Time for protein — Helping post-rut bucks a priority this time of year


Written by Conor Harrison, Lone Star Outdoor News

The old buck came into the feeder looking worn down and tired.

His big antlers stood atop a head that featured sagging skin, a graying forehead and a thick neck with several battle scars as evidence of battles during the previous months’ rut.

His hipbones were showing and it was obvious the buck hadn’t eaten much in his lustful wanderings of the past four weeks. He needed to put on body fat quickly for the upcoming South Texas winter.

Many hunters, ranch managers and landowners see this sight often at the tail end of the rut. But when is the right time to start supplemental feeding for the post rut? Right now, according to wildlife biologists.

“Once the rut is over, bucks lose such a large percentage of their body weight,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department South Texas biologist Blaise Korzekwa, “they need help recovering. Natural vegetation is great, but protein supplements with a minimum of 16-percent protein is good — 22 percent is optimal.”

Korzekwa said if hunters have reached their harvest goal, put the protein out immediately, but hold off if they still need to harvest deer.

“Those deer will become more nocturnal,” he said. “If harvest numbers are met, get it out now to help those deer.”

Lance Cote, a wildlife consultant for Mumme’s, said this is the best time of year to get supplemental feed to your herd.

“Those bucks get so rundown,” Cote said, “that ranchers want to go with something that has a 16-percent protein content and 3-percent fat. Feed that until antler growth begins in the spring, then switch over to 20-percent protein.”

Bobby Deeds, a wildlife specialist for Record Rack, said don’t get enamored with protein percentages.

“Protein wise, a lot of people get locked in on percentages,” he said. “What we’ve found is 16-percent protein works year round. We’ve got ranches that go back 40 years, and they were feeding 20 percent. We bumped them down to 16 percent protein with 4 percent fat. The fat level will put weight on the deer — it’s all about energy.”

Deeds said the quicker bucks get weight back on, the faster their reserves can go toward antler size.

“That 20 percent is ingrained in people’s minds,” he said. “You need one feeder per 25 deer on your property with digestible protein. Sixteen percent is fine. Make sure it is a high energy, low starch feed. Lots of feed will have a high-grain content and that equals starch.

“That is not good for post-rut bucks.”

Photo by Texas Hunter Products.

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