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To Feed or Not to Feed?

To Feed or Not to Feed?It's been a mild winter throughout much of the East and Midwest, but that doesn't mean whitetails are free and clear when it comes to nutrition.

They have enjoyed more access to browse, but the quality of that browse, as is usual in winter, is not what it is in spring and summer.

As such, many hunters will start feeding programs to give their deer, especially the does, a head start.

A nutrition program can be a great tool to give whitetails a better chance of reaching their potential, but starting such a program comes with great responsibility.

First, if you live in an area that traditionally gets snow and ice and you want to start feeding in winter, know that you will have to continue feeding at least until spring. The bacteria in a whitetails digestive system adjust to the type of browse the deer are eating. If they are relying on your feed as their chief source of food and you cut off that supply, they will not be able to digest natural browse. If you're not sure you can put in the time, effort and money to maintain a feeding program until spring, it's best not to even try. If you're a first-timer, wait until spring to begin feeding so you get a better idea of what it takes both in effort and finances. If you're determined to feed throughout the winter, begin your feeding program before severe weather begins and while deer are still healthy.

Check Out Our Video TipsIf your motivation for feeding whitetails is based solely on getting them through a tough winter, you're better off letting nature take its course. There a dozens of reasons why feeding just in tough times is bad. A few include concentrating them in one place (which makes them vulnerable to predators and quickly depletes natural browse). It also can pull deer away from natural shelter areas, making them even more vulnerable to the elements.

On the other hand, in areas with more mild winters, there are lots of benefits to feeding whitetails through the winter and into spring. In addition to giving bucks and does a head start into antler growth and fawning, respectively, feeding stations are great for taking inventory of bucks. You'll likely spot several that made it through hunting season that you'll want to target for the fall.

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