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from the Whitetail News;

Late Winter and Early Spring Nutrition:
Critical Nutrition Period Often Ignored
By Matt Harpor, WhiteTail Institute Deer Nutrition Specialist

Most of you will probably be reading this article sometime around early spring. Last deer season is now only a fond, fading memory. Even that gut-wrenching memory of watching the arrow fly just over the back of an unspeakably big buck is starting to lose its string. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
For the most part, thoughts are now drifting to turkey season, fishing, golf or getting started on painting the yard fence, which has been put off for the last two years. Now I know that there are many people who live deer hunting and management 365 days a year. Whether we are thinking about them or not however, the deer are still out there this time of year. And in many parts of the country, they are going through one of the most difficult times of the year.
Late winter through early spring- February to May, depending on the location- presents many unique circumstances for whitetails. Nutritionally, food sources for deer become scarce. Except for the most southern parts for the country, nutrient-rich vegetation has not yet begun to emerge. Hard mast and scraps from harvested crop fields are basically gone, and the choicest browse was picked long ago leaving only the least preferred browse.
The remaining food sources are generally low in nutrients and are very inefficient for the deer to digest. A gauntlet of snow, ice, sleet, and chilly rain make survival even tougher.
So what are the deer going through this time of year? Well, first they are headed down the home stretch of a long period of cold weather and diminished food sources. Some of the weakest have already succumbed to the stresses of winter; and those that remain have lost all, or nearly all, of the fat reserves they had built up over the previous summer. At a minimum, all have lost body weight.
Bucks often fare the worst in terms of body weight loss. Just before winter hits, they have already used up a good portion of their fat reserves during the rut. It is not uncommon for bucks to loss 25 percent of their body weight between early fall and spring. It is during late winter and early spring that antler buds emerge atop a buck's head, and antler growth begins. The poorer the condition buck is in during early antler growth, the slower new antlers grow. This is due to the fact that antler growth is secondary to body weight. Only after a buck has regained proper condition will the majority of the nutrients he consumes be used for antler growth.
Studies have shown that poor food sources combined with decreased body weight will stunt early antler growth. The time frame for antler growth is basically a fixed period of time, and antler growth recompensation will not occur. Therefore, the buck will have less than maximum antler size come fall.
Does do not have it easy this time of year either. During late winter and early spring, they are beginning the final stages of gestation. It is in this final stage that 60 percent of the fetal growth occurs. In most cases, mature does will be carrying two fawns, causing huge demands on the doe to support both herself and her unborn fawns. If she does not get adequate amounts of nutrition, her fawns will likely be born with low body weights and she herself will be in poorer condition to prepare for lactation. When fawns are born below average body weight, they are far more likely to die within a few days after they are born due to underdevelopment and weakness. Interestingly enough, studies have also shown that does in poor condition sometimes abandon their fawns more readily as they try to preserve their own state and travel to find food sources. This is especially true in younger does.
So as you can see, late winter and early spring can be quite trying on your deer herd. To combat these conditions, high quality nutrition is needed. Highly digestible, high-energy food sources are needed to help deer regain or maintain body weight, support fetuses and prepare for antler development.
Protein becomes most important at the end of the winter when antler growth approaches and begins and when does are in their final trimester. Needed minerals and vitamins are also essential in creating these massive forms of bone and healthy fawns. Recognizing this need, the Whitetail Institute developed a product specifically for this time of year called Cutting Edge Initiate.
Initiate is a nutritional supplement designed to supply the entire herd with essential nutrients during the late winter and early spring period. Initiate contains high levels of energy formulated from specifically selected food sources, and at the same time, maintains digestive system health. Initiate also contains 20 percent protein along with minerals and vitamins. Going a step further, Initiate was also designed to help to increase the digestion of natural food sources by using ingredients that actually maintain and grow the microorganism found in the deer's digestive system responsible for digesting fibrous natural food sources. Furthermore, Initiate also contains buffering agents, which allow you to mix the supplement with corn or soybeans and neutralize the digestive acid caused by high carbohydrate food sources. Finally, Initiate contains Devour, which is a specially designed ingredient used to attract deer.
Yes, late winter and early spring can be a difficult time for your deer herd. But if you provide needed nutrients to them, most of the negative effects of the season can be minimized or even eliminated. So even if you are sighting in your turkey gun or trying to figure out how to work out that nasty slice in your golf swing, take time now to review your deer nutritional management program. The benefits next fall will be well worth the effort.

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Terrific Post. I feed about 1.5 pounds per deer all winter and get the minerals out around March 1. It has really made a difference in the quality of the racks. I never heard of Initiate but will order some. Thanks

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I have used Initiate for two years, since it came out. It is good, but for the cost per pound, I used Purina Deer Chow. Better results too! I make a mix of 25% corn, 25% deer chow, 25% horse sweet feed & 25% alfalfa nuggets(for horses and rabbits). The deer love it and they are getting good nutrition.

Another good thing to do is cut down swamp maples and black gum trees in the fall. It provides cover and late winter browse. The following year a host of grasses and wild plants will grow on the limbs like a trellis and provide more food. A chainsaw is natures friend. Just don't cut down any standing dead trees, as the are high rise hotels to wildlife. They support birds, mammals and insects that are benifical to all wildlife.

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