As we head into spring, you might be considering changing up your off-season tactics for managing your deer herd. Whether you’re frustrated with not seeing the quality deer you hoped for last season, or maybe you’re taking over a new property, the decision to invest in a management plan is a big step. To help you get started AND stay on track as the summer months drag by, we’ve put together our top 4 tips for starting a new supplementation plan.

1. Have Patience

First and foremost, it’s important to accept that supplemental feeding isn’t about short-term results or a one-size-fits-all approach. Managing your deer and your property takes commitment and a lot of trial and error. What works for your neighbor or on your other hunting sites may not work in every location.

If the deer on your property have never eaten a protein supplement, it will take time for them to get started, regardless of what product you use.  Depending on the area and what natural browse is available, it could take six months to a year for the deer to really hit your feeders consistently.

As for results, using a well-balanced high protein, high energy feed like Magnify should show improvements in body condition and hair coat in the first few months, and you’ll probably see some extra growth on bucks within the first year or two.  But to truly see drastic changes in your deer herd, you’ll need to commit to 4-5 years of providing consistent, quality nutrition.

A final thought on that note of long-term goals. Supplemental feeding requires a significant investment in feeders and the right products, so set a budget you’re comfortable with and can sustain over several years.

2. Choose the Right Feeder

With the explosion of the deer-feeding industry in recent years, the market is full of choices when it comes to feeders.  Ask any hunter or property manager and you’ll get a variety of answers on which style is the best.

Motorized spinner feeders on a timer can help condition deer to come feed at certain times of day, making it easy for you to predict where deer will be and when. A spinner feeder also conserves feed and limits intake.

On the other hand, a gravity feeder is much simpler to set up and maintain without the need for a motor and power source. A gravity feeder allows deer to come and go from the feeder as they please, potentially keeping them in the area more often.

In reality, most any feeder will serve the purpose, but here are a few things to keep in mind when making your selection:

  • Make sure you choose a feeder with multiple dispenser ports allowing more than one deer to feed at a time. Bucks will compete for the opportunity to eat, so having multiple ports can help prevent injury and allow all your deer to feed freely.
  • Choose a feeder that is heavy-duty and durable to withstand the wind and weather. The legs should be sturdy and can be reinforced with posts or stakes as needed.
  • Make sure the feeder has a locking waterproof lid to keep out birds and varmints and keep your feed fresh.
  • If you’re opting for a spinner style feeder, consider using solar chargers to keep your feeder powered up without frequent battery changes.
3. Pick the Right Spot

The first step to choosing the best locations for your feeders is to get out and scout the property. Find the trails and corridors where the deer are traveling regularly, locate water sources and bedding areas. Once you’ve mapped out all the natural areas where your deer are, you can start strategizing feeder locations:

  • Place feeders near water sources or in the vicinity of your stands and blinds.
  • Don’t place feeders in wide open field or close to the road.
  • Use natural open spaces along high-traffic trails to place a feeder and game camera for tracking activity.
  • Make sure the feeder is easy to access with a truck or ATV so you can do regular fill-ups and maintenance to keep it operating correctly.
  • If using solar power, make sure the spot will get plenty of sunlight.

Pens and cages can help keep hogs, cattle and varmints out of your feeders.  If you’re building a pen, make sure you don’t make the pens too small. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 12-16 panels when building your pen, and make sure you have multiple feeders or a feeder with multiple ports in each pen.

4. Create Mineral Sites

Aside from protein and energy, it’s also important to include necessary vitamins and minerals in your nutrition plan for your bucks to reach their maximum antler potential.  A well-balanced mineral product will provide nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt that are essential for fertility, growth and immune system function. Be sure to check the tags on mineral products and choose one that is not high in salt.  Fortify, for example, offers chelated, 100% digestible minerals in balanced ratios to allow for maximum absorption without an excess of salt or artificial flavors.

For placing your mineral site, use the same strategies we discussed for feeders.  Consider where deer are already traveling and choose a spot with plenty of cover to prevent exposure to predators. Just don’t place your mineral site directly next to your feeders, as it could limit protein intake. Once you have your location, creating a mineral lick is simple:

  • Start by disrupting the top few inches of soil
  • Pour half a bag of mineral on top and mix into the soil
  • Pour the remainder of the bag on top of mixed soil

Keep your mineral out year-round and don’t worry about keeping the site covered or protected from weather. As water runs into the soil, the product absorbs even further into the ground. Over time, as you continue to add product, the entire area will become a popular site for your deer.

There’s No Silver Bullet

At the end of the day, there isn’t a magic silver bullet that is guaranteed to grow you a dozen monster bucks by next fall. The key is doing your research, knowing your property and building a plan you can stick to.  Remember, you’re in it for the long haul and consistency will pay off the next time you climb into your stand.