Monday I was working for a landowner that has properties along the Kansas and Missouri border in both states. It was a cold day with another storm predicted. I saw several deer, turkeys, and coyotes (15+) while on his properties. Several of the coyotes I observed on the Kansas property were in or around warm season native grass fields that were established specifically to provide sanctuaries for deer and other game species. However, when I inspected these sanctuaries there was very little deer sign. I didn’t see any other forms of cover on the neighboring properties.
I was puzzled as it was very cold and 8+ inches of snow had accumulated. The native grass appeared to be the best thermal cover in the neighborhood. The remainder was composed of open hardwoods, harvested corn and soybean fields, and cattle pasture.
I then toured his property in Missouri which is just a few miles away. It also has some very large native warm season grass fields, and so do the neighboring properties. I was shocked that on the same day, same amount of snow, same weather conditions, etc., there were gads of deer sign in the native warm season grasses.
I was very puzzled about this observation. During the ride back to the landowner’s house, we discussed this observation. The only plausible theory we formulated is that the coyotes on the Kansas property are intensively hunting the native warm season grass stands as they are the only cover on that farm. Those stands most likely have the highest rodent population for 100’s of acres. Therefore the “sanctuaries” are hunted so much by coyotes that the deer avoid them. However, on the Missouri farm there are “sanctuaries” in many directions. The hunting efforts of coyotes are likely more dispersed there.
It’s just a theory that probably won’t be tested (it easier to remove several of the coyotes from the Kansas farm). However, if it’s correct, then the theory I was taught years ago that if quality cover is present, predators are not a concern is wrong. I’ve recommended establishing stands of native warm season grasses to be used as sanctuaries for deer in many states and have never known one to be avoided by deer. However, coyote populations were not as high years ago as they are now throughout most of the whitetails’ range.
Have you ever known deer to avoid an established native warm season grass stand during the winter?
Growing Deer (and learning) together,