I’m looking out my window at snow that has been on the ground for days. The same scene is visible today throughout much of the whitetails’ range. Snow alone is not necessarily that stressful to deer in the Northeast, Midwest, and West. However, extended periods of snow, ice, and below normal temperatures do cause extreme stress on deer and other forms of wildlife. Like us, deer generate their own heat. Their winter coat was created with the ability to make their hair erect to trap air as insulation when they are cold or lay flat and let warm air escape when they are warm. However, this system works best when deer are generating heat so it can be trapped.
Digesting high quality food is one way how deer generate body heat. Having access to a high quality diet is why cattle in feed yards can withstand extremely cold temperatures and still gain weight. For deer to express their full potential, it’s important for them to lose minimal weight during the winter, or even better to maintain or gain weight. This is only possible if they have access to a very high quality diet.
When snow and ice cover most of the food resources, deer must expend lots of energy to locate and access good quality food. This is when standing grain such as corn or soybeans really pays huge dividends to deer and other forms of wildlife! Corn grain provides very high amounts of digestible energy and soybean grain provides high amounts of digestible protein and better than average amounts of energy. The oil in soybean grain is very digestible and very high in energy.
Deer are currently facing very stressful conditions throughout much of their range. This will likely impact the antler and fawn production of many herds during 2011. However, the deer that have access to standing grain will most likely experience much less stress and express much more of their antler and fawn production potential during 2011.
What are the deer where you hunt and/or manage eating today?
Growing Deer together,