Supplemental Feeding

Providing additional feed, whether poured from a feed sack or planted in a field, can be an effective way of improving deer antler growth, overwinter survival and visibility of deer to hunters. However, such feeding programs are expensive and may be cost-prohibitive for most ranchers. The distinction between supplemental feeding and baiting should be made. Baiting involves feeding whole corn from October through December in order to increase the visibility of deer, whereas a supplemental feeding program involves feeding a balanced ration whenever foraging conditions dictate. If a supplemental feeding program is desired, contact a wildlife specialist for the proper ration. Research on the pros and cons of supplemental feeding have not been studied sufficiently to recommend the practice at this time.

Deer will readily use most cultivated forage crops such as small grains, alfalfa, forage sorghums, etc. Where these crops can be planted, they can serve as excellent sources of supplemental feed for mule deer, especially during winter months when other forages are limited. Small grains are especially attractive to mule deer and provide the bulk of the winter diet in some areas of the Panhandle. Fields developed specifically for mule deer should be no larger than 20 acres and should be planted to wheat or triticale. Having a number of small plantings if preferable to a few large plantings. Plantings should be adjacent to woody cover for maximum use by deer.