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Very Interesting read. Any thoughts?

June 30, 2006

Supplemental Deer Feeding Can Reduce Rangeland Quality

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-467-6575,[email protected]
Contact: Dr. Susan Cooper, 830-278-9151,[email protected]


UVALDE - Supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer helps produce trophy bucks, but it can also mean trouble for ranglelands, according to Texas Agricultural Experiment Station research conduced in Uvalde.

One of the goals of a year-long study at the Harris Ranch in Uvalde was to find out if supplemental feeding of white-tailed would affect rangeland due to overgrazing of forage plants near feeders, said Dr. Susan Cooper, wildlife scientist and lead researcher for the study.

"To test this, we divided the ranch into six areas and provided supplemental feed year-round in three of the areas, Cooper said. "No supplemental feed was provided in the other three areas, which were used as control areas."

Animals feed more selectively when food is abundant, said Cooper. Research has shown vegetation type and quantity can be affected by animal foraging patterns and intensity.

"Previous studies focused on supplemental feeding of deer during winter, so little was known about the effect of year-round supplementation," Cooper said. "Since the current national trend is toward intensive management of native hoofed animals, such as year-round supplemental feeding of deer, we felt we needed to reflect that in our research."

Year-round supplementation is well established on many Texas rangelands where white-tailed deer are closely managed to produce trophy bucks, she said.

"Deer receiving supplemental feed still continue to browse on native vegetation and increase their diet selection by concentrating on higher-quality plant forage species," Cooper said. "We deduced that forage use by deer would be most evident close to location where the supplemental food was being dispensed to the deer."

Cooper and her team established feeding centers in the middle of each of the six areas of the ranch to attract and trap deer with foraging ranges that included the area near the feeders.

Twenty-four adult deer were trapped and fitted with standard radio-telemetry collars.

"Following the capture of the deer, we randomly selected three areas and placed a permanent 'free choice' gravity feeder at the center of those areas," Cooper explained. "We used shelled corn instead of alfalfa or grain-based pelleted rations because this was the supplemental feed the deer were used to receiving at this ranch."

Some supplemental food was provided in the control areas from October to mid-January in preparation for and during hunting season, but no data were gathered during that time.

Deer location was plotted by simultaneous time recordings between two sites, along with supplemental readings from other locations whenever possible, Cooper said.

"We compared the distribution of supplemented and non-supplemented deer within their home range areas," she said.

The "home range" is the entire area an animal uses for feeding, breeding and other normal activities, Cooper noted.

While some of the deer lost their collars and some collars didn't work, adequate sample sizes were obtained from eight does and six bucks. Home ranges were analyzed across seasons.

The browse utilization analysis was confined to three palatable plant species in the areas: partridge pea, lead-tree and guajillo. Plants used were raised from seed in separate pots under greenhouse conditions, and seedlings were placed at various distances up to 100 yards from each feeder and center of each control site. To avoid rabbit grazing the seedlings had to be placed in raised groupings.

"The fate of the seedlings was recorded as either browsed, dead or gone," Cooper said. "Gone meant there were no additional seedlings available to replace the plant after it had been browsed. Each plant species and season was analyzed separately."

Researchers observed browsing pressure on the seedlings increased with proximity to the feeder.

"Even in spring, when there was fresh, green vegetation throughout the area, seedlings in the arrays near the feeders were more likely to be grazed than seedlings in the control areas," Cooper said.

Researchers concluded that providing shelled corn as supplemental feed had little effect on the home range size for the deer, mainly due to their having to travel widely to locate water and shade. However, feeding activity seemed to be more concentrated near the feeders.

"We saw that when supplemental feed was available to white-tailed does, much of their activity became concentrated into a smaller core area," Cooper said. "But unlike the does, there was no evidence that bucks with access to supplemental feed concentrated their activity in a similar way."

However, evidence of browsing on the seedlings showed all the deer in the study concentrated their foraging around sites where supplemental feed was available. This was true even when there was ample green forage material throughout their habitat.

"This means there is the potential for over-browsing of palatable plants near feeders and the failure of seedlings to establish," Cooper said. "That may lead to zones of forage depletion around the feeders. So we must caution against long-term supplemental feeding in fixed locations because of the potential for range degradation." Landowners who provide supplemental feed to deer should observe the level of browsing on favored plants near feeders, Cooper said. If heavy use is noticed, feeder locations should be altered periodically to avoid possible forage degradation near them.
 

