Choosing The Best Gravity Deer Feeders
Decades ago, at one of those holiday family get-togethers, I met an older gentleman on my wife’s side who had raised cattle for many years. The conversation got around to deer hunting, and he asked me several questions. After listening to my answers, he said growing good deer seemed similar to raising cattle, providing plenty of high-quality feed through timed or gravity deer feeders, protecting the herd from predators and ensuring you had a good bull or buck to sire the little ones.
Since that conversation decades ago, I’ve noticed that any discussion about deer hunting and especially antlers eventually winds up talking about genetics vs. nutrition and what hunters can do to get their deer to grow their biggest and best racks. Often, the discussions turn to what and when to plant, along with the best fertilizers. But, ultimately, the discourse gets around supplemental feeding and precisely what part it plays in the quest to help deer reach their full potential for both body and antler mass.
As the conversation continues, it usually turns to specific protein/mineral supplements and the best way to deliver those bags of highly nutritious feed.
Gravity vs. Timed Feeders
Not everyone can afford to continuously provide this specially formulated feed for their herd, but for those that commit to this feeding strategy, what is the best delivery system for those supplements?
Timed feeders that drop those pellets in precise amounts have made great strides in recent years. Their mechanisms, battery life, capacity, and reliability help landowners save on feed by limiting the volume of high-protein pellets or corn deer eat daily.
However, does this limited feeding strategy achieve the same results as free-feeding? Unfortunately, not according to the latest research by several leading biologists.
It seems modern deer management agrees with that old cattle farmer’s assessment. In controlled environments where every aspect of a buck’s life is closely regulated, most game-keepers allow free-feeding of various protein pellets by their deer until antler growth is complete. This 24-7 access to these custom-formulated pellets ensures maximum availability from just before losing their antlers till they’ve fully hardened. But, of course, another critical aspect of this feeding strategy is that does, and also fawns benefit from free-feeding.
Most off-season feeding is in an area where the deer feel secure and free from repeated human intrusion. Then, just before bow season, many hunting preserves discontinue free-feeding and switch to timed feeders in different locations for hunting purposes.
Texas Hunter Products
I recently talked to Chris Blood from Texas Hunter Products about their protein gravity deer feeders. This company is located in San Antonio, Texas, and has been around since 1954. Blood is the company’s marketing manager and explained that they manufacture the powder-coated steel frames and feeders in their two local facilities.
Blood said that a lot of research went into their final design to achieve what he considers the best free-feeding unit on the market. He said their patented design addressed many issues that plagued earlier gravity deer feeders and described them as “baseball-bat” tough and made with a food-grade roto-molded polymer. He said the material is UV resistant, and the hopper and ports are ultra-smooth with precise contours to allow pellets and corn to flow freely into several large six-inch feeding ports. In addition, he said each port contains baffles that adjust the flow for any sized feed.
Blood described how they were able to overcome many issues associated with previous gravity feeders.
“For example, our specially formulated plastic is 25% cooler than metal hoppers and feed ports during warmer months. In addition, our powder-coated steel frames incorporate skids, and the overall weight reduction makes them easier to transport and move around or reposition,” Blood said.
In addition, Texas Hunter Products designed their feeders to supply a high volume of pelletized feed or corn to multiple deer simultaneously over an extended period while also addressing moisture and clogging issues.
Metal Vs. Plastic
I asked Blood to explain the benefits of using plastic instead of steel or aluminum to make their line of gravity feeders.
“The hopper won’t rust, and because the material is 25 percent cooler than steel, the protein feed will stay cooler, dry, and fresher, making deer more likely to feed,” he said.
He stated that their roto-molded design is a significant innovation in the industry and that it is the same process used to make whitewater kayaks and high-end coolers. In addition, he said their research indicated that deer fed from round ports better than other shapes and that the six-inch diameter and precise contours solved clogging issues.
Protein feeder placement is essential when establishing a supplemental feeding program so that deer can quickly locate the protein feeder(s). A successful protein feeding strategy aims to spread the feeders around the property in a pattern so that the entire deer population benefits from the additional supplements.
Below are some of Texas Hunter Products’ findings about feeder placement that will ensure maximum usage by your local deer population:
- Research has shown that whitetail deer have home ranges anywhere from 400 to 700 acres during the non-breeding season. Therefore, a combination of feeders is an excellent strategy to create a herd that’s more likely to remain in the area and on your property.
- Protein feeders provide a readily available supplemental food source and will quickly become essential to the deer’s daily routine.
- To help map out the best locations to set up your protein feeder and get an overview of the property’s size and layout, print the area’s satellite map on Google® Maps and mark deer trails, water sources, roads, etc.
- Depending on the size of the property, strategically place the feeders in areas where the deer can safely move from one feeder to the other, with a maximum distance of 1 mile apart. Triangle patterns work well, starting near the core of the property.
- Position feeder’s near current feeding areas with access to cover and existing travel corridors. Also, ensure feeders are within 1/4 mile of a water source.
- Resist the urge to place a feeder in the middle of a wide-open field or pasture.
Be sure to position your feeders close to water and cover where the deer will feel protected and can leave the area quickly and undetected.
Texas Hunter Gravity Feeder Models
Texas Hunter manufactures eight models of gravity feeders that range in capacities from 300 to 2,000 pounds that are easy to set up, fill and move.
PF300- This is an economical, low-profile, easy-to-fill powder-coated model with a food-grade enamel coating on the barrel’s interior. With a 300-pound capacity and three feed ports, its 36″ height helps to minimize antler contact, and rain guards protect the feed.
PF1000L- This one-piece roto-molded high-density design has four six-inch feeding ports with adjustable flow baffles. The heavy-duty frame is powder-coated steel equipped with foot stakes and stainless steel hardware. Each six-inch feed port has an adjustable baffle, and the extra-wide hinged lid makes filling a breeze.
Texas Hunter Xtreme Models
This line of larger-capacity gravity deer feeders is available in 600, 1,200, and 2,000-pound capacities. In addition, the innovative high-density, roto-molded design makes Texas Hunter Protein Feeders virtually indestructible and free from any rust issues.
Multiple feed ports make it easy for several deer to feed at once, and the large capacity means feed will last longer and help reduce human activity around the feeder.
XPF600– This 600-pound capacity model has four six-inch feed ports with baffles in each port to control the flow rate for various-sized protein pellets. It’s mounted on a heavy-duty, powder-coated steel stand with skids for portability
XPF1200– This gravity flow protein feeder has a feed capacity of 1,200 pounds with six roto-molded feeding tubes that remain 25% cooler and a heavy-duty, powder-coated frame with skids.
XPF2000– This unit’s capacity is 2,000 pounds with six protein feed stations, and its two heavy-duty hinged lids with built-in stops make filling an easy task. In addition, the food-grade hopper and feed ports won’t contaminate protein or other feed, and the smooth contours provide continuous flow.
Texas Hunter also makes three low-profile gravity deer feeders for fawns. The feed ports are 17 inches high and allow easy access for does and fawns. They also come in 600, 1,200, and 2,000-pound capacities.
The period between antler shedding and regrowth is the perfect time to provide extra nutrients to the deer on your hunting property. In addition, supplemental feeding can help to overcome shortcomings if the local acorn crop fails or your fields have issues. The supplemental feed can fill any gaps in nutrition and ensure your herd stays as healthy as possible. Getting yourself the best gravity feeder for deer can make a measurable difference in your deer’s health and encourage them to stay on your property.