniques or simply through a game camera, surveying deer pays dividends and helps hunters make informed decisions. Surveying deer allows hunters to watch deer mature over time and gives insight toward the herd balance ratios. If you haven't already, start learning about the deer in your area and you'll be a better hunter because of it.
In this blog series we're looking at concepts, practices, and approaches that can aid in managing game in a hunter's area. We've looked at food plots, selective harvest, deer surveying, herd balance, mineral sites already in this series and in this entry we'll look into the concept of "supplemental feeding".
Supplemental feeding of deer is not a brand new concept, but the trend is gaining momentum in game management circles. Outdoorsmen who invest a lot of time and resources in hunting and managing game usually provide some form of supplemental feed for their deer. If you've ever seen a deer who's benefited from supplemental feeding then you'll understand why game managers put in the time and effort to incorporate this practice into their game management strategy.
Supplemental feeds are typically high in protein and game managers put them out all year long. Like many other game management practices, it's not a "quick fix" and will take time before the full effects can be noticed. Supplemental feeding is generally part of a habitat management program and requires a long-term commitment on behalf of the game manager.
It?s also important to note that these supplemental feeds are intended to be exactly what they are called, a supplement. Supplemental feeds are not intended to replace a deer's natural diet, but rather to add to it. Supplemental feeding is also not a magic cure for poorly managed deer populations. It won't give you monster bucks or a healthy herd overnight.
While I was investigating this topic I found a lot of high-level, scientific research regarding supplemental feeds. If you're interested in getting really in-depth info about supplemental feeding of deer there are several scholarly articles on supplemental deer feeding available online. This blog entry however is not "scholarly" in nature ;-)
I found some really good info on supplemental feeding at a web site called "BuckManager.com". I encourage you to investigate that site for more information on supplemental feeding if you would like to read from someone who's lived and breathed it for a while. One of the articles on that site discussed the notion of whether deer could live on supplemental feed alone. The author noted
"Regardless of what the current study finds, both scenarios end up proving that deer cannot live on supplemental feed alone. Even when supplemental food is provided free-choice, white-tailed deer still desire native browse plants in their diets. Not only are these plants important for food, but also for the shelter and screening cover they provide for deer and other wildlife species. And let's not forget that browse plants typically contain protein levels ranging from 15 to 35%. And that can feed your deer and really supplement your supplement, for a lot less money."
The bottom line is that deer will consume more than just supplemental feed regardless of how much is provided! As the author noted "Food preference is probably a function of palatability, digestibility, and overall nutritive value." Incorporating supplemental feed as one more available food source for your herd is the best approach.
What blend, location, and ratios of supplemental feed are suggested for game managers? The article on BuckManager.com prescribed that "The preferred method is to use a 16% to 20% protein pelleted commercial feed, fed free choice, from feeders distributed at the rate of at least one feeder per 300 acres located within or adjacent to adequate escape cover." This recommendation is similar to what I found on other sites and articles so it's probably a good rule to go by.
Depending on the product you choose, supplemental feeding of deer can be one of the more expensive facets of game management. We've chosen to use a supplemental feed that was designed with a deer's overall health in mind and that is reasonably priced.
BUCK YUM was started to provide hunters with a quality feed and supplement product that not only attracted deer but also provided them with the proper nutrition deer need to grow. The idea to develop and implement a feed and supplement product that accomplished this was the inspiration of the launching of BUCK YUM Products and the creation of BUCKYUM.
BuckYum is a feed and attractant mixture of peanuts, peanut chips, and corn that provides the proper balance of nutritional supplements that deer need to grow. BuckYum also contains a special blend of seed that grows as a permanent food source as well. When you pour it out you can really smell the odor of peanut butter in the air (and the deer can too!). Deer and other game will browse on BuckYum and when you return be prepared to see some green growing from the ground where you poured it out! BuckYum is very efficient in this manner because not only does game in the area eat the corn & peanuts, but they also love the forage that grows from this blend as well. It's like a 2 for 1 deal!
BuckYum Guranteed Analysis
Where can you find BuckYum to buy? http://www.buckyum.com/Dealer_Info.php
Information in this post cited from the following locations:
There is no doubt that providing deer with a supplemental feed can be beneficial for hunters seeking to ?Grow the Hunt? and have monster bucks on their property. The only question is, are you committed?
