Food is an important component of a whitetail deer’s life. About every study conducted over the past ten years has shown that deer nutrition is the most important factor in growing trophy whitetail bucks. When it comes down to it, well-fed deer make for better whitetail hunting. Even if your buck todoe ratio is out of balance, you will still be able to harvest deer that will weigh over 160 pounds and have antlers that score over 150 points. The problem has never been whether it can be accomplished, the problem has been that most deer do not get adequate food.
A deer nutrition study using 25 buck fawns collected throughout Alabama in 1989 found some interesting results. The fawns were fenced and fed a balanced pelletized feed. At age three, the average weight of the deer was 214 pounds. (The average Alabama deer weighs 65-70 lbs.) Four of these deer weighed over 235 pounds. Five of the bucks had massive antlers with an inside spread of more than 20 inches Okay, I think nutrition was a factor!
The problem was the cost of getting the deer to this size. This was in a fenced-in area where they did not have to worry about the neighbor’s deer eating this pelletized feed and then going back home. Since a deer will consume about 5 pounds of feed per 100 pounds of body weight daily, it would cost more than $1.00 a day per deer to feed your deer herd, or $365.00 per year per deer. That’s for your deer plus any other deer that has access to your property. If you are feeding ten deer, it would cost you over $3,600.00 to feed them for a year. If you have 100 deer, it will cost you over $36,000.00 to feed them for a year. As you can see, cost is a limiting factor.
Providing supplemental feed can be a great way of increasing the overall nutrition of deer found on your property. However, other animals will also eat your feed, so not everything goes straigh to a deer’s stomach. Of course, deer will continue to eat other vegetation, which will also help growth and development. It’s definitely something to think about and it could help your whitetail hunting, but more importantly, the whitetail deer found on your property.