I have been involved in various conversations regarding what goals people have with their property. I am always curious where holding deer on the property ALL YEAR is on their list of goals. I myself years ago never really considered this. I was always focused on this question: “What can I do to see more deer during hunting season?” The key word in that question is “season”. I managed my property for the season and not the year. Luckily, I was able to meet people along the way and was able to have a different mentality towards how I managed my property.
There are 3 key factors to holding deer on your property all year. The factors are: food, cover, and water. I could go into depth regarding all three of these factors, but that’s for another article.
Let’s begin with food. As many of you know, deer like to browse. Are there native food sources for deer to browse on? Yes. However, how long do these sources stay at a nutritional level that is beneficial to the deer and what happens when these native sources die off? These are “temporary” food sources that will be beneficial for small window of time. Time to think about the “big picture”. Is your property surrounded by agricultural fields? If so, what is planted in these fields? You ask yourself these questions because why would you want to plant on your property with what your property is surrounded by? Soybeans and corn are a common crop planted by farmers. Both for the most part of harvested in the Fall. When you assess your property, think about what you can plant that will essentially feed the deer in phases. For example: A food source for Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. If you able to meet the nutritional food source needs for all times of year, the more likely you are going to hold deer on your property and pull deer from other properties who don’t have this type of management plan implemented.
The second factor is cover. I also like to say a “bedding” place with this factor. Deer like to be in areas where there is adequate cover. Examples can include: Timber, swamps, or a bedding product that you planted. Having a cover area on your property not only make the deer feel more comfortable, it will hold them on your property. A lot of people may refer to these areas as the “deer sanctuary” on their property. Areas you don’t want to disturb.
The third factor is water. Like us, deer need to consume water for survival. If you have the above factors on your property; but no water, are the above factors going to be as effective? If the deer must leave your property for water, my answer would be no. There are various options for you to have an accessible water source on your property. You can utilize a natural water source already established on your property or create your own. A common question asked is, what about the winter months when the water freezes? (For those of us in the northern half of the US) Believe it or not, deer can get water consumption out of the plants they are consuming during these months. Therefore, it is crucial for you to have nutritional food sources available to the deer.
If you can implement all these factors on your property, you will be able to hold deer all year which is great for the health of the herd. This also allows for the potential for bucks to grow many inches of antler. If the buck does not have to travel far to meet these three factors, they are not expending too much energy which allows for better antler growth.
Lastly, herd management is a key component for herd health. If there are too many deer on your property and as a result consuming more food than what’s available, they will move onto the next food source.