We Texas hunters are known across the country for our use of deer feeders. To my way of thinking, the use of feeders to attract and hold deer and other game is a very good thing — in Texas it is almost a must.
We hunters joke that if we don’t use supplemental feeding as a tool to attract game, our neighbor across the fence will. Not only deer but many other game animals and birds benefit from the added protein supplied by the thousands of feeders on leases and private hunting ranches across the state.
It’s common to see not only deer but quail, dove, turkey, a wide variety of songbirds and, of course, wild hogs at a corn feeder.
Late summer is traditionally a stress period for all game animals. The oaks have yet to drop their acorns, and fall rains have yet to sprout the winter food plots that so many of us plant. Corn feeders are often hit hard by wildlife in late summer and early fall.
Granted, in a year of heavy acorn production, deer often abandon feeders for a month or so while the ground under the oak trees is covered with one of their favorite foods. But in late summer, they discover the daily supply of corn under around the feeders and will return as the acorn crop depletes.
There is no doubt that an aggressive supplemental feeding program attracts and keeps game nearby. But possibly the greatest benefit from hunting around a feeder is the fact that hunters have the ability to selectively harvest a particular animal.
Trail cameras set around feeders take a great deal of the guesswork out of scouting. A check of the camera tells the tale as to what is coming in and also when.
Some hunters still refrain from using feeders to attract game, preferring to hunt ‘old school’ along trails leading from bedding to feeding areas. But truth be known, most of these ‘travel corridors’ often lead from heavy cover where the animals bed to a corn feeder somewhere.
In Texas unless we are hunting a giant ranch with no feeding program (good luck in finding such a ranch in Texas) with thousands of acres, chances are very good that a corn feeder — possibly on an adjacent property — is influencing the amount of game we see.
Game feeders have come a long, long way since I first began using them back in the seventies. I can remember underpowered feeder motors powered by AA batteries and the feeding times determined by pins that were stuck in a wheel that determined feeding times.
The little motors on these feeders were better suited to powering a small flashlight than providing enough power to distribute corn.
It was common for a kernel of corn to become wedged on the spinner plate and cause the feeder to lock up, which often caused the little motors to burn out. I can remember many disappointing trips to deer leases ‘back in the day’ to refill my feeders and discover it to be full of corn because of a malfunctioning motor/timer.
For many years now, I’ve been using feeders and timers from Ultramatic Feeders. These motors are heavy duty with a quarter-inch shaft, and the timers are digital and easy to set. My feeders also have a little unit called ‘The Remote’ that allows me to remotely activate my feeders whenever I wish.
I’ve found this very useful when hogs come in and clean up the corn. A push of the button on The Remote triggers the feeder and broadcasts more feed.
As any Texas hunter well knows, deer and hogs often ‘pattern’ to the sound of a corn feeder spinning. I am always amazed at how wildlife knows exactly when the feeders will activate.
It is very common for deer to begin congregating around a feeder a few minutes before it activates.
The critters might not have a smart phone to glance at, but Mother Nature has given them an internal clock that tells them when it’s time to head to their favorite feeder for a quick snack.
I would guess that the majority of deer hunters in Texas will be heading to their lease about now to get their feeders running for the upcoming hunting season.
From years of experience, I’ve learned to bring fresh batteries — unless of course, your feeder has a solar panel that keeps the battery charged year around. Even with the aid of the solar panels, the batteries usually only last a couple years.
Batteries are not expensive and having a fresh one installed is very comforting when you are back home. With fresh batteries, you don’t have to wonder if your feeder is working.
Most of us set our feeders to throw corn in the morning about 30 minutes before daylight, which gives us plenty of time to get situated into our stands for the morning hunt. But another school of thought is to set feeders to activate after we have time to settle into our stands.
For the afternoon hunt, I set my feeders to activate about 3 hours before darkness and the end of legal shooting time.
I do a lot of hog hunting, and when setting a feeder up to target strictly hogs, I usually set it to throw corn about 30 minutes before dark and then at two-hour intervals thereafter.
Yes, we Texans get a bit of flack from some hunters from other states where the use of feeders is illegal, but personally, I believe the use of feeders is a very good thing. Besides, I’ve never seen an out-of- stater hunting in Texas that complained about all the game they see on their Texas hunt, often around the feeder they are hunting.
Feeders benefit all wildlife during stress periods, and they help me fill my freezer with tasty venison and wild pork. To me, that is a very good thing!
Contact Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org.