Over the past few months I’ve been getting several bucks on camera. Most of them are small and a few of them are shooters. Mixed in with these bucks are 2 to 3 bucks that have really bad racks. By bad I mean these deer have big bodies and racks that do not reflect the age and maturity level of the deer, which to me indicates bad genetics.
Others have a decent rack on one side and a very mal-formed rack on the other side. Some hunters refer to these as “Cull bucks” indicating that they are deer that the hunter wants to “cull” out of the herd. Hunters want to remove these deer from the herd because of the bad genetics in the antlers. Hunters don’t want these deer reproducing and spawning more bucks with bad racks.
I’ve got a few deer that if I see I’m going to shoot. Yes I want them out of the herd and this past weekend one of these bucks came out right at daylight. At first I thought it was a big bodied doe, but after it got light enough I could tell that it was one of the bucks that I wanted to take out. So shortly after sun-up I eliminated the buck from the herd. This buck’s body was way bigger than his “spike” rack reflected. You can see the deer in the picture below.
However, some hunters are not of the same opinion about culling bucks out of the herd. Some hunters believe that all bucks can get big and have really nice racks regardless of what their racks look like any given year and the genetics of their lineage. I’m not mad about it and am not trying to start a ruckus, but rather am just interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts on the subject. So what do you think about it? Do you cull bucks? Do you think it’s a good practice or is it a bad practice? I’m interested in everyone’s game management tactics as it relates to cull bucks.
In this blog series we?re looking at concepts, practices, and approaches that can aid in managing game in a hunter?s area. We?ve looked at food plots, selective harvest,deer surveying, and herd balance already in this series and in this entry we'll look into the concept of "mineral sites".
Mineral sites, in many cases, are one of the most overlooked and underutilized parts of a game management strategy. Mineral sites provide deer with great sources of vitamins and nutrients that they need throughout the year. We put in a lot of work creating food plots and we're selling ourselves short if we don't compliment them with mineral sites. Mineral sites are not too difficult to create and can pay big dividends in the long run.
Mineral sites provide similar benefits as food plots in that they help increase deer health which in turn helps them better survive the rut and the winter. Having a healthy deer, whether it be a doe or a buck, is great for the whole herd when it comes to breeding, reproduction, and survival. Most importantly for those seeking "monster bucks", mineral sites are great locations where bucks will get nutrients that aid in rack growth and development. A buck's antlers grow during the summer months and this is the time when they will really visit mineral sites.
It's a good practice to keep mineral sites in a consistent location year after year. Rain helps the minerals dissolve into the soil which creates a location that will be frequented by deer long after the minerals are no longer visible. Hang a game camera up over a mineral site and watch the pictures as time passes. The results may be surprising and this is a great way to survey your deer. Just ask anyone that keeps mineral sites year after year, the deer will literally dig a hole in the ground seeking out the minerals and nutrients.
It's a good idea to start mineral sites in April, refresh them in July, then again in October. Experienced mineral site managers say it's good to have mineral sites along a deer's travel route in a low spot that can hold moisture. Hunters who I know that are serious about game management keep minerals sites year round in various parts of their hunting properties.
One thing to clarify though, don't confuse simply putting out a salt-block with creating a mineral site, they are two different things! A mineral site usually has a mixture of nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, and several different types of vitamins which greatly benefit deer.
There are several mineral site products available for purchase and I'm not going to endorse any certain one because communicating the principal of why hunters should create mineral sites is my main goal here. Each product will have different methods for implementation so be sure to read the directions for whichever product you select.
Start a mineral site and see what happens!
As deer hunters we often game-plan our hunts based on available food sources and rut activity, but we don't really factor in water sources that much. Not including water sources into the game-plan may be a mistake on our behalves. Think about it, food and water are the most elemental needs of a deer with water being the more critical of the two. Trying to look at deer hunting from a "water", perspective can prove beneficial,especially in drier areas.
Deer get water from a variety of sources, such as ponds, streams, and lakes. They also get water from the dew on plants and the water contained within plants. In some articles I read it was noted that, if lush forage is available, deer may be able to meet their body's water demand solely from the water within plants. This has not been scientifically proven, but it appeared to be a believed concept.
Also, typically the richest soil in a given area will be near a water source. The moisture in the water helps the soil be more fertile. This richest soil will grow the best forage and this provides deer with succulent forage to browse on along with providing great cover. These aspects of areas near water sources are very attractive for deer?naturally they will want to be near these areas.