John's Journal...

How to Grow Body-Builder White-Tailed Bucks

More Tactics for Better Deer Management

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Do you want monster bucks on your property?  Would you like to have bigger bucks to hunt every season?  Well, here's the formula that will produce your heart's desire. As a youngster with a stomach ache, I'd willingly do almost anything to get rid of the pain.  However, when my mother came toward me with a bottle of bad-tasting medicine, I didn't know if the medicine would taste worse than my stomach ache hurt. The remedy to harvesting nothing but small bucks on your property may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it will solve your problem. To produce quality bucks throughmanagement, everything about the way you hunt and the way you manage your land must change.  A professional body builder doesn't enter a contest, if he hasn't eaten the right food 6 weeks to 3 years before the contest.  To have muscles that look like mountains and to meet the full potential of his frame, the body builder must consume the best foods all year long for several years. And, if you want to produce bucks that can win awards for big bodies and large antlers, you must understand what the deer need to eat and how to supplement their diets to insure they receive the proper nutrition.

As long as hunters plant green fields in the fall to provide food for the deer during the winter, many hunters believe they don't have to remove as many does from their herds as wildlife biologists prescribe. Hunters also think that since they've increased the amount of food during the winter months, the deer will have all the nutrition they need throughout the year. Outdoorsmen often try to convince themselves about the truth Click to enlargeof this big lie. But according to Rick Claybrook, a State of Alabama wildlife biologist, "Deer have to have an abundance of highly-nutritious food all year long. A high-protein diet of 16% or more crude protein needs to be provided for the deer throughout the year for those deer to meet their maximum potential." If you just plant green fields in the fall, even if the crop you plant produces 16% or better crude protein during the fall and winter, you still have not effectively increased the nutritional level ofthe bucks for a long-enough time to help them produce larger bodies and bigger antlers. For example, feeding steak and a high level of nutritional supplements before a competition for 3 months to your Mr. America hopeful won't help him win, if he’s eaten poorly before that time. He still won't have the body mass and the muscle definition required for winning the title of Mr. America . You've got to feed that athlete well for 3 to 6 years for him to win a body-building contest.

Growing a trophy buck requires this same feeding regime. I don't know of any short-term fix to having quality deer management. If you truly want to grow bigger bucks on the property you hunt, you have to make a long-term commitment of 3 to 6 years. The time and the work needed to fulfill such a commitment sounds to most hunters like that bad-tasting medicine they never want to take to cure their stomach aches. We all prefer to plant green fields in the fall and immediately have big bucks with huge racks to harvest by the time deer season arrives. However, this scenario just won't happen. Let's look at the total deer-management system you need to use to produce the bucks of your dreams. Click to enlarge

An Overlooked Element to Quality Deer Management:

You may think incorrectly that reducing the numbers in a herd and providing highly-nutritious food with 16% crude protein or higher all year for the deer to eat will produce more big bucks on your property. But high-quality deer food doesn't come solely from green field plantings. Avid browsers, deer eat a wide variety of foods throughout the year. That's why we have to increase the protein level of native foods as well as plant green fields. Claybrook recommends that you, "Fertilize natural-occurring deer foods like blackberries, honeysuckle, greenbrier and plum thickets as well as nut-producing trees. This practice increases the protein levels of these natural foods, which can and will increase the amount of crude protein that the deer take in throughout the year. You also can provide supplemental feedings for deer by planting fruit and nut trees, some of the favorite foods of deer at certain times of the year."

Wildlife Openings and Burning the Land:

Click to enlargeWhen the overstory of the forest blocks sunlight from getting to the ground, then the ground doesn't produce as much forage for deer as it has. Claybrook comments, "When you can clear-out non-productive hardwoods and increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor, more native plants will grow in those cleared-out areas and produce more food for deer." You also can have more food for deer on the land you hunt by using controlled-burning practices.  Claybrook explains, "When you control-burn a thick area, you remove the ground litter and the overstory that blocks out the sun. You also release the nutrients in the soil and prepare a seed bed for native plants. Burning sections of the property you hunt with permission of the landowner can drastically increase the amount of food available for deer." If you strew high-quality fertilizer in the regions you've burned, the spots will come back with more-lush native plants that contain more crude protein than they will have without fertilizer.

Also to grow bigger bucks, you must provide cover for the deer. "Deer have to have thick-cover areas to bed down in and to hide from predators," Claybrook emphasizes. "If you don't provide thick-cover regions for sanctuaries for your older-age-class bucks, your land won't produce as many big bucks as it should. When you're developing your deer-management plan for the property you hunt, pay close attention to the fact that you need thick-cover sections. If you don't have them, develop a system to create them." When training a body builder to become Mr. America , you give him a time and a place to sleep and rest to keep him from burning-up all the nutrition he's acquired through eating. Don't overlook the necessity for providing a place of sleep and rest for your body-building bucks.

Tomorrow:   All Green Fields Are Not Created Equal

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Grow Body-Builder White-Tailed Bucks"

Day 1: The Three Most-Critical Ingredients for Growing Big Bucks
Day 2: More Tactics for Better Deer Management
Day 3: The Three Most-Critical Ingredients for Growing Big Bucks
Day 4: The Proper Ingredients of Fall Green Fields
Day 5: Spring Green Field Plantings


Entry 523, Day 2