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Winter feeding deer, do it right and legal! | Conservation Conversations

Not only the deer benefit from your wildlife management program.

Not only the deer benefit from your wildlife management program. Rich Redman

Hunting season is nearly over and Whitetail Deer populations have been reduced to DEC biologist’s standards, meeting habitat and carrying capacities in wildlife management units. Hunting is just one of the necessary components of wildlife management.

With winter setting in early this year, habitat is critical for the remaining wildlife. Shelter is important to protect animals from the elements, but more importantly FOOD becomes the primary concern. Just like a wood stove needs to be fed wood to produce heat, an animal or human needs carbohydrates to produce enough energy to make it through a cold night, let alone a long winter. Long, cold, windy winters, take a toll on wildlife. Starvation is no way of living!

Spring, summer and fall foods are easy to get and plentiful. The winter foods are critical for wildlife to make it through to another year. So with the winter winds starting to blow, the thermometer dropping to zero and snow levels starting to climb, what can we do to help our wildlife survive this winter? Think WINTER food!

So how do you supply quality winter food?

Many folks will say you can’t feed deer in the winter, it’s against the law. Yes, you are right; you can’t bring in bags of corn, grain, carrots or apples to supplement natural food sources. But you can grow winter feed and leave it for wildlife!

If you hunt on farmland, work with the farm owner. Buy them some bags of corn or other crop seeds to plant in field corners or wet spots so they can leave the un-harvested crops for wildlife. Deer will paw through the snow for corn, turnips, pumpkins, and other crops left after harvest. Help the farm owner seed cover crops, ditches and woods roads with a quick rye cover to provide some winter food. Farmers feed all of us, so we need to help them feed wildlife!

Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at rangeric@nycap.rr.com.

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