We joke around at Foxworthy Farm about how the deer eat better than my family. After buying the land, which was managed for quail, one of the first steps toward transforming the great quail hunting land into amazing deer hunting land was to implement a food plot program that would provide optimal nutrition for the deer herd. After a few years of trying different things, we have established an excellent program to hold and attract mature whitetails with food plots.
Before we put any food out, we invite Larry the Cable Guy over to taste-test it. As a connoisseur of all things food, he reports on what tastes the best. The success of the program proves that Larry and the deer have similar tastes when it comes to soybeans, corn, phosphate and magnesium.
When I first acquired the land, it was decided to bring a Midwestern farm practice to the Southeast—a program primarily utilizing soybeans and corn. Our spring and summer feeding program consists of 120 acres of beans and about 80 acres of corn. The corn provides cover around buffer zones, a source of carbohydrates, energy and fats in the fall, and offers a great spot to hunt once the season starts. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The deer won’t start hitting the corn until it starts to dry out as temperatures drop in autumn, so right now they’re all about the beans.
The beans and corn are planted around the end of April each year, and as soon as the beans are sprouting, the deer are in there are thick. The beans are a good high-protein food source to help bucks grow antlers and does produce milk for their newborn fawns—a high-caliber protein source like this is a necessity in the spring and summer. In addition to the corn and beans, we also run our feeders pretty hard this time of year.
There is a lot of debate about whether a supplemental feeding program is beneficial for deer. Well, we have some data from the farm that tells us it absolutely is. Before we started feeding, we saw parts of the pedicle still attached in 8 to 12 percent of shed antlers we found, meaning the pedicles were weak and there was not a clean break between the antler and the pedicle bases. This spring—the first after we started a mineral program—we collected 140 sheds, and only one had a pedicle tear; that’s less than 1 percent. We are sold on the effects of the program, and this year we are doing the same thing.
We have one feeder per 100 acres. We begin supplemental feeding as soon as deer season ends and will continue throughout the summer. This assures the bucks have enough nutrients and minerals to sustain maximum antler growth. It’s also good for a doe’s milk production, and we know the importance of making sure baby deer grow up.
That’s the general overview of our spring and summer deer diet programs. In a future post, I'll share with you our approach to fall food plots. Right now, concentrate on having enough sources of protein and minerals on your land before the acorns start dropping and the corn dries out. Deer hunting season is approaching quickly, and the window to add more mass to a buck’s rack is closing. With a solid off-season plan, he should be sporting some serious headgear come fall. May you finally be able to replace that talking fake deer head you have above the fireplace with a buck all your in-laws will be jealous of.