Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

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Ben Sobieck
 
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Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby Ben Sobieck » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:43 am

Do you feed deer in the winter? Take the poll above.

by D&DH Editor Dan Schmidt

Good Samaritans who think they're helping deer by putting out feed in the winter may actually be endangering the health of the herd, says New Hampshire Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist Kent Gustafson.

"People mean well, but don't realize the damage they're doing. Feeding wild white-tailed deer may actually reduce the animals' ability to survive a New England winter, making them more vulnerable to starvation, predation, disease and vehicle collisions," says Gustafson, who is the Deer Project Leader for Fish and Game. "Despite people's good intentions, supplemental feeding creates an artificial situation in which the deer, the habitat and the public may suffer."

Many people think of feeding deer like feeding the birds, but there are some critical differences that make feeding deer unhealthy for the deer population, for plants near the feed site and for passing motorists. One scientific study in Maine concluded that forest plant communities can be permanently altered within 1,000 yards of traditional feeding sites.

"Quality natural habitat provides the best insurance for deer survival in winter," says Gustafson. "If you care about deer, leave them alone -- let them be wild, and find natural foods and appropriate winter shelter on their own. The bottom line is, please don't feed the deer, and please discourage your neighbors, friends and relatives from engaging in this harmful activity."

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paulie
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby paulie » Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:44 am

I dont feed the deer anymore (because it's illegal now), but when I did, I never had hoards of them show up to feast! I might have gotten three or four at a time coming in to eat. More often than not, they were fawns, I had pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, and blue jays feeding more than deer. I would put out about a hundred pouds of corn over the course of the winter (nov-mar). I never really knew it to be harmful to them (as it didnt seem they were too "dependant" on it), I figured it might help em through the winter (not just the deer but, the little critters too), and, I enjoy watching them. Like I said, I dont feed them anymore since the "baiting ban" in lower MI doesnt allow feeding either.

RubyCreekHunter
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby RubyCreekHunter » Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:13 pm

We don't know where the following photo was taken (it made the email rounds this morning), but it is a stark reminder of how feeding stations congregate deer.
Can we see it?

Bryan78
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby Bryan78 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:43 pm

Oh good since I live in the Midwest (and not in the New England states), I guess we are okay to feed deer, phew.[:D]

Ok to be serious now.  When my buddy first bought his property, we put corn out in the fall and winter to bring deer to the area.  We knew by seeing tracks that were a few "passing through" after we put the corn down they must have  came in droves because they literately tore the ground up.  But after the leaves came back they rarely touched the corn.  Piles of corn that would be gone in two days in the winter would last a week or more after spring began.

And I might add that for those who have never fed deer but thinking about doing it.  Deer really tear up cracked corn vs. whole kernel corn.  And I was told (but don't know if it is true), that deer have a really hard time digesting corn so maybe that is why they tore up the cracked corn because it was easier on their digestive tract.

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scotman
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby scotman » Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:11 pm

I think the main thing people do not understand about feeding deer during winter is once the deer gets used to that supplemental feeding it alters it natural routine and over a long period of time those old feeding areas will no longer be known. If a young deer is taught to go to a feeder then somewhere down the line those old natural feeding locations will be overgrown and forgotten. The adult doe that has fawns only knew how to go to a feeder for food because that is what she was taught by her mother. The fawns will only know to go to a feeder and so on. So when people stop feeding them after 10 years continuously it will come with a severe mortality rate. They then will have to adapt. Granted deer are resilient but the main point should be not to put unwanted stress on our deer herds, which in turn will ensure our tradition for future generations.
"The deerskin rug on our study floor, the buck's head over the fireplace, what are these after all but the keys which have unlocked enchanted doors, and granted us not only health and vigor, but a fresh and fairer vision of existence" -Paul. Brandreth

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SHKYBoonie
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby SHKYBoonie » Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:46 pm

I really don't know much about deer in the extreme North East, but all of you are assuming that the deer only use the feed station as a primary food source. In KY, where my farms are, we use supplemental feeding programs in the Winter. We do not feed corn alone but feeds such as Record Rack or Deer Chow mixed with corn in timed feeders. These feeders are set to go off only a few times daily and only for about 4 or 5 seconds each time. It disperses about 1 to 2 lbs. of feed each time in about a 30 ft. circle. Now, I doubt if these deer can make a living on that alone. They have to use there natural foods also, hints the word "supplemental".
 
I have witnessed first hand how it can make a positive impact on the deer. They come out of Winter with a better head start than before. Our deer are healthier and it shows not only in rack size of the bucks, but in the body size of bucks and does alike. Sense we started the Winter feeding program the average weight of our does are around 130 lbs. and we have yet to take a mature buck under 170 lbs. dressed. In fact one hunter took a est. 4.5 year old buck this year that dressed at 214 lbs. with a 27 in. neck diameter. Before Winter feeding began the bucks only averaged 150 lbs. or so and the does were around 100 lbs.
 
When done right, it can be a good thing and I would think that this would be true wherever it was employed. I am not talking about slug feeding deer because that can be harmful no matter what time of year you do it.
 
I can show picture proof of deer just before Spring green up, before and after we started using Winter Supplemental feeding programs. It's like night and day.

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scotman
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby scotman » Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:45 pm

In Upper Michigan during the winter of 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 over 310,000 deer died in deer yards and half of those moralities were fawns. If those deer were fed to help them survive through those winter months and into spring the following year the population would have increased 150,000 deer per year. Eventually the population would grow into over population state and in turn increasing the amount of diseases, road kills and over browsing. Just seems to me it is a no win situation by feeding deer.
"The deerskin rug on our study floor, the buck's head over the fireplace, what are these after all but the keys which have unlocked enchanted doors, and granted us not only health and vigor, but a fresh and fairer vision of existence" -Paul. Brandreth

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SHKYBoonie
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby SHKYBoonie » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:24 pm

scotman, I don't know but I'm not one who likes waist. Seems to me these deer would have went to better use in a hunters freezer or to feed our hungry. It would have also been a very disturbing way to see these great animals die. Can you imagine starving to death? If anybody ever sees me in that shape, please put a bullet in me! Or, better yet give me some venison to eat!

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scotman
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby scotman » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:38 pm

No I don't like to see waist either but it will happen even more if the deer are fed and over population takes its course. Just so happens within deer yards it is not a complete waist because those deer are fed on by the predators that hunt them and hunters.
"The deerskin rug on our study floor, the buck's head over the fireplace, what are these after all but the keys which have unlocked enchanted doors, and granted us not only health and vigor, but a fresh and fairer vision of existence" -Paul. Brandreth

ZEEK
 
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RE: Feeding Deer in Winter Harms More Than Helps

Postby ZEEK » Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:14 am

In my state feeding deer is illegal but a lot of people do it.
Some people wait until February and then put out corn and grain (something they are not used to eating) in one pile. This brings in more deer than normally would be there but only a couple get to eat. This is bad. I also know people that start in Nov. and scatter it around pretty good. I think if you put out enough, start early, and spread it out over a big area to eliminate fighting, it's okay. Putting out "just a little to help them get by" is bad as well. You have to put out enough food for the deer that are comming in to feed on. Otherwise they will be expending more energy to get there, than they will be getting from the feed you put out. BY the way all of the uncovered shrubs in my neighborhood look like mushrooms already.
Not knowing where you are going is the best way to get
somewhere you've never been.

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