Monday, May 12, 2014

Deerscaping and Putting Out Minerals for the Deer Herd

I've always thought of the wildlife on the farm as being almost as important as the cattle or any of the other crops I raise.  In fact, I was a deer hunter before I was ever a farmer or had cattle of my own, and I learned how to garden by trying to grow garden-sized deer food plots as a teenager.

I don't plant any food plots on the farm because there's always a field of winter wheat growing for the deer to eat, but I have done some "deerscaping" for the deer by brush hogging areas to create edges where the grass meets the brush, etc.  Sometimes, brush hogging in early fall can also make the grass start growing a little sooner in the spring, which in the long run I'm hoping will start to attract more wild turkeys so that my flock can start growing to huntable levels.

Last fall, I mowed this area up above a creek bed and you might be able to see the different edges it created, with the taller trees on both sides of the mowed area, the shorter brush along one side, and some nice green grass. To my eye, it looks like a good combination of deer and turkey habitat, and a productive area of the pasture for my cattle to graze.

Next fall, (unless I forget), I'm planning on spreading some fertilizer and/or some food plot seed in these spots to make it just a little bit more lush than the surrounding areas.

A good mineral program is essential to a healthy cattle herd, so the deer should also benefit from having access to mineral.  So last winter, I started putting out minerals for the deer, eventually I'd like to have mineral feeding spots spread out on about a 40 acre spacing, but I haven't reached that point yet.

In OK, it's legal to put out feed and minerals for deer, but every state has it's own regulations so check first before you try this at home.

There are all kinds of specialized deer minerals sold, but after looking at and comparing the actual minerals in most of these deer minerals, it looked to me like the only thing that was "special" about them was that a 25 lb. bag of deer minerals cost about twice as much as a 50 lb. bag of ordinary cattle minerals. 

So, my deer get an inexpensive bag of multi-purpose minerals that I picked up at the feed store for about $10/50lb. bag.
Ordinary Minerals, Not the Over-Priced, Specialized Deer Minerals
I located one mineral feeding spot down along a creek in a funnel spot where multiple deer trails come together where there also happens to be a stump in just the right spot for my mineral feeding area.  Years ago, I rattled in a buck and shot him with a bow while I was sitting up in that tree, but now even though there is just a rotten stump left, I hoping that some of my past success here might mean future success with my mineral feeding. 

The Mineral Spot is Down in the Woods Where That Big Tree Used To Be
So far, I've put out about 30 lb. of mineral in this spot (10-15 lb. at a time) and the deer and other animals have eaten most of it so that now it just looks like a bare spot of dirt in the woods.

What's Left of the Stump
Today, I just spread out about 15 lb. of mineral in the spot, but when I first started putting out minerals, I would also spread out some corn to help attract the deer to the spot so they could find the minerals a little faster. 
About 15 lb. of Mineral
Will any of this give me bigger bucks, healthier deer, or more deer?  I can't give you a solid answer on that, but I do know that when I started feeding higher-quality minerals to my cattle I saw improvements, so I'm assuming that I might also see some improvements in my deer herd.  In the future, I might even splurge on my deer and buy them some of the higher-quality minerals I feed to my cattle.


  1. That's a neat idea, feeding the non-deer-branded minerals. As soon as they stamp it as being for deer, the quantity gets halved and the price gets doubled, it seems.

    We're seeing quite a few deer and turkey here these days. I'm hoping to get up in a tree this fall, instead of harvesting with the front end of our car.

    1. You ought to compare the prices of the "special" deer plot clover seed, and the normal clover seed I can buy at the feed store. Or, the price of a 10 lb. bag of "deer forage" oats compared to an ordinary 50 lb. bag of oats.

      I've been deer hunting for so long that I don't hope to go hunting, come Hell or high water I'm going hunting, no matter what.

  2. I know for a fact that deer love cattle mineral blocks and that hunters up here use them because it is illegal to feed deer but not cattle. Years ago people left strips of corn in their fields and planted food plots for wildlife. But the deer population took off and soon it wasn't just the food plot that was getting eaten but sometimes they would strip 10 or 15 acres of a field next to the wooded area. Then they were just everywhere like flies. Gradually Iowa has been ratcheting up the hunting limits trying to get control of the population and a few years ago, the population actually started to decline ever so slightly. Last year they started getting blue tongue disease from overpopulation and drought conditions and dying in droves. I'm guessing this fall we'll see their numbers drastically reduced. I can't wait because they strip any trees, shrubs, gardens or plants around our house just as fast as I stick them in the ground.

    1. I imagine that it was easier to leave standing corn in the fields for the deer or have a little crop damage when corn was $2/bu. and yields were 100-120 bu/acre than when corn was almost $8/bu. and yields were pushing 200 bu/ac.

      I have a relative that moved out to an acreage, and all he seems to do when he's around me is complain about how much damage the deer are doing to his yard, tells me how he likes to see them laying dead in the ditch after being hit by cars, and he wishes he could kill them all.

      But, when he planted a bunch of grapes and blackberries he didn't want to build a simple deer fence like I suggested, so he continues to complain about the deer eating his newly planted grapes. After listening to his never-ending griping, I usually end up rooting for the deer and wishing that they would eat even more of his yard.

      I have deer in my yard all the time and usually don't have any noticeable damage (they usually just clean up any fallen apples or pears for me). Besides my more positive attitude about deer and the fact that I eat deer and he doesn't, I can't explain why he has such a problem and I don't.

    2. I think there is a line where they go from being plentiful to being as bad as biting flies. We were at the biting fly stage and I hope we can go back to being plentiful. I like them and enjoy seeing them in my backyard but just don't like building Fort Knox around anything that I don't want them to eat. I am part of the problem in that I don't hunt them (at least I haven't for a couple decades) but I do my share and eat a couple of them every year that I have someone else shoot for me.

    3. Right after I posted that comment, I just knew that it would be taken the wrong way. After re-reading, it sounds almost like I'm suggesting that you won't stop your "never-ending griping", and that you wouldn't have a deer problem if you had a "more positive attitude about deer". I didn't mean that at all, I was just trying to talk about my frustrations in dealing with my relative.

      The relative that I was referring to knows that I deer hunt, that I like to manage the deer herd on the farm for more deer and bigger bucks, and almost because of that it seems to me that he tries extra hard to be as irritating and hateful about whitetail deer as he can be whenever I'm around him.

      I get so sick or tired of him always trying to pick a fight with me over whatever deer are supposedly doing in his yard (almost like it's my fault?) that I tend to wrongly associate the irritation I feel when I'm around him with everybody else who complains about what deer are doing to their landscape.

      I do understand that deer do damage landscape plantings, after thinking about it I remembered that I have had some newly-planted peach trees eaten by the deer, but I haven't seen the sort of damage that would make me complain non-stop in the way that my relative seems to do.

      Sometimes, it's difficult to make a short comment, and also remember that everyone reading it doesn't know exactly where I'm coming from since they don't know the entire story behind that comment.

  3. I knew what you meant so no worries. I took it the way you meant.