I guess I should fess up and explain why I'm against supplemental feeding.
Back in the early nineties we were seeing a few deer around here. Our winters get tough on any wildlife with the cold and deep snow cover. I decided I was going to start feeding the few deer I was observing in my back yard. At that time the only law against feeding deer was you had to be a certain number of feet away from a road or highway. I started putting a few scoops of grain out on the snow and it didn't take long for the deer to find it. We enjoyed watching the deer from our back picture window. Then I built a feeding station with a roof over it to keep the grain dry. I was using a mix from a feed store blended for deer feed.
I don't know how deer communicate but it suddenly seemed as the deer we were seeing told all their friends about the feed and feeder. The numbers increased almost nightly until the back yard was nearly full of deer. At the same time I was making more frequent trips to the feed store. The cost was adding up. Luckily the weather broke early and finally fewer and fewer deer were showing up in my yard. I finally quit the feeding and the deer stopped coming. My feed bill had topped $2300 by that time. Needless to say that was it! I wasn't about to dip into the kids college fund to feed deer. I was getting close though.
What really clinched it for me was in the later nineties I was very active in our local snowmobile club. The President of the club got a call from the state dept. of conservation asking for help doing a survey of a couple deer wintering yards. The President of the club asked me if I could help. Being self employed I had the liberty to take a day off from work so I agreed to help. A couple other club members also came forward and offered their help. I drove our club's trail groomer to the yards they wanted to survey, the rest followed on snowmobiles. There were also a couple students from an environmental college tagging along. This all took place in the latter part of winter. When we reached the first yard the first thing we saw was several dead deer lying about. Some were intact and several had been feasted on by coyotes or coy dogs. This was sad to see. The officials opened up the stomachs of some of the deer. The stomachs were entirely full and the deer were bloated badly. That was when it was explained to me the deer had gotten into corn but were unable to digest it. It was a well known fact there were a couple restaurants not far away which were on the snowmobile trail system. The owners of these restaurants would feed the deer and customers would watch them out the windows. There were even jars where patrons could throw change or bills into the jars to help cover the cost of feed for the deer.
I believe this is one reason feeding deer has been made illegal in our state. The other reason being we have had one active case of CWD in our state. The feeding bans were enacted shortly after the CWD was discovered.
If deer are not gradually introduced to corn that can happen. Texas is probably king in supplemental feeding of deer, and most of our corn is fed from spin cast type feeders. There’s not gonna be enough on the ground at any one time for a deer to gorge themselves on it.
Most protein feeders are free choice, but I’ve never heard of a deer dying from eating protein pellets. If they did, a third of the Texas deer would be dead. You remember in my first post I mentioned that it could get expensive. Some of these Texas ranches have protein bills in the thousands, not kidding !
I can’t afford it. I have two protein feeders on two properties but it’s mostly for attraction. I feed it a couple months in January and February, when they eat that the store is closed. We have mild winters compared to the North and by March vegetation is greening up usually. I also run my corn feeders until February. When they run out, early February or late February, it’s over.
By April I’m putting in my spring plots and my wheat is still growing. You can tell when browse is making up most of their diet because my wheat starts getting taller.
So....supplemental feeding here is not the same as where the ground has two or three feet of snow covering it. It’s done to make antlers and bodies bigger for the most part. I do think it contributes to the overall health of the herd, IF the herd is managed for the mouths and stomachs that eat the natural browse.