Now that Christmas is behind us and we prepare for the New Year let's not forget about our deer herd and habitat. TODAY is the day to start planning for next season's success. For most of us die hard deer managers, Santa brought us a couple new toys and we can hardly wait until next fall to try them out; and if your like us, next fall seems like a lifetime away! We spend our winters dreaming of spring break up so we can fire up the tractors, hook on to our equipment and get to work on our food plots. This is certainly what dreams are made of and in a perfect world we could store our deer in a barn, brush them, fondle their antlers and do all we could to make their winter pleasant so they could start growing new antlers a little earlier in the spring. Unfortunatly, winters for them are not all that kind. We are experiencing more snow than normal and stretches of sub-zero temps which is not doing them any favors where health and winter survival is concerned. One of the most common complaints we hear in my neck of the woods is that winter kill could be prevented if we could only feed deer. Reguardless of which side of that debate your on the fact remains that in areas where bovine tuberculosis or CWD are present a lot of states have made it illegal to feed; right or wrong that's just the way it is. At this point many folks just throw up their hands and blame the states for poor managment and their desire to see all the deer dead. At most levels hunters view the individual biologist, regulators and representatives as people who are barely capible of finding their way to work each day. However, when you lump them together we give them credit for the ability to create and launch great conspiracies against us as hunters! Truth is these people are tasked with the health issues of our wildlife and I trust they are doing what they deem right and scientifically supported for health of the herd and sustainability of the species. These people also have to deal with us hunters which as you know can be very difficult, we are all pasionate about our hunting heritage, lifestyle, and certainly believe we know better than the people who are currently in charge. So what can we do other than get mad and point fingers you might ask. As important as nutrition plots are during the summer months the actions we take during the winter are as critical, however, you don't see anyone holding seminars or selling products that get us exited for the winter months "deer managment". Our northern clients work just as hard or harder from December to April as they do during the summer and are seeing great benefit from winter efforts. If you are truly a serious deer manager then pay attention to what I am about to tell you. Cold weather is not necessarily what kills deer. The mortality comes from lack of nutrition, inadiquate thermal cover and the deep snow which limit their ability to move freely as the need arises. So what do we do? Pretty simple actually, get out of the house and plow as many of your trails, and roads as you can so the deer can move around without burning up what little fat they have in reserve. Keeping your roads and trails cleared will not only allow deer to seek additional nutrition but will give them much needed excape routes in which to avoid predators. If you are fortunate enough to have pretty good food plots at this time of year, plow across them so the deer can have a little easier access to the remaining crop. A little pre-planning might cause you to consider a different species of plant in your plots next season if you think about it being there under the snow and ice.... if your willing to spend a little effort keeping it avilable to your herd. You also should think about your forestry program and conduct as much of that during the winter as possible. Timber managment is something you should be doing anyway and if properly done will aid greatly with winter nutrition by putting forage on the ground and keeping regeneration down in the "deers world" where they can reach it. Next you need to think about winter thermal cover and windbreaks which is another topic not talked a lot about because it's not as "cool" as planting crops but equally as important. How many of us have hunkered down on the south side of a fallen spruce tree during the late muzzle season, I bet most of us. What do your deer look for when the north winds howl and snow is blowing side ways....the same thing you our I would look for, shelter and wind block. Your spring plans should include efforts to improve or enhance areas that provide winter shelter. Finally and one that often ends in dispute is stress. We all enjoy the outdoors and like to take our kids and grandkids to the woods during the winter to snowmobile and do other winter activities. While our deer are attempting to find nutrition, conserve fat and energy the last thing they need is a snowmobile screaming thru the middle of their house. I am certainly not saying stay off your property and not enjoy it in every way possible but be consious of your activities and try to reduce stress on the animals as much as possible during the winter months. I am in hopes these tips will cause you to pause and think a little more about winter managment practices you can do that will provide better results in your managment efforts. They are certainly not as attractive as a cold beer on a hot day sitting on a tractor bragging to our friends how much seed we got in the ground but I can assure you it is equally important. Until next time from the Dr. Deer Team we wish all of you a Healthy, Safe and Productive New Year. Be safe, be warm and get out and do something for your deer!
Happy New Year,
Dr. Deer Inc.