Luckily, as North Carolinian hunters, we don’t have to face many inches of snow and brutal below freezing temperatures nearly as much as our fellow hunters who live north of us. Due to the mild winters, whitetails aren’t faced with the dilemma of not having any food sources available when the weather gets tough. We do though, have a period of time where the natural forage production is at an annual low. Couple that with the fact that most agricultural crops have been harvested and the food plots that may have planted were primarily for hunting in the fall, and we have a forage lull. That time is now.
There are a few ways to counteract this lull in forage production. The first is to plant a winter food plot that is solely designed to produce forage that whitetails desire during the lean winter months.
Even a forage as simple as winter wheat can provide a palatable food source that can easily be digested, compared to the woody stems and briars available in the forest now.
The problem with this is that planting a winter food source requires forethought and preparation. For the hunters who have just purchased a piece of property or the hunters who lease land, this may not be an option. It is however, something to consider planting for next year. Mossy Oak BioLogic has many great food plot seed blends specifically made for this type of planting.
There are other options that won’t have the same effect as a well-executed food plot, but are helpful nonetheless. Supplemental feeding can be a slippery slope when it comes to deer management. Many hunters don’t think twice about placing out corn or other types of bait to hunt over during the season, but this ceases immediately when the season ends. If you have an area that is limited as far as food plots are concerned, you could feed your deer herd throughout the winter. In some instances, supplemental feeding provides more food than the habitat can naturally produce. This may also increase the deer density in your area, somewhat, and the deer are depending on the supplemental food sources to maintain their numbers over the natural carrying capacity. When the supplemental food sources cease, the deer are left in a habitat that is under-producing forage with a density that is much higher than should be naturally. You can see where this would cause some problems. That being said, a corn feeder or two on your property that is refreshed once a month will probably not have the deer dependent on the supplemental feed. A trail camera over a feeder provides much information on winter deer habits and herd inventory surveys, but it is important to note that it provides little nutritional value and is obsolete in the world of nutritional food plots when it comes to winter food sources.
By providing your deer herd with a winter forage you are allowing their bodies to recuperate from long months of cold weather and sparse natural forage. This will in turn provide the deer with the nutrients and health necessary to get a respectable start when the spring green-up arrives. This way they deer aren’t playing catch-up when the spring and summer rolls around. Deer season ends every January. Deer and habitat management season never ends. Never stop planning and making your land a better place for its inhabitants.
Andrew Walters is an Edgecombe County native and spends much of his time pursuing wild game and fishing across eastern North Carolina with his family and his fiancé, Noelle. His passion for the outdoors was the driving force that led him to North Carolina State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Science in 2014. He was the President of the NCSU Quality Deer Management Association club and continues to be an avid member of QDMA. After graduating, he earned his real estate license and joined the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms team in Greenville, NC. He is a freelance outdoor writer and has had a number of featured articles in the Wildlife in NC magazine, as well as, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers. Andrew is also a major contributor to the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms weekly blog, the Management Minute. His extensive knowledge of wildlife management coupled with his ability to identify plant and tree species provides him the unique ability to help clients not only identify, but manage their property to maximum potential. Andrew’s enthusiasm and knowledge enables him to properly navigate the channels necessary in “finding your favorite place” outdoors, as well as, developing a wildlife management plan specifically tailored for your piece of ground. Contact Andrew today to find out how he can help you find and manage your next dream property.
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