This is a great time of year for deer managers! There are usually some days with beautiful weather that makes us think about spring. It’s a great time to shed hunt as most of the mature bucks have dropped their antlers by now. We are collecting soil samples and ordering seed to prepare for the spring planting season! It truly is a fun time of year to be a deer manager.
However, it’s crunch time for mature bucks. Most mature bucks lose 30% + – of their body weight during the rut. Many of them didn’t have access to quality forage and/or grain to regain that weight. Due to the loss of weight, they’ve had a hard time staying warm. Most of the whitetails’ range has experienced wicked winter weather conditions with deep snow and below normal temperatures during the past month or more. These conditions not only made it tough to stay warm, but made accessing the limited food supply very difficult.
Added to these stresses predators are hungry also. With the ground frozen, they can’t find small rodents easily and often turn to larger prey. Many mature bucks received injuries during the rut and predators probably can detect the scent and or appearance of these injuries.
Given all these factors, it’s no surprise that the mortality rate of mature bucks during late winter can be extremely high. Good management can reduce the mortality rate of mature bucks during the late winter stress period through good habitat management. Making sure there is enough quality forage and grain and that its distribution is such that deer don’t have to travel far from cover to access quality food. Quality cover is another factor that helps mature bucks survive the winter. Thermal protection and areas that limit the effectiveness of predators are critical components of quality deer habitat. Again, cover should be distributed such that all deer don’t have to return to the same area for cover and therefore lead all predators to one location.
There will likely be more sheds to find next year if quality food and cover are provided for deer during crunch time this year.
Growing Deer together,