Most folks are aware that winter is a critical nutrition period as natural food is at its lowest availability and nutritional state. Many are hopefully ware that late summer can also be an important time as antler growth is reaching its peak and un-weaned fawns put added demands on maternal does. But I’d venture to guess fewer still realize how important supplemental feeding can be in the fall.

Most of the attention this time of year goes toward attraction, which is accomplished through food plots, supplemental feed or both. But with the right application, you can both attract deer and better meet their year-round nutritional needs.

The rut is a very stressful period for both bucks and does, but especially for the former. Despite what you may have heard, bucks do feed during the rut; just not much. Furthermore, they’re burning calories faster than they can take in. Just like athletes in training, the better shape deer – especially bucks – go into the rut, the better shape they’ll come out of it, and be prepared to withstand the rigors of winter.

Food Plots

Deer know what they need now. Growth has ceased and protein demands are much lower. They need food high in fats and carbohydrates to meet increased energy demands and help lay on winter fat.

Once the velvet comes off the pre-rut period begins, and bucks work tireless to pack on weight before November. Food plots are a great way to help provide nutrition, while also providing an excellent ambush location.

Planting a hunting plot with something like Heartland Wildlife Institute’s Rack Maker Extreme fits the bill nicely. In addition to brassicas, it contains winter oats, winter rye and forage soybeans, foods deer not only seek out this time of year, but need.

In addition to being an important source of carbohydrates, these plants are also high in fiber, which makes up and increasing proportion of a deer’s fall and especially winter diet. Coarse fiber is difficult to digest, and it takes time for the deer’s digestive system to adjust. Get them adjusted now and it will be easier for them come winter.

Supplements

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Supplemental feeding this time of year most often consists of corn. It’s a strong attractant, and a good source of quick energy, but provides less of the proper nutrition deer need this time of year. Furthermore, it can actually detract from the ability of a deer’s complex digestive system to fully process an increasingly high fiber diet.

A far better option is to provide a formulation that contains a good mix of carbs, fiber and protein, like Heartland’s Rack Maker Deer Blocks. Flavored with two favorite fall deer foods, acorn and apple, they’ll be every bit as attractive as corn. And in addition to more appropriate nutrition, they also contain an additive called OptiFermXL, an enzyme that enhances rumen function and fiber digestion. And they provide a complete source of vitamins, minerals, and other growth factors that help enhance animal vigor.

With the right combination of both food plot blends and supplemental feed you can make your hunting areas more attractive to the deer you’ll eventually harvest, and provide better nutrition for the ones you don’t.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist whose company, Quality Wildlife, works with private landowners to improve wildlife habitat.