Ray: Deer Adapting to Drought

_Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family's Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y non-typical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.
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So what are deer doing when it's 105 degrees and were in the middle of a 100 year drought? Judging from my daily observations on our ranch, during daylight hours you would think the country was void of life. When the sun is high, everything is bedded in the shade. I see a few bucks out feeding before sunrise in the morning, when I try to beat the heat and go for a run or hike. And again from sunset till dark, when the temperature starts to drop.

The deer I do see have all been doing the same thing. Every deer I've seen recently have been eating beans off mesquite trees.

I did some research and found that mesquite beans carry anywhere from 11-13 percent crude protein. The green leaves, most palatable in the early spring, carry up to 30 percent protein. In drought years, mesquite is an important food source for deer in the southwest. I've also seen coyotes and feral hogs eating mesquite beans. So before you clear all the mesquite brush from your ranch, consider the importance of this food source for wildlife in dry years!

After dark, the wildlife comes out. On my trail cameras, set up near a feed trough with corn and near a waterhole, I get pictures all night. The pictures start about one hour after dark in the evening and visitors stop by all the way until about 5 A.M. Once the sun is up, the deer are gone and there are no visitors to the water or feed.

When it's 105 degrees and you wear a fur coat all year, it's easy to understand why moving at night makes sense.