Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Deer Management For The Handi-capable Hunter

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Doe Browsing
I can hear you now, "Hey, Anderson, it's fishing season, so why are you writing about deer?"  Great question!  Let me give you a heads-up.  From the time of this writing, it is precisely five and a half months until opening day of bow season here in Louisiana.  If you want to be successful in October, then you need to get busy in April.

There are two ways you can go about hunting.  One is to roll out in your wheel-chair under a tree and hope to get lucky.  The other is to prep, plan and execute a good strategy for the area you plan to hunt.  Right now is a wonderful time to get outside and do some of the work you wanted done last November but didn't want to spook any deer in the area.

Fact is, this is the time of the year that you can have the greatest impact on the deer herd you plan to harvest this coming fall.  There are a few simple steps, that if taken now, will make a massive difference on what your deer will look like when the seasons begin to change.

Buck
The first thing you can do is supply minerals that deer need to develop those impressive antlers.  There are many different types of mineral licks, blocks and rocks you can purchase to aid them in this critical phase of growth.  Although their are many types of plants they can browse in the spring of the year, nothing can replace essential minerals for bone growth, mass and length.  These minerals also aid a fawn as they develop inside the doe.

Spring gives way to the heat of summer all too quickly.  With the heat comes a reduction in the growth of forage for deer to browse especially in drought prone areas.  This is when food plots planted in the spring are key.

Fawn
When it turns hot, a doe will sometimes have a hard time producing enough milk for their fawns.  A small food plot can give them the necessary forage to sustain them during this stressful time.  Good nutrition will help them fight off disease and injury as well.

I want to address a major myth.  Some hunters have a mistaken idea that the area they are hunting is too small to even worry with taking the steps necessary to develop their herd.  Many hunters believe that a food plot isn't going to be successful unless it covers many acres.  Not true!

The place I hunt covers 25 acres.  A long driveway and a house take up about 15 acres of the total.  Of the 10 acres remaining, we actually hunt about 4-5 and concentrate in about 3 acres.  Don't be fooled!  We saw fifteen deer last season and harvested two.  We could have shot more but passed to let them grow. There are people who pay hundreds of dollars to lease a lot of acres and never see one deer.  I love my 3-4 acres and they love me right back.  You see, those few acres butt up to about 1,000 acres of nothing but wilderness.

In the graphic below, notice that we are planting two small plots. One plot will have a clover mix that will cover about a quarter of an acre.  Clover is a great source of protein which is necessary for bucks to grow monster antlers.  Unlike other types of forage that can be eaten away entirely in one evening by deer, clover is a perennial and loves to be grazed.  The more the deer eat.  The more it grows.    A plot like this typically lasts between three and five years.

The other plot will be winter oats that will be planted in mid-September.  It also will cover about a quarter acre and will give them a reason to hang around when the acorns are done in late season.

Food Plot Graphic - Handicapped Outdoors

To be content, a deer needs to be able to come and go at will with no perceived danger, have multiple forage types with a water source nearby and cover for bedding down.  With these two small plots, we are actually going to be pulling deer from that massive 1,000 acres and keeping them around throughout the year all on that tiny 5-10 acre patch.

Get off the couch and take the time to prep for next season.  It's fun! This coming fall when that deer you have been seeing on the trail camera steps out and your heart skips a beat because opportunity is about to meet destiny, remember, that it will all have been because of your hard work, your effort and your planning right now.

In closing, deer management is an ever growing and expanding science.   Dr. James C. Kroll, better known as Dr. Deer, has been at the forefront in making hunters more aware of the impact they can have on their deer herd.  He is a wealth of information and I encourage every hunter to check out his site for more information on management practices to suit your specific situation.

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