I often hear folks say “The deer have good genetics there!” They almost always say that because the deer “there” have bigger antlers, heavier body weights, etc. However, almost always the “there” is where crops such as corn or soybeans are produced. To know genetics requires knowledge of the pedigree (who bred who for several generations). That information is almost never available for critters from a free-ranging herd.
However, data that is easily obtainable is what deer and turkey are consuming. This is accomplished by simply checking the stomach or crop content of recently killed critters. Turkeys at The Proving Grounds have had body weights above average for the local area for several seasons. These elevated body weights were noticed after I began planting Eagle Seed forage soybeans and corn in the food plots. This spring, I’ve examined the crop content of every turkey we’ve harvested (five) to date. Each one included the seeds from the Eagle Seed forage beans. In fact, four of the five harvested only had soybean seed in their crops.
I remember an esteemed scientist stating at a conference many years ago “the best way to improve genetics is nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.” I would redefine that a bit and say there is no way to improve genetics of free-ranging wildlife. However, by significantly increasing the amount of high quality forage and grain available for consumption you can improve the body and antler size and the number of fawns recruited for free-ranging wildlife.
The Proving Grounds is in an area dominated by high-graded timber and fescue pasture. There are no production corn or soybean crops nearby. However, the wildlife we produce and harvest have similar body weights and antler size as critters in ag production areas. We’ve taken no steps to alter the genetics of our herds and flocks. We have grown quality grain and forage for their consumption. My neighbors probably think “the deer at The Proving Grounds have good genetics.” The local deer herd shares the same genetics. However, the deer at The Proving Grounds can express their genetic potential because of the quality forage and grain crops. Brad and I just returned from working on our no-till drill. To some, we were working on improving the genetics of the local deer and turkey populations.
Growing Deer together,