I’ve spent many winters feeding deer (when it was legal) in my yard and then feeding them with cold weather plots. One thing I learned that isn’t talked about much is the long term benefits for the herd AND for your hunting. Bare with me on this and I’ll explain in detail why you should be doing this and for the long haul. This works ,so do it !
Let me start out by saying if you aren’t in an area where you get a lot of snow this probably won’t mean a whole lot to you. However , if you’re hunting the Tug Hill / Adirondack Mountain areas you will know what I’m talking about and can relate to this. For many many years here in NY it was legal to feed deer anytime of the year you wanted. For the most part this amounted to people like me feeding deer in the back yard all winter long. We aren’t going to debate if that’s good or not because it’s no longer legal so we’ll leave it at that. Every winter here in the North Country our deer make an annual trip to their wintering grounds and stay there until Spring. We refer to this as “yarding up” and it happens all over this region and always has. When I say yard up I mean there will be an area where there’s a ton of deer who are spending the whole winter in a pretty small area. The place is pounded with trails/runs and whatever food is available is completely wiped out by winters end. Many of these places are so well known the Dept. of Environmental Conservation here in NY does an annual “survey” to assess how bad the winter kill was. The result of yarding up is you can travel miles up here in the winter and never see a deer track , even in places you hunt every year and see good deer numbers. They simply aren’t there later in the Fall and all winter. In a hunting season where the snow comes early and there’s quite a bit of it you may find your hunting spot is void of Whitetails. I’ve experienced it and so have many others. The other side of the coin is someone is finding their spot filling up with deer and the hunting gets wild at the end of the season even well after the rut. So how can you be the guy who’s place is THE place the deer want to be?
Ask anyone who has spent significant time feeding deer in the winter and they will tell stories of seeing the same deer “every year”. At least it seemed like the same deer were back for many years , some were. These same people hunted the area where they were feeding deer and never saw those bucks they fed all winter and never knew where they were. I fed deer in my yard for a long time and can tell you every single year I had deer coming to my yard as soon as the ground was covered with snow. There were countless deer who literally spent every winter of their lives in my back yard. When NYS outlawed feeding it took a couple years before the deer got the memo. They were still coming to that place they always spent the winter.This is opportunity knocking so let’s answer the door.
This will take some time , years in fact but it’s worth it. I’ve written many times about my experiences planting plots and what I’ve learned. The latest lesson for me is that I’ve turned my land into “THE ” place to be for deer in that area, especially when the snow starts flying . A few years ago I could throw on the snowshoes and go for a walk over on my land and not see a deer track , I mean not a single track. A couple days before Christmas there was a foot of snow over on my land so I decided to take the look around. My land is now a deer yard like I’ve never seen. The amount of deer sign and numbers of deer was shocking. Why? Because for the last few years I’ve been planting a few acres of turnips , winter greens , radishes etc. and there’s plenty of easy to get food for a lot of deer. This didn’t happen overnight but after a few short years of working at it I’m seeing the results I was hoping for. This season in particular was the turning point as I was having as much action the 1st week in December as I had all season. This was simply because we had pretty good snow then and I had the food. My trail cams were getting pictures of bucks I’d never seen before and I was seeing more deer than ever. I was seeing a lot of deer because I have enough food back in those woods to feed a lot of deer for the whole winter. On my recent trip over I checked out my biggest plot which has an acre of radishes and 2+ acres of turnips. That 3+ acres was ripped to shreds and hardly had any snow on it just from the traffic. That little area is filled with food and amounts to at least 7 – 8 tons of excellent feed for a whole lot of deer and will last till Spring. Not only are the “local” deer staying year ’round but outsiders are seeing my land and getting comfortable. THIS is a good thing and will pay off for as long as I keep planting. The real work is behind me and now all I have to do is the annual maintenance of making sure that food is there when the snow comes.
As I said at the start , this isn’t going to work everywhere and it won’t happen overnight but it works here and it will work for you if you commit to it. I don’t want to come across as though this is about nothing but hunting because if it was I would have a couple more in the freezer I can promise that. Sure , hunting is a big part of this strategy but keeping deer alive and healthy is just as important. Our winters up here can be absolutely brutal and I’m still amazed any deer survive. Plant some late season plots , as much as you can and enjoy the show. Be patient , be persistent and you’ll have at least as much fun as I’m having these days. Thanks for stopping by for my regular dose of BS. Remember , if you’re interested in owning land where you can do all of this just click here and start the search. I have land for sale in NY all day everyday and can help you find the right place. Send some comments , even criticism is always welcome! good luck and Happy New Year. mj