Habitat Matters Most
Dr. John Woods 12.13.19
Every year when the deer hunting seasons roll around, the debate fires up again over deer baiting, feeding supplemental rations, and even farmed wildlife food plots. Opinions are highly passionate against deer feeding for a multitude of reasons. More than ever there are scientific-based reasons not to use mechanical feeders, feeder troughs or just throwing corn on the ground.
Of prime concern now is the potential spread of CWD through deer contact via feeds that are cast or piled on the ground. These concerns are certainly valid. Well over twenty states have deer herds with at least one deer having tested positive for CWD. This killer disease is thought to be spread by deer muzzling together around feed piles. Many states have now prohibited the use of supplemental deer feeds. The debate rages on.
However, there are other options to the supplemental feeding of deer. Why not just spend that same revenue you already spend on feeding devices, tons of corn, and other supplemental food sources or bags of commercially blended deer feeds as well as the time, money, labor, fuel, and effort on the menu Mother Nature has already provided? (Ironically, corn is not a particularly valuable source of nutrition for deer anyway.)
Many years ago our private deer club invited a state wildlife deer biologist to tour our 680 acres along the famed Big Black River in Central Mississippi. Our intent was to seek his knowledge and experience to help us grow better and more deer. At the time we had 14 different wildlife food plots dispersed across the property in size from a half acre to 5 or more acres.
Each fall we mowed, disked, and planted a mix of rye grass, wheat, and oats. In later years we dropped the rye grass. Our food plot results were often mixed. We limed, fertilized, and prayed for rain. It was hit or miss.
The state biologist took out his notebook and jotted down all the varieties of natural browse that flourished on our property as we rode around on ATVs. Later he gathered us up for his evaluation. The first statement out of his mouth was “Why in the world are you guys fooling around with food plots?” He noted two dozen natural- browse plants on our place that would supply all of the nutrients our deer would require. We were dumbfounded.
Sure we still plant plots, but we cut them in half and rotate the areas. We don’t have to, but we want observation fields for taking does. Truth is we don’t need food plots. You may need to examine your hunting areas to put efforts toward the native plants that already exist.