Welcome to the July 2021 Workcation series. I’ve already given you a brief overview of the projects we tackled while at Kowalski Mountain for our annual workcation. If you missed the overview post, you can find it here. I’ll link all the posts in the series at the bottom in case you missed any of them, when complete, there will be seven posts in the series. The third post in the July Workcation Series is a controversial topic, feeding deer. Let’s talk about what we feed deer, why we feed them, and then come along with me while I fill four of our big deer feeders.
Legalities of Feeding Deer
We feed deer year-round at Kowalski Mountain. Feed also referred to as bait includes grains, minerals, salt, fruit, vegetables, hay, or any food materials that may lure, entice or attract wildlife. The laws vary by state. In Kentucky, it is legal to feed deer and hunt over bait on private property. Before purchasing a homestead, Philip looked at a variety of state and local ordinances regarding a variety of homesteading issues. Hunting laws were one of the topics that he researched before purchasing the property. All hunters and homeowners who desire to feed deer should review the laws in their state regarding feeding and or hunting over bait. We feed deer in a variety of methods. Corn feeders, food plots, and minerals.
Deer Feeders: Gravity Feeders
We have four large corn feeders on the property. Three of the feeders are gravity feeders. Meaning as quickly as grain is pulled out of the feeding trays, more keeps filling the cups. These feeders hold about 200 pounds of grain. Two of the feeders have a cone at the bottom, that directs the grain towards the feeding cups, rather than sit in the bottom of the feeder where the deer can’t get to it. This takes up some space, so these feeders hold slightly less.
The feeding trays have drain holes in the bottom, so they do not hold water. This is very important, as wet grain can spoil. We typically feed whole corn rather than grain because it holds up in the weather better. Wet grain becomes a soggy mess that clogs the feeders, and the entire feeder can be full of wet, moldy feed.
These feeders have some negative qualities as well. Since they are gravity feeders, the raccoons, squirrels, and turkeys make a mess with it. It sometimes seems like they just stand there and throw it all over the ground. We will see photos from our cameras where the ground underneath is covered in excess corn. The other negative aspect is that once the deer find the feeders, they frequent them often and quickly eat all the grain. Since we do not live on the property, we cannot ensure the feeders are always full when we need them to be.
Deer Feeders: Programmable Feeders
The other large feeder we have is a tripod feeder with a digital timing feeding system. This feeder also holds about 200 pounds of grain but does not have feeding cups. The timing system in the feeder must be programmed for feeding times and how long you want to release the grain. At the designated feeding time, the spinner goes off and spreads grain on the ground for the length of time you set it to feed. Always turn away when using the “test” feature, as it will pelt you with grain.
This type of feeder has some positives and negatives as well. One of the positives is that we can control how much grain is fed. This is an advantage for us as we live off property, we can make the grain last longer. There is also no exposed feed cup that may allow contamination of the grain.
Some of the negatives include more parts that can malfunction. These feeders have a lot of moving parts and batteries, more things that can break, run out of power, or require maintenance. These feeders also put out grain per the programmed schedule, so even if no animals are eating the grain, it spreads more and more on the ground, whether it’s eaten or not. If animals can figure out how to turn the spinner plate, they can manually release grain. That is a reason these feeders are so tall, to prevent that issue, though I have seen it happen. This is an example of monkeys raiding deer feeders in Ocala, Florida, very close to our Florida House. The wild monkeys in central Florida are kind of an anomaly, I’m thankful, we don’t have any wild monkeys in Kentucky. I also find these feeders harder to fill, as you must get up so high to fill the feeders and lift the grain bags.
We also have several small gravity feeders around the property and as hunting season approaches, we fill more of the smaller ones as well.
Food Plots: Renewable Deer Feeders
Food Plots are another very good way to feed the deer. It’s good for the fields and good for the deer. It’s also a renewable resource that will reseed itself and come back year after year. The rule of thumb regarding food plots is to plant 60% cool-season perennials, like clover. 20% cool-season annuals, like turnips and kale that can handle the cool weather. Finally, 20 % warm-season annuals like corn, soybean, and alfalfa. Philip usually purchases seed blends for this purpose. He has planted some small food plots on the property for several years. The gardens that we have planted for several years have become food plots whether we liked it or not! Last year, since we purchased the additional 24 acres, we have a lot more open space, and he planted several other large food plots in the upper field. Which is where I got my first shot on a buck. You can read about that here.
Feeding Deer Minerals
Finally, we feed the deer minerals. This is in the form of blocks, like a salt lick or buckets of minerals in a granular form. Our goals in feeding deer are twofold. The biggest reason to feed deer is to attract them to the property. We feed them year-round so that the does will stay close by and raise their young right here on Kowalski Mountain. Does will draw in the bucks come hunting season.
The main reason to feed deer minerals is for the health of the deer. It is simply vitamins for the deer. Minerals increase muscle growth, antler growth and lead to healthier deer who are more successful in reproduction. The perks are bucks can grow larger antlers and does raise healthier fawns. We also include some blocks that have supplements that help deer with tick infestations, which I imagine make for more comfortable deer as well. I know how itchy I still am after being bitten by ticks.
Stewards of the Land
Homesteading is about a self-sufficient lifestyle. For us, that included hunting. Feeding deer is part of being good stewards of the land and the four-legged residence of Kowalski Mountain. Deer that have a dependable food and water source will remain in the area. Healthy wildlife populations are managed as well. Maintaining healthy balances and numbers of deer, which is achieved through responsible hunting of the land leads to healthy populations that are appropriate to the resources available to support them.
Loading and Hauling over 600 Pounds of Grain
Join me as I load and haul the whole corn and fill the feeders. The side benefit of filling the feeders is I never have to worry about my workouts while I am on the homestead!
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.
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Links to the 2021 July Workcation Series Posts
Overview Post: July Workcation: A Summer Tradition