Supplemental Deer Feeding Program | Dealing With Competition at the Protein Feeder
By: Justin Bryan
It is well understood that if you can maintain whitetails on your hunting property, on a high quality supplemental feed product then you can/should reap the rewards of the quality nutrition provided by that product to those deer. Those rewards being, better body condition which then leads to better antler growth in bucks and better odds of healthier fawns and higher fawn survival rates on your hunting property. Of course, healthier fawns and higher fawn survival increases the odds that you will have a sufficient supply of young deer being added to the population each year. Four to five years down the road, with the proper supplemental deer feeding program, those fawns who have now become adults should provide you with pleasurable harvest opportunities. All that to say…that would be the perfect world scenario. Unfortunately in my experiences with supplemental deer feeding, it has never been quite that easy especially here in Texas.
Regrettably, not only do whitetails enjoy consuming a high quality supplemental feed product so do a wide range of other animals. Which in itself is okay, there is really no telling how much wildlife, game and nongame animals alike, have benefited from supplemental deer feeding across North America. Non-hunters can argue all they want that hunters are evil but I really doubt non-hunters are placing millions of dollars of supplemental feed each year in the wild for wildlife, once again benefitting both game and nongame animals. Therefore, we as deer enthusiasts have to deal with a wide range of “non-target species” (those the supplemental deer feeding isn’t really intended for) at feeders. These can range from species such as cardinals to squirrels, which really aren’t that concerning, to species that can be a bit more challenging such as…axis deer, aoudad sheep, feral hogs, turkey, and raccoons.
So you ask, “Why?” which is a good question. Remember the point of supplemental deer feeding is not as an attractant, it is to provide deer with a high quality nutritional supplement that maintains the body, which provides the opportunity for better overall health on the hunting property which can lead to additional antler growth, healthier does, and higher fawn survival. Therefore, you want those deer to be able to access the supplement, without any fear or caution, any time during the day or night, 24/7, and 365 days a year on your hunting land.
When non-target species enter the picture, whitetails tend to become like sixth grade boys at their first school dance….wall flowers and unable to make direct eye contact, shying off to more remote locations. Aoudad, axis deer, and the other list of perpetrators have no problem dominating deer feeder locations, directly running deer off or just through sheer intimidation making it an uncomfortable location to be at.
So the question stands, how do we deal with these non-target species or do we do anything at all? That my friend depends on you. If you like the “diversity” of wildlife, they will without a doubt benefit from the supplemental deer feeding…there is no telling how many B&C raccoons are walking around Texas right now. As well, there are numerous exceptional aoudad, axis deer, and healthy squirrels near supplemental deer feeder locations. But if your flavor is more liking to the whitetails, then it is a matter of shoot and shoot often. Without this action there is no way the whitetails will have a chance to benefit from supplemental deer feeding.