Pt. 2: Nutrition - Managing Land to Yield Mature, Huntable Deer

News & Tips: How to Hunt this Week

Part 2: Nutrition.

I started addressing a question posted on my Facebook page about how to manage land to yield mature, huntable deer. The subject of that article was how important age is to allowing bucks to express their antler growth potential. In addition, by allowing more bucks to mature, there will be more bucks to harvest – more bucks usually equates to better hunting.

However, there are lots of areas with a relatively high density of mature bucks, but very few bucks with good antler development. This often occurs in areas where hunting is not allowed and no habitat management activities occur. These areas include preserves, parks, etc. For bucks to express their genetic antler development potential, they must be allowed to 1) mature, 2) and have access to quality forage.

Soybeans by county
Planted acres of soybeans by county

I remember visiting years ago with a wise gentleman when another person entered the conversation and shared an image of a very large buck recently harvested for that area. My friend instantly said “I bet that buck was harvested within a mile of one of the few soybean fields.” The gent with the image said “how’d you know?” My friend simply said, “All the big deer killed in this county are harvested by the soybean fields.” 

My friend knew that big bucks are usually seen where the combines roam. His statement was not only correct for that county, but throughout the whitetails’ range. Compare the following maps. The first shows the distribution of soybeans grown throughout the continental states and the second shows the distribution of B&C and P&Y bucks harvested up 2005. The correlation is not perfect, but it’s close enough to make the point

Bucks by county
Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young bucks by county

The good news is that soil can be improved anywhere – even if the land you hunt is not shaded green on the soybean map. Notice that it’s a long way to any green on the map from where I live (Stone and Taney counties, MO). Even so, I grow great soybeans (and deer) using the combination of Eagle Seed beans, Antler Dirt fertilizer, and no-till drill techniques. 

To have huntable mature bucks requires allowing bucks to mature and have access to good forage so they can express their antler growth potential. Good forage serves two purposes of allowing deer to express their potential and serving as an attractant so mature bucks can be patterned.

Learn more about managing deer age in Part 1, deer cover in Part 3 and adult deer *** ratio in Part 4 on my list of managing land to yield mature, huntable bucks.

Grant Woods