Keep your deer herd around all year with these tips
Some deer hunters have success tagging quality bucks season after season. Others struggle just to see a cowhorn. One thing we can tell you — it has nothing to do with luck. Surely good fortune comes into play at times. But preparation is truly the key to consistently killing quality deer.
The upcoming fall deer hunting season seems like a long way off. But it’s not too early to increase your chances of success. Hunters can do plenty right now to help their deer herd and to keep them on their property, and to keep tabs on those deer. And all that will lead to a great hunting season eight months or so from now.
Where it’s legal, many hunters feed their deer herd throughout the season. Even those who don’t like to do so have realized it’s a necessary evil, because if their neighbors are putting out corn, the deer will go there. But, the majority of those same hunters stop supplemental feeding once deer season ends. And that comes at a very critical time for deer.
The winter months are harsh on deer, especially those who have had an easy and ample supply of corn for months. They’re suddenly faced with the harshest weather of the year when the most limited food supply is available. They burn a lot of energy looking for food, and most of what they do find is the lowest quality food they’ll have all year.
Curt Kindley of Rockingham, N.C. hunts with a group of guys along the border of North and South Carolina. He said they feed their deer herd year-round. Several hunters in their group killed trophy bucks in 2019.
Feeding year-round provides multiple benefits
“We feed year-round. The only time we won’t feed is during turkey season. We’ll quit about three weeks before. And as soon as turkey season goes out, we’ll start right back up and keep (the deer) hanging close,” said Kindley.
And during turkey season, when they don’t have their feeders running, Kindley and his hunting partners rely on food plots to keep the deer around. This helps them transition to more natural food sources, while still keeping the deer from straying off their property.
Their break from feeding during turkey season is to comply with baiting laws regarding hunting turkeys. And Kindley said that on certain parts of their land that they do not hunt turkeys, they will continue feeding.
The offseason feeding has more than one benefit. It aids the deer in getting through the toughest months of the year. And it also gives the deer a reason not to stray from the property in search of food. Another benefit is that it allows the hunters to keep tabs on each deer’s behavior and travel patterns. Trail cameras come into play here too.
Trail cameras are vital off-season tools
“We keep our cameras rolling year-round. It helps in a number of ways. During the offseason, we’ll go shed hunting. The cameras help with that. We’ll see a deer on one camera, then get pictures of it on another camera across the property. Sometimes, the deer has both antlers in one photo, then only one or none in the other photo. So we know that we’ll find those sheds somewhere in between those two sites,” he said.
The cameras also help them watch as each deer grows, and how their antlers form each year. They can watch the animals’ summer patterns all the way up to when deer season starts back. This gives each hunter confidence with knowing which deer are in their area, and gives them a full overall picture of what’s happening on their land. If an increase in coyotes occurs, they’ll know it. If a good deer stops showing up on their property, they’ll know it. And if a any new deer show up, they’ll know that too.
Compare that approach to one in which a hunting group removes their cameras as soon as deer season is over, stops providing supplemental food sources, then only starts back a couple of weeks before deer season begins. Which group of hunters do you think has the best chance of success at bagging quality deer?