Feeder Fright and How to Locate your Mystery Buck
While I was attending graduate school at Auburn University, I ran 6 trail cameras year-round within their 430-acre captive research facility. My study involved capturing newborn fawns and using their DNA profile to determine which bucks in the herd were siring fawns. For me, it was important to know what bucks were still alive during the breeding season so we could include them in our analysis of parentage.
I used the trail cameras at feeder locations, but after watching deer within the facility, I began to notice that some deer were extremely wary of feeders. Being in an enclosed facility, you would think that all deer would eventually become accustom to the feeders and they would all use them, but that just was not the case. Their facility was big enough that deer could survive off natural forage so the feeders were not used all the time. One buck, which I called the mystery buck, was only seen at a feeder during the rut when there were does eating at the feeder. He was a 4.5 year old that had long G2s and short G3s. He would skirt downwind of the feeder and never really ate any of the corn or protein we provided. I knew he was present so I set out to capture pictures of him away from a feeder.
I put out 20 lbs. of corn in a half circle just outside of where I thought he was bedding. Within 2 days I had multiple pictures of him eating and it seemed as though he did not have a care in the world.
If you think about it, a feeder is an un-natural shape that some deer just can’t become habituated to. Other deer, however, love feeders so much that we have to scare them away just to fill them.
The point I’m getting at, is feeder freight is a real issue with certain deer. You can overcome this by placing feed directly on the ground away from your typical feeder locations. So you might be wondering, why use a feeder at all if some deer are afraid of them? Well, the answer is that non-target species such as raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and turkeys will evaporate your feed and you also will deal with excessive moisture which could lead to molding. There is a trade-off for getting the most out of the feed you purchase, in order to capture the bucks that avoid feeders. I suggest you change up your camera locations throughout the year between feeders and feed on the ground. During the pre-rut and post rut period, I suggest moving cameras to active scrapes as those become great locations for getting pics of “feeder haters.”
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