As I go through in my thoughts of winters past, I don’t ever recall a winter like this one. As a child, winter was everything, but as an adult, with a body aging, I find winters are getting tougher to get through, mentally and physically.
As I look outside, all I see is cold and white, with the appearance of never letting go, I can’t help but to ask myself, did I do enough as a manager to get my deer through this weather event. The answer to that question, if I’m honest, is I hope so.
What do you classify yourself as? Are you a manager or are you just someone who wears the label so he or she can fit in? Let me ask you then, did you do enough for your deer herd to get them through this weather event?
Social media seems to be a popular place to show off your management skills. Go on and check out the post. There you will find amazing things, big deer and gorgeous food plots, but as winter came the post slowed, people started posting about sheds, warmer temps, and of future plantings of forages. Why is this?
Quality deer management is 365 days, all four season type of management, whether you own 20 acres or 1,000, you can make a difference and that time is now.
What gets deer through these tough times that winter throws at them? Is it supplemental forages? Let me ask you then, what do food plots offer when they are covered up with a foot of snow and a quarter inch of ice on top of that? What do food plots offer when they have been depleted because of the longevity of any winter?
You have to ask yourself then, are you managing just for hunting seasons or the future of your herd? If your managing for the future, then you know you need to offer more, you need to provide quality cover that equals food to get them through what Mother Nature is offering at the moment.
Deer are made for these conditions. The strong will live and the weak will die, but it’s our job as land stewards to give all wildlife a chance for survival. Deer need to conserve calories to survive any winter. Providing thermal cover such as pines is a management solution. Giving them a place to get out the weather will conserve those calories.
Obviously they need more than that. So what do we do? One thing we don’t do is manage in fads. We don’t turn the best grocery store like an old field type environment into a switch grass field just because it’s the popular thing to do. Now no one can argue that native warm season grasses offer incredible nesting and bedding area for wildlife, but when you get below zero temps with snow to follow you will see that it has no nutritional value to it and upon inspection, you will see drastic utilization decrease.
What does get deer to the next level then? I tell my clients that the best cover that equals food is usually the most non-aesthetically pleasing thing out there. It’s the thickest nastiest habitat type. It’s created by letting an old field revert into shrubby brush and briars, its hinge cutting an area and letting sunlight hit the forest floor. This will provide them thousands of pounds of food per acre and will conserve those calories on top of it. Simply put, it’s providing a stress free environment.
You have to remember what a deer is going through this time of year. Fetuses are being developed and bucks are coming off an exhausting rut. What you do this time of year will either help or hinder that cycle. We want our deer to be going into the spring not playing catch up, but ready to rock and roll to reach their potential.
There is one tool that assists you in this task. If can can’t find it in your garage then look in your barn. If it’s not there then borrow one. What is this tool? It’s the chainsaw. Grab some friends, have a plan, and go cut. Don’t worry about to hinge cut or not to hinge cut. Just cut the tree down so the sun can do it’s job.
What separates us from consumers is that we manage never for the now, but for the future. You need to think outside the box and always do what’s important for your property, not what someone else is doing. The sheds will still be there waiting for you to be bragged about and the food plots you have planned can be addressed another day.
365 days are in a year and there are four seasons that go along with it. Question again, are you doing enough to give your deer an opportunity to reach your expectations. The time is now!
As my grandpa always use to say…No hurry, No worry, Keep moving!