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I'm Feeding Deer This Winter—Even If I Don't Want To

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February 19, 2014

I'm Feeding Deer This Winter—Even If I Don't Want To

By Scott Bestul

I’ve been contributing to a deer-feeding slush fund for 16 years. I didn’t realize this, however, until yesterday, when I read a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about a soon-to be initiated feeding program to help whitetails make it through the tail end of a good-old-fashioned tough winter. Apparently, 50 cents of every Minnesota deer license I’ve bought since 1997 has helped fund this program, which was instituted by the state legislature 16 years ago. 

The DNR has agreed to implement the program, but grudgingly, saying they feel obliged to bend to the public desire to feed northern deer. I would venture to guess that they are also feeling pressure from the legislature to do so since the fund exists.

Meanwhile, however, our DNR, like virtually every other around the country, acknowledges that winter deer-feeding programs are not a good idea. Their main concern, naturally, is the increase potential for disease transmission. Gopher State game managers have already dealt with CWD and bovine tuberculosis in the whitetail herd, and eliminating feeding and baiting is standard procedure when those diseases are found.

DNR officials also estimate that this particular program will save very few deer. Two earlier programs in 1989 and 1996—both of which were much, much larger—helped only 11 percent and 20 percent of deer, respectively, in targeted zones. The budget for this year’s feeding effort will be about $170,000. The ’89 program cost $750,000, and the ’96 effort, 1.2 million.

I completely understand the desire to feed deer. It’s been a tough winter, and it’s not easy to see whitetails struggling through deep snow to find food and sleeping through sub-zero nights for months on end. But I’m also getting really tired of legislatures that muck around in deer management. And now I learn that my state leaders have made me contribute a chunk of change to a fund designed to “help” deer, but not in a way supported by wildlife managers. So yeah, my total contribution has only been eight dollars, but I still find it hard to swallow.

Comments (8)

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from asrenstrom wrote 8 weeks 3 days ago

I'm especially with you on the part of being tired of legislatures that muck around in deer management. It's hard seeing our DNR grudgingly agree to do it since they are obliged... that being said, half the quotes I've read about this so far sum up to "OK, we'll do it... but we're gonna talk about this later!" Why didn't we resolve this and talk about this the last two times around? We fed them and either it did or didn't work. The DNR needs to work towards having a policy in place to never feed if that is their feeling and they can prove it, such as when only 11 and 20 percent of deer targeted were affected in '89 and '96. They shouldn't have to grudgingly oblige, they've had chances to fix this process in prior years and they didn't take advantage.

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from Dances with Deer wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

It all boils down to quality habitat. The wolves will eat well this winter and spring, no doubt, and have a pile of healthy pups from all the extra venison.

I'd rather see the state pay local loggers to drop natural browse in every county than dump corn and pellets.

But I must say, the deer and turkey still look healthy in areas where landowners feed year-round with corn and food plots. As long as they're targeting enough whitetails in season, is it wrong for them to want to preserve what they have?

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from weswes088 wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

Phew, you had me worried for a minute there Scott. I read the title and was getting concerned you went off the deep end. Glad to see that isn't the case - I concur with everything you said.

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from CL3 wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

Might as well burn a pile of money while you're at it.

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from Roderick K. Purcell wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

I agree with you Scott and am thankful that my state's wildlife agency still avoids artificial feeding. But I wonder if hunters are losing credibility with this argument, with so many of us using bait and feeders.

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from ray cummings wrote 8 weeks 1 day ago

If 20% of the deer benefitted from this program that is a lot of extra deer to hunt the following year! In Michigan`s U.P. the farmers all feed the deer herd. Without help there would not be enough deer to hunt. I agree that politicians need to stay out of the picture but in Michigan the D.N.R. is made up of politicians so sportsmen (and women) have no say about what is done.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 8 weeks 14 min ago

Winter wheat and a 5 automatic corn feeders going off has really benefited our private club we have seen almost 100% twin fawns and a healthy growing turkey population and no diseased deer. The local herd is intimately impacted by acorn mast and when the mast is low the hunting near food plots is very good. Deep snow limits the wheat growth and so the corn helps and is stopped during Spring. The racoons eat a lot of it also. I saw a man drive out of a high fence with 2 nice bucks in the same county and I felt the same way about that, than some hunters feel about supplemental feeding programs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 7 weeks 4 days ago

When there are so many reasons NOT to feed northern deer, it's sad to hear that your DNR folded "because the money was there". So they did it because they were given money to do it?

It's time to start a grass roots effort to get the Minnesota Legislature out of the wildlife management business. The last effort like that which I know of, was when the Vermont Legislature was pressured to finally gave the responsibility to their Wildlife agency.

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from Dances with Deer wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

It all boils down to quality habitat. The wolves will eat well this winter and spring, no doubt, and have a pile of healthy pups from all the extra venison.

I'd rather see the state pay local loggers to drop natural browse in every county than dump corn and pellets.

But I must say, the deer and turkey still look healthy in areas where landowners feed year-round with corn and food plots. As long as they're targeting enough whitetails in season, is it wrong for them to want to preserve what they have?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ray cummings wrote 8 weeks 1 day ago

If 20% of the deer benefitted from this program that is a lot of extra deer to hunt the following year! In Michigan`s U.P. the farmers all feed the deer herd. Without help there would not be enough deer to hunt. I agree that politicians need to stay out of the picture but in Michigan the D.N.R. is made up of politicians so sportsmen (and women) have no say about what is done.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 7 weeks 4 days ago

When there are so many reasons NOT to feed northern deer, it's sad to hear that your DNR folded "because the money was there". So they did it because they were given money to do it?

It's time to start a grass roots effort to get the Minnesota Legislature out of the wildlife management business. The last effort like that which I know of, was when the Vermont Legislature was pressured to finally gave the responsibility to their Wildlife agency.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from asrenstrom wrote 8 weeks 3 days ago

I'm especially with you on the part of being tired of legislatures that muck around in deer management. It's hard seeing our DNR grudgingly agree to do it since they are obliged... that being said, half the quotes I've read about this so far sum up to "OK, we'll do it... but we're gonna talk about this later!" Why didn't we resolve this and talk about this the last two times around? We fed them and either it did or didn't work. The DNR needs to work towards having a policy in place to never feed if that is their feeling and they can prove it, such as when only 11 and 20 percent of deer targeted were affected in '89 and '96. They shouldn't have to grudgingly oblige, they've had chances to fix this process in prior years and they didn't take advantage.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from weswes088 wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

Phew, you had me worried for a minute there Scott. I read the title and was getting concerned you went off the deep end. Glad to see that isn't the case - I concur with everything you said.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

Might as well burn a pile of money while you're at it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roderick K. Purcell wrote 8 weeks 2 days ago

I agree with you Scott and am thankful that my state's wildlife agency still avoids artificial feeding. But I wonder if hunters are losing credibility with this argument, with so many of us using bait and feeders.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 8 weeks 14 min ago

Winter wheat and a 5 automatic corn feeders going off has really benefited our private club we have seen almost 100% twin fawns and a healthy growing turkey population and no diseased deer. The local herd is intimately impacted by acorn mast and when the mast is low the hunting near food plots is very good. Deep snow limits the wheat growth and so the corn helps and is stopped during Spring. The racoons eat a lot of it also. I saw a man drive out of a high fence with 2 nice bucks in the same county and I felt the same way about that, than some hunters feel about supplemental feeding programs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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