December can be a great time in the woods of Alabama.
That magical part of the season is here. People in the northern half of the state are starting to see rutting activity. As winter starts to arrive, bringing the colder weather with it, a whitetail’s need for more high energy is increasing. Try adding late season food sources for deer that are carbohydrate-rich.
That’s why beans and corn are so effective in the winter up in the North and Midwest. In the South, with high deer densities and oftentimes a lack of enough open ground for hunters and clubs to grow effective bean and corn crops, having a late season food source can be really helpful.
Utilize Plants in the Brassica Family
The most cost-effective way to provide a serious plot of late-season food is by utilizing plants that are in the brassica family. This includes rape, turnips, radishes, sugar beets—to name a few.
Many different varieties of each type of brassica are used and designed for different reasons. Some of these varieties have been vastly improved upon in the last 15 years, specifically for whitetails.
These improvements include increased palatability, cold tolerance, disease resistance, and overall attractiveness to deer. Although less expensive commodity varieties of brassicas are available, their attractiveness and palatability are significantly lower than those that have been bred and researched for a whitetail’s needs.
The tonnage that can be produced by properly timed and planted brassicas are unbelievable. This massive amount of mid- to late-season food source can be a great tool when it comes to holding deer on your property through the best hunting times. Another plus is the nutrition the brassicas provide through the late winter, which helps deer recovering from the rut enter the spring growing season in better health.
When deer can enter the early spring in top shape, increased antler growth, body weights, and overall health are just a few of the benefits.
Signs of Over-Browsing
If the woods that you hunt begin to show signs of over-browsing in the winter, you need to look at your options to relieve some pressure. Some areas of the state have a low-to-moderate deer density and won’t see any of these signs.
“Many times the buck-to-doe ratio on high deer density areas may be way out of balance.”
However, many areas around cities and the southern half of the state have a deer density that exceeds the carrying capacity of the land. When deer exceed the food supply, you will begin to see damage to native habitat from constant browsing. There are a couple of ways to help alleviate too much pressure on native browse.
One is simple and very effective. Eliminate the number of mouths you are feeding.
Shooting does can sometimes be a chore when your freezer is full, but it works. Many times the buck-to-doe ratio on high deer density areas may be way out of balance. This will remain the case until a sound trigger-finger management is used to bring the numbers down to a level that your land can handle.
Another tactic for increasing the carrying capacity and nutrition level is to either plant more or bigger food plots.
Studies have shown that 5% to 10% of the overall acreage of a tract needs to be planted in a year-round food source if you want to change the nutritional plane for your whitetails.
This percentage can be a little lower in areas with high-quality soils, heavy agricultural crops, or well- managed native browse. A half-acre plot in the middle of 800 acres can be a great tool for hunting and killing deer. But to make a difference in body weights and antler growth, or to relieve pressure on native browse, then larger plots will be needed.