The Plant Protein Senescence and How to Capitalize from It
This time of year, the food sources in the white-tail world are starting to change. Lush green vegetation that was high in protein and water content earlier in the year is going through senescence. At the same time, rainfall is beginning to taper off which hastens the process of annual forbs losing their nutrient value. The same forb that was 18% protein this spring might now only be 10% protein, with higher fiber content because of increased stem growth. When this break down occurs, deer usually move around to different food sources. In agricultural landscapes, deer will switch to ripening crops or target alfalfa fields, but in forested landscapes, deer may simply consume lower quality forage until mast crops (acorns, apples, persimmons, etc.) begin to fall.
The good part about having lower quality plants combined with less rainfall in the forecast is that this is a perfect opportunity to run a baited trail camera survey of your property to see what bucks are in your neighborhood. Your efforts will have 2 major benefits: increase available protein at a time when it is naturally degrading and inventory the herd. You can also calculate your fawn recruitment as well as buck to doe ratio with such a survey. I wrote a blog on how to implement a survey, so click here if you need a refresher. The most important part of the survey is to be able to differentiate individual bucks, no matter what age they are. It takes some practice, but if you have a camera that can pick up details in a buck’s rack, you should be able to tell one buck apart from the next.
Having no rain in the forecast means that I can pour Ani-Supplement GOLD directly on the ground and not have to worry about it spoiling due to excessive moisture. I can also put Ani-Protein Blocks out if I want the site to attract deer in-between trips, if the feed runs out. I find that I can usually get 3-4 weeks out of 2 Ani-Protein Blocks, and the duration of your site will depend on deer density as well as local food source availability. I like to put 2 Ani-Protein Blocks out so that deer of different dominance levels can both eat at the same time.
The reason I don’t calculate numbers from feeders is that I think I pick up more bucks on feed placed on the ground than at cameras on feeders. Deer in my area of Minnesota have not grown up around feeders like deer in Texas, so some bucks just don’t ever get comfortable with a feeder no matter how long they are out. I call that behavior “feeder fright” and although it doesn’t happen with every buck, it certainly happens with some.
The biggest mistake I see managers make this time of year is switching their feed sites from protein to whole corn. Corn is low in protein at 7.5%, whereas, Ani-Supplement GOLD is 16% protein, which is enough to fill the void in their diet that naturally occurs throughout the beginning of the fall through winter. While it is true that metabolism also fades during this period, the beginning of the fall is a crucial time for bucks to pack on energy and fat so they can survive the marathon we know as the rut. The determining factor on whether a buck survives the winter really goes back to how good his body condition is when the rut begins. A buck that is under nourished will still chase does and exert a lot of energy that he doesn’t necessarily have, which leads to post rut mortality. People ask me if it’s worth it to only feed in a certain small timeframe rather than the whole year; my answer to that, is that every bit helps. Hopefully, you can capture some great bucks on your trail camera during this late summer timeframe. If you do get high-quality trail cam pics, make sure to enter our Trail Cam Tuesday contest on our Facebook and Instagram pages.