How To Grow Bigger Bucks on a Budget
Managing quality wildlife can be downright expensive. A land owner can spend as much as their heart desires but most of us have a limited budget and have to be very careful where our money is spent. Over the years I have been on both sides of the equation and have found some middle ground for producing some quality whitetails.
Starting with fall food plots because every hunting property needs to have them for attracting deer and it is an important part of the wildlife management program. There are many great fall/winter wildlife blends out there and I have used about all of them. Here in Georgia I have found that the local Southeast Companies blends work best here. That being said, pick one, till the soil, add some lime (as most Georgia soils are acidic and lime is inexpensive) and then plant your seed blend. Here is the key. Add Yuchi Arrowleaf Clover to your blend or plant the clover around the edges and in their own plots. The arrowleaf clover does not come up immediately as most of its energy is working on the root system but this clover will take off come December/January and will thrive into May and will provide high quality protein for recovering bucks and expecting does. This food source will carry bucks into antler growing season in good shape and ready to grow some antlers. If this clover gets established, it will reseed and last for several seasons.
Supplemental feeding is where things get expensive but is very important to producing higher quality whitetails. Feeding your deer year round is great but it is too expensive for most. If you can keep your feeders filled with a corn/feed mix starting mid-March at the beginning of turkey season thru mid-July, you can make a big difference in the size of the antlers that your bucks grow. Fill your feeder with 150 pounds of feed (1 bag of corn, 2 bags of feed) every 10 days, 3 times a month, which comes to about $90 a month per feeder, $360 for this time period. Many feeds are available with 16%-22% protein but most of these 40-50 pound bags are just too expensive. Using a lower cost feed with 12% protein will help your bucks grow better antlers and they will use all 12% of the protein. Some might argue with me here but I have been taught that deer can only process 16% protein at best. Why spend the extra money if the deer are not going to be able to convert it into body and antler growth? Yes, in a perfect world with an unlimited budget, feeding all year with a higher quality feed will produce better results but we are working with a limited budget in this article.
If there is not enough money left in the budget for spring/summer food plots, manage your available wild forage; such as, green briar, honey suckle, black berry and muscadines. If there is money in the budget, plant a spring/summer blend that has Iron Clay Peas, soybeans, clover and sorghum in it.
In my experience in managing a small 140 acre property, I was able to grow some quality whitetails using 1 food trough and 2 food plots. The key is to carry your bucks thru the December-March months with a quality food source and give them the protein that they need from March thru July to grow body size and antlers. It can be done on a limited budget and I have the pictures to prove it.
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