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February 13, 2008

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BuckTracker: To Feed or Not to Feed

It's been some remarkable winter across much of the nation's snowbelt. In fact, things are so rough in Colorado that the state is now in the midst of a major feeding program for deer and elk impacted by record snows and cold.

George Ruther, a diehard hunter from Vail (he was featured in a fall installment of Buck Tracker with a big mulie he shot), sent me this link to the CO Division of Wildlife website, where citizens can donate to alleviate costs of this feeding program.

More than one person has pointed out the irony of this program to me. Here in Minnesota--no stranger to snow and cold--we frequently war over the practice of feeding. While feeding deer is immensely popular among citizens and some sportsman's groups in a severe winter, DNR officials typically discourage the practice, saying the massive expense and labor outlay actually saves very few critters.

Taking things a step further, broad feeding bans and restrictions have been applied across the Midwest, as wildlife managers tell us the practice can spread diseases like CWD and bovine tuberculosis.

So, what to do for those mountain mulies and elk? Send Colorado some money to help the critters through? Or recognize that sometimes Nature has ways of cleaning house that are difficult to accept ... but have been going on for longer than we've been around.


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John D

Because it's not in my backyard, it's easy for me to advocate letting nature take its course (as she normally finds a way to do no matter how hard humans fight her), but if the said area was my hunting grounds, I'd donate and try to help. Just in case one the "very few" animals it saved happened to be the elk or mule deer or my backstrap dreams.


The science surely seems to indicate that artificially interupting the natural cycle
does more harm than good (e.g. allowing sick and diseased animals to continue to populate and infect a herd.)

Tough call - as Man is the steward of creation and is to have dominion over it, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. Proper stewardship suggests that familiar admonition: "Do Not Feed The Animals".


I disagree with the practice because I"m a strong advocate that man can't stop natural selection, nature will run its course...it knows what is best for the "herd". Man's ultimate battle is against natural selection, every new medical breakthrough that occurs that will save man's life and extend it is overturned by nature with a new and improved disease.(i.e. AIDS, it wasn't around in the sixties but its here now) So my voter is to let Nature take its course.


I just don't know. I think animals are pretty good at adapting to the conditions. I just hate to see any thing starve, sick or not. Thats a deep subject that could be debated for and against.


I feed year around. That is, I run my feeders all year. BUT, if the weather dictated, (re: heavy snows) I AM NOT going out to refill my feeders!
Besides, with what my feeders put out, only one very small deer could subsist on it! It just keeps them in the area!


Scott in Ohio

Feeding has been shown for a long time to be a bad idea. Donate your time/money instead to plant a food plot or mast/fruit trees on property where you hunt.



I agree whole heartedly. It would save me lots of time and probably spend the same amount of money on weekly bags of corn. Problem is, I just got permission from the land owner (I lease, just like everybody(?) else!). Not only that, I had to talk him into allowing me to fence his cattle out of about 1/6 of the property. Fortunately it's all gullies, mesquites and briar thickets! Perfect deer cover! There's small openings here, there and yonder that would make superb food plots. Now that I have the go ahead, I gotta scratch up the "scratch" to.... er, go ahead! First thing I gotta do is repair a mile and a quarter of fence. Thank God, not replace just repair!
That's the deal, I patch up the fence, I get hunting rights for three years along with planting some food plots! Not too bad, huh?


Brian T

So let's guess what happened to the deer & elk during the last ice-age. Just so we can have more animals as possible hunting opportunities? Yes, it really is hard on those populations. No, don't feed them. Artificially crowded populations will reduce themselves. Suck it up, princess.


Hey Bubba, would it be possible, rather than to haul in corn, to install feed plots? That way the deer would be somewhat dispersed when they eat. I honestly don't know whether stuff you planted would still be desirable, or even edible, at this time of year. I also surmise that you've got a whole lotta work in front of you with that fence.


Yeah, YJ, that's exactly what I intend to do! Problem is, where I want to plant, I've either got to build a bridge big enough for my ATV or haul everything in by hand. It's kind of an "island" surrounded by gullies! I can cross several places on the ATV, but I've gotta get a small disk across also! THAT'S gonna be FUN!
There are several food plot seeds that are perennial, alfalfa is perennial. First, I've got to go in and get some soil samples. The results may dictate what I can plant. Have you priced fertilizer lately? Nitrogen, 33-0-0 is about $400 a ton. Now, if you got 30 acres and need 1/2 ton per acre, what's THAT gonna cost!? So, select something that will grow in the soil!
It's just like a beaver pond, YJ, just one dam thing after another! LOL



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