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An Over 60 Victim Of Fate
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Makes sense.

"We saw that when supplemental feed was available to white-tailed does, much of their activity became concentrated into a smaller core area," Cooper said. "But unlike the does, there was no evidence that bucks with access to supplemental feed concentrated their activity in a similar way."

That statement says what we have always known. The feeders are for the doe which equals bait and it tells us that the doe stay in the area of the feeders.

Good read, thanks Brad.

TH
 

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Trouthunter said:
Makes sense.

"We saw that when supplemental feed was available to white-tailed does, much of their activity became concentrated into a smaller core area," Cooper said. "But unlike the does, there was no evidence that bucks with access to supplemental feed concentrated their activity in a similar way."

That statement says what we have always known. The feeders are for the doe which equals bait and it tells us that the doe stay in the area of the feeders.

Good read, thanks Brad.

TH
Let me throw a monkey wrench in this line of thinking. When buck/doe ratios are very tight, we found this to be just the opposite. Using free choice protien feeders and a remote digital camera in several different locations, I took over 3000 pictures. Out of the 3000+ photos taken, I had pics of less that 1 dozen (12) does at feeders. In fact, at my particular feeder, I NEVER photographed a doe or personally witnessed a doe enter a feed pen.
 

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Trouthunter said:
So, that just tells us what we already knew as well...the girls just don't like you. LMAO!

:)

TH
So true.

However, back to the point, it has been my experience that the closer the buck/doe ratios get the less you see does around feeders. On this particular ranch, our spotlight counts indicated we had more does than bucks. However, actual stand sightings were about 5 bucks for every doe. Does totally avoided those areas due to being harrassed all the time. In fact, the older bucks seemed to dominate the actual feed pens.

I know he's out of pocket right now, but, I'd be curious to hear Capt. Forrest's experiences/views on this.
 

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An Over 60 Victim Of Fate
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Okay, in all seriousness, I see just the opposite in Jackson County. The doe "live" at the feeders. Of course that is on 240 acres and is what it is. In South Texas I've seen doe at all feeders and young bucks as well, but few mature bucks.

Dunno Brad. Maybe we can get a grant and study this on a nice 10,000 acre ranch. :)

TH
 

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Palrider, Our photo's of feeder pens on the ranch we hunt reflect what you have seen. This ranch is in north Texas. Our buck doe ratio is 1/1.5 with a good number of mature bucks. We see a hugh number of buck photo's in comparision to does. The only exception is during the mid summer June-Aug period. During that time we have a couple of feeders that are mostly used by does but about the time shedding occurs the bucks show up again. I even have one feeder where we have never seen a doe actual go into the feeder pen. The bucks in this area dominate the feeder pen and actual run off the does if they get near it. Might be some particular to our area but it raises some questions.
 

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TXPalerider said:
it has been my experience that the closer the buck/doe ratios get the less you see does around feeders.
This is true at our place. Does are not totally absent, but we see far more bucks than does.
 

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I believe I read last year where, Al Brothers had written where the only true way to get protein feed to an entire deer herd was to feed the roads every day at the same time, so that all deer could make use of the protein, not just be dominated a peticuliar buck group.

As noticed in the study that they referred to corn as the supplement, not protein feed.
 

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Mr Mudbug said:
I believe I read last year where, Al Brothers had written where the only true way to get protein feed to an entire deer herd was to feed the roads every day at the same time, so that all deer could make use of the protein, not just be dominated a peticuliar buck group.

As noticed in the study that they referred to corn as the supplement, not protein feed.
That makes sense and Al is the man for deer management.
 

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I feel that if you feed protein from a feeder with a timer then the dominant deer will get most of it (in certain herd structures), but if you feed from a free choice bulk feeder it is likely that it won't be dominated as much, if at all. I would think a food plot would be even better. Feeding the roads would work too, but it's a lot more involved.
 

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I see one major flaw in their study. they fed corn as the supplemental feed. We all know that corn has little to no nutritional value but is like candy to kids or mashed potatoes and gravy to grown men! I think when protein is fed the deer get more nutritional value and actually reduces the amount of browse a deer eats. That is why all biologists I have ever read or talked with on the subject say feeding protein actually INCREASES the carrying capacity of any pasture.

As far as certain deer dominating a feeder I am sure that happens. We have free choice protein feeders on our place and see mostly bucks in our pictures when we put the cameras up but also see a fair amount of does using them. Especially this year when it has been so dry and our consumption has increased dramatically!
 
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