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After the Rut

A Deer Management Article

Written by T.R. Michels


December Pre Late Breeding Phase, Late Breeding Phase and Post Rut
From early to late December those does that did not conceive earlier may come into a late estrus, and older, unhealthy and fawn does may come into estrus now. Both dominant and subdominant bucks may start cruising, scraping and chasing does. By late December most of the breeding is done and the bucks may return to their core areas to rest up after the rut, and feed to put on the weight they lost during the rut, so they can make it through the winter. Depending on the severity of the weather, the snow depth, and the availability of food sources, the deer may shift from fall home ranges to winter home ranges, in some areas they may migrate from a less than one mile, to several miles. Buy feed and supplements for winter feeding.

Buck Nutrition After The Rut

After the stress of the rut the bucks have lot of body fat, and some of them may be injured. In order to come through the winter in good shape, and to produce good racks for the next year they need to replenish their fat reserves. And although they may not start growing new racks for a month or more, they still need minerals. If bucks don't have enough feed in the winter they may start burning muscular tissue (which is largely protein) just to survive. Then, in the spring, the first available protein they ingest will be diverted to replace crucial muscle tissue, and there will be little surplus for the critical beginning of antler growth. Whether you are trying to produce larger racks, or simply keep a healthy herd, you should try to provide sufficient fat reserves before winter, and during the winter, to avoid protein tissue loss. You should also be sure to provide sufficient protein and mineral so that you don't inhibit muscular and antler growth in the spring.

Even though you may have been feeding deer throughout the summer and fall, winter feeding may not benefit the deer you hunt. In many areas deer migrate from summer/fall ranges to winter/spring home ranges. What this means is that the bucks you saw and were hunting in the summer and fall may not be using the same areas where you saw them or where you hunted them in the fall; they may be miles away. Before you start a winter nutrition program you should determine if te deer are still using the area where you have been feeding them. If they are not, and you don't have access to the areas they use in the winter/spring, there may be no reason to provide winter nutrition. If you have access to the areas the deer use in the winter, or the deer are still using the area, you can institute a winter nutrition program by providing food plots, supplemental feed and minerals.

The placement of winter food sources, supplemental feeds, and minerals, is often crucial in the winter. If the deer have to spend a lot of time moving to food sources, spend to much time in the open when it is cold and windy, or travel too far through deep snow, they may actually burn more calories going to fed than they gain in feeding. What you want to do is be sure the food is close to the core areas of the deer, in areas where they don't have to travel through too much snow, and where they are out of cold winter winds. Ideal locations for winter feeding are the downwind sides of hills and woods, and in south facing areas where the snow may melted off by the sun, and where the deer may benefit from solar warming.

In many areas, especially where the winter winds come out of the north or the northwest, this means a southeast facing slope not far from a wooded area. One other thing to consider when you are winter feeding is to plant winter food plots or provide supplemental in more than one area if possible, so that not too many deer rely on one food source. Research has shown that when an over abundance of deer frequent winter food sources, they often stay in the area. This may lead to habitat destruction and the spread of disease. Scatter food sources out by a half mile or more if possible, and provde adequate food at each location to provide for most of the deer in each area.