Spring and Summer Deer Feeding Leads to a Healthier Herd
With deer season well behind us, there’s no better time than now to start planning and preparing for next season. Part of that planning and preparation is providing your deer herd with the right resources at the right time to maximize their potential. Spring and summer deer feeding might be your chance to do just that.
Spring and Summer Deer Feeding Basics
Deer feeding can take on multiple aspects. As a whole, it includes planting food plots, providing supplemental minerals and feed, and working on habitat projects to improve native forage production. Deer management is all about providing the best resources, at the right amounts and the right time. Feeding deer in spring and summer correctly enables you to improve your herd during critical times, which leads to a healthy, more robust deer herd come fall hunting season.
Spring and summer deer feeding is distinctly different than feeding (or baiting) during deer season where legal. Although there are nutritional needs for deer in the fall during hunting season, maximum benefit and necessity from deer feeding occurs during the offseason, particularly in spring and summer. However, feeding deer in spring and summer months can be expensive. It can also be ineffective if not adequately planned out and purposefully designed as part of a larger deer management program for your property. For instance, herd dynamics, such as overall herd size and buck-to-doe ratios, and habitat concerns, such as carrying capacity and available forage, are important considerations to make before deer feeding programs are considered. If these are considered, then it might be time to begin looking into a feeding program for spring and summer.
4 Most Important Benefits of Spring and Summer Deer Feeding Programs:
- Attract and retain deer to your property.
- Increase antler potential of bucks.
- Improve overall deer herd health.
- Increase in fawn recruitment.
When to Start Feeding Deer in Spring?
Beyond weather, focus on paying attention to vegetation. Spring triggers new growth in the fields and woods and deer know this. Their nutritional requirements shift from survival mode to growth mode for both bucks and does.
Early spring to mid spring is a good rule of thumb to start your spring deer feeding program. This roughly coincides as food plots will start being planted. Bucks will still be recovering from the rut and the past winter, but they’ll be also transitioning into starting new antler growth. In addition, does will be entering the final stages of fawn development and preparing for nursing. The third trimester and then into nursing newborn fawns, does will naturally have high nutritional requirements to ensure peak fawn survival.
Nutritional Needs of Deer in the Spring
Spring deer feeding has to focus on the needs that bucks and does have transitioning from winter. As mentioned previously, bucks are starting antler growth and does are preparing for fawn rearing. Both of these lifecycle changes require certain nutrients to maximize their potential.
Unless you have planned appropriately for late season and spring forages, chances are your food plots are just being planted. This can create a gap in available food just before and during spring green up. Protein is critical for bucks to rebuild muscle and also for proper fawn development. Choose high protein deer feed, such as the Big Tine 30-06 Protein Plus
Furthermore, certain minerals are also needed by whitetails to maintain a healthy and productive herd. Native browse, food plots, habitat projects, and new growth vegetation will fulfill the “food” need of deer, but supplementing these sources with the right minerals creates more mineral uptake for deer and more opportunities for hunters. For antler growth, deer feed ingredients such as calcium and phosphorous are a must. Does, generally, will require a range of nutrients and trace minerals during the spring fawning season. What they don’t already get through the environment they can obtain from a good mineral block like the Big Tine Block.
Finally, an often overlooked need for whitetails during spring is sodium or more commonly salt. The need for this relates to the increase in food intake occurring at this time. Ingesting more succulent vegetation significantly increases the amount of water and potassium intake for whitetails and the need for salt to balance the digestive process is great.
When to Transition to Feeding Deer in Summer
Transitioning between spring and summer deer feeding relates to the next phase of the whitetail’s lifecycle. Bucks are continuing to grow their antlers and now fawns are starting to drop. In conjunction, seasonal changes are also occurring.
Spring and summer deer feeding has no clear stop and start. However, deer can clue you in on when to modify your supplemental feeding program. Two observations can help you decide when deer have shifted into summer mode. First, and most obvious, you will start to see fawns. Second, antler growth in bucks will begin to increase to the point where you begin to see more development of points and height. Both observations are an indication that nutritional requirements are again changing for deer.
Feeding Deer in Summer
The most important time for proper nutrition for whitetails is summer. Bucks are rapidly increasing antler growth and does are recovering from fawning and providing for those newly born fawns.
For bucks, calcium and phosphorus continue to be important for maximum antler growth. A large percentage of these two minerals go directly to antler growth. When selecting the right summer deer feed, look for calcium to phosphorus ratios in feeds should be 1:1 or 2:1 to for optimal antler development.
Does have the largest nutritional needs in summer, especially a nursing doe. Their requirements exist on two fronts. They’re losing energy and nutrients while feeding their fawns and in turn, need to be passing adequate resources to that fawn through their milk. If proper food sources are not available, fawn survival can suffer and the health of the doe herd can be diminished. High levels of carbohydrates and protein-rich feed is needed to meet the needs of does in summer. Protein content should be higher in summer than spring. Feeds should have upwards of 15-22% protein content. Also when feeding deer in summer, your feeders need to be accessible by fawns so they too can take full advantage of all the deer feed ingredients you’re supplementing with.
If you’ve planned well, your food plots and native vegetation, in addition to her management should carry all of the nutritional needs whitetails require. Plots planted with high-quality forages like the Deer Delight mix from Arrow Seed provide very productive, palatable, and protein-rich forages from which deer can easily extract all the nutrients they need during the summer. Of course, throughout spring and summer, and even into fall and winter, every bit of energy, protein, and nutrition can go a long way.
To conclude, spring and summer deer feeding are extremely important to overall deer herd health and to maximize antler development. However, don’t think of it strictly as supplemental feed and minerals. Deer rely on the habitat and the environment first, not supplemental feed. Always check your state’s regulations when it comes to feeding deer and minerals for deer. Whenever possible, make habitat and herd management a priority instead of supplemental feed and minerals. However, if you have satisfied those management requirements, supplying additional nutrition can be an added gain on your property!