A case for supplemental feeding

Even though corn is used widely as bait for deer, it offers little to no nutritional value.

The drought of 2016, lasting from the summer long into autumn, could act as the perfect case in the argument for supplemental feeding of deer in Mississippi.

Healthy browse for deer was greatly diminished in the dry months, and that has continued through the hunting season. Only a lucky few saw their food plots emerge early from the rare rains that fell.

Highly nutritious acorns were plentiful in many areas, but sustained heavy pressure due to the lack of other natural food and man-supplied sources. As soon as they fell, they were gobbled up by many species, including whitetails.

That brings us to feeders, used both legal for supplemental feeding and baiting.

Mississippi has legalized hunting at a bait/feeding site, but the food must be 100 yards away. Individual readers must decide if hunting over food is an ethical practice. It’s a controversial and often emotional topic.

But, it is harder, especially seeing the impacts of the 2016 drought, to argue against supplemental feeding when using a high-protein feed that actually benefits deer at a time it is needed.

“Deer require 12- to 17-percent protein and a host of trace minerals on a regular basis if they are to reach their maximum potential,” said Dr. Bronson Strickland, a wildlife specialist at Mississippi State University. “Many deer in Mississippi are lucky to receive 6- to 8- percent protein on average. Consider your trophy buck; he needs a higher protein intake to be in peak condition once he starts growing antlers, shortly after shedding the previous set.

“Most have cast their antlers by early March, some as early as February. He is also trying to rebuild reserves lost during the previous rutting time. Acorns, an excellent source of protein, are getting scarce. The spring green-up will be the next natural forage to deliver high protein and minerals. That fresh growth is rich in the nutrients deer need, but as the plants grow into stems and big leaves, the nutrients diminish. In view of the extreme drought across much of the state, rebuilding reserves is going to be difficult on the poor browse that remains in the woods.”

Corn is used widely as bait for deer, but offers little to no nutritional value. It is not recommended as a proper supplement.

About David Hawkins 195 Articles
David Hawkins is a freelance writer living in Forest. He can be reached at hawkins2209@att.net.

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