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Winter food for your deer


We hear a lot from folks say that there is nothing you can do to produce winter foods for your deer! Here is a brief walk-through on what we are doing here at Turtle Lake Club, Hillman, Michigan. Scheduling your logging in the winter has many benefits for your deer, a healthy forest, and minimal environmental impact. Winter logging minimizes impacts of heavy vehicles on soil. Logging debris (tops, etc) provide nutritious food for deer from winter until early spring, when weeds and food plots begin to develop. Thinning of oak stands reduces tree diseases and allows the crowns of the trees to expand to produce larger numbers of acorns. Stands treated this way in the last few years already are producing large acorn crops, which last well into the winter (and even spring in some cases) beneath the snow. Deer paw out acorns preserved beneath the snow. In addition, our strategy is to produce a surplus of summer forage that we can "bank" beneath the snow. The deer quickly learn where this food is and paw through the snow to get at the nutritious food. In addition we use three wire, offset electric fences developed by Dr. James C. Kroll in the 1980s to protect summer plots of corn and soybeans until we decide the deer need these supplements. We generally remove or open a portion of these fences during hunting season, and then retain the remainder until mid- to late-winter, when winter stress increases the need for additional calories. The heavy traffic, as evidenced by the tracks in the snow and our observations, clearly are testimony to the importance of protected foods. We developed the concept of "landscaping for whitetails;" and at Turtle Lake we try to create "one-stop shopping" for our deer over the entire Club area. Here you can see a conifer cover and travel corridors, mast producing oak stands, food plots, and fence-protected corn-soybean plots. n addition, within easy travel are new forage production (timber regeneration) areas, young poplar browse areas, and planted travel corridors and thermal cover.

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