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Dr. Deer Land Management Tools for Land Management

Electric Fences & Your Whitetail Hunting Strategy

by Dr. James C. Kroll   |  July 6th, 2011 6

In the Spring issue of North American Whitetail, I presented our revolutionary findings about using electric fencing to manage food plots for whitetails. My graduate student, Adam Osmun, recently completed his master’s work evaluating the effectiveness of Gallagher fencing to regulate deer use of food plots.

Graduate student Adam Osmun displays the difference between a food plot contained within an electric fence (left) and one open to browsing by deer and other wildlife (right). Photo by courtesy of Dr. James C. Kroll.

The study took place in three locations: south Texas, east Texas and the northern portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the Turtle Lake Club.

We found our three-wire fence design increased survival of forage species, crop yields and availability of an attractive food source.

In fact, if you watch North American Whitetail Television presented by Arctic Cat this fall, you’ll see me take an awesome buck from a corn-soybean food plot that had been protected by electric fences earlier in the year. And that’s what this article is all about — applying this technology to your hunting strategy.

When it comes to whitetail management strategy, one of the most frequent inquiries I receive involves summer food plots. More often than not, the average land manager is going to plant a food plot in the spring, hoping to improve the nutritional plane of the resident deer and perhaps still have something growing in the plot for early-season hunting.

Unfortunately, spring plots are often reduced to weeds and dust by October, making spring plantings not worth the effort. That is, until electric fences came along.

When it comes to whitetail food plots, there really are two seasons to consider: cool season and warm season. In the north, the “cool” season occurs in early spring and again in early fall.

In the South, however, cool season refers to the periods between early fall and early spring since southern winters seldom are cold enough to prevent some growth by food plot varieties such as cereal grains, clovers and chicory.

The “warm” season in the north ranges from late June to mid-August, and mild summers permit managers to grow crops considered “cool-season” varieties in the South.

Again, cereal grains, clover and chicory do well in these climates. In the South, warm season occurs from May to October, much longer than in the North.

Hence, food plot strategies for these two geographic areas can be quite different. Yet, there still is another factor to consider.

The physiological needs of deer vary with age, sex and season. Nutritional factors generally break down into protein, energy and minerals. Whitetails certainly require all three most of the year, but in varying amounts.

We once conducted a study in which we allowed deer to “assemble” their own diets through the year. We erected feeders, each with a different feed component, and the deer confirmed what we suspected. Does and bucks during much of the year might as well be different species!

There were significant sex-related differences in preferences for feed components, but one factor seemed to hold for all segments of the herd — digestible energy.

So, feeds high in carbohydrates and digestible plant compounds rich in energy are preferred. That is why cereal grains are so popular with your deer. They are highly digestible forms of energy.

Using this information, we decided to organize our electric fence management program to take advantage of these needs.

Why not plant crops in the spring, keep deer out of the plots most of the warm season, then open them up when the deer really need them?

By fencing deer out of the warm-season plots, we then can make better use of native forages, while “banking” our food plot for the late summer and early fall.

Osmun conducted some great experiments last summer. At our research facility in Nacogdoches, Texas, we planted iron-and-clay cowpeas in April within electric fences. At about the same time, we planted Roundup-ready soybeans and corn at the Turtle Lake Club in Michigan, again inside fences.

In both locations, we managed to grow crops we never had been able to grow!

At Turtle Lake, we also managed to exclude bears from our food plots. By late summer, we had banked tons of high quality, high-energy foods at both sites.

By late summer, it was time to let our deer start enjoying the nutrition we had banked for them. Therein lies the greatest benefit of electric fencing for whitetail hunters.

Imagine that you are a bowhunter with a highly nutritious food source on your property when your neighbors’ plots have been reduced to dust!

While your neighbor is busy planting his fall crops, deer are flocking to your plot! At the same time, you are doing something good for the deer. It is a “win-win” to me.

When coupled with whitetail management strategies such as rotation grazing and forage banking, you can see why this system is one of our best ideas since the infrared-triggered camera.

  • bigd7400

    Wow… I never insinuated that this was a PAID advertisement for some particular fence and the only reason it was indorsed is because someone got money to do it. I merely meant that it may be cost prohibitive for the average guy to fence his plots ie "If you have the money to put up the fence" it may work work for you. The average "Joe" out there doesn't have the income flow to justify fencing in their plots in most instances. As for the research part of this, I do not doubt that you guys have done due diligence and were the first to research this technique. I only said that I did not think this was "Invented" by you good folks, as I know of many people that have fenced their bean plots for many years, myself included, (more than 8 some more than 10 years). I am indeed sorry if any of my statements were misunderstood and I apologize. Fencing plots is a great method and for those who can and I appreciate you passing on the information.

  • Laurel

    I agree with James and Bigd7400. I own a farm too and haven't found a fence that will really keep an interested, hungry, and ambitious deer out. sorry… but Holy Cow did you feel the need to defend yourself, Scott… eh?

  • kookee01

    Depending on the area to be fenced and remoteness of its location, fence energizers may be hooked into a permanent electrical circuit, may be run by lead-acid or dry cell batteries, or a smaller battery kept charged by a solar panel.-Paul Perito

  • bigd7400

    This fact has been known and used by wildlife managers for a long time. Hate to be "that" guy but this isn't new or news and I highly doubt Dr. Kroll "invented" this strategy, sorry. This is also a case of "if you have the money" it will work and may not be practical in all applications. I always suggest an exclusion cage be used to determine deer usage before spending a fortune fencing something in. Just my .02

  • James

    I must raise the bullshit flag on this one guys. I have raised cattle, corn, oats and wheat and chased deer on our farm in columbiana county Ohio my entire life. I have yet to see any fence stop whitetail deer. We have both 5 strand high tensile electric fence dividing pasture and 60" woven wire with a strand of barbed wire 8" above it with electric strands added on extended insulators on property lines. I see deer jumping over, or running through, the fence on almost a daily basis. I wonder how a single strand of braided nylon could have possibly kept deer out of alfalfa fields as shown when higher better constructed electric fence cannot on my spread. Maybe the average guy without an agricultural background can believe this story, but anyone with a farm that has deer and crops can tell you that if theres something deer want to eat on the other side of the fence they are going to hop the fence.

  • Scott

    I do not doubt that you, bigd7400, are wrong with all of your comments but I know for FACT you are wrong. See I am the one who tested the electric fence 8 years ago in one of the three South Texas locations. I am also the one who was in charge of negotiating the details for the project and in no way or form was Dr. Kroll paid or compensated by us or the fence company, and in no shape or form did we compensate him or did we get compensated for the joint research project on the electric fence. The only deal made was the fence company covered the cost of the research. You see it is people like you that make comments like this that cause others to make bad choices and not trust anyone. I am sorry that you feel that your opinion is warranted on “What you doubt” but I challenge you to call someone, send them an email, ask questions why they make the claims they make and then make your comments to the public like you did here. Contact Dr. Kroll or SFASU and ask questions all are public numbers. Contact Gallagher and speak to the CEO, contact Turtle Lake and talk to the Grad Student or the club manager Wayne Sitton, all of these people can be reached. I am sure you will then know why FOR FACT I can say, bigd7400, you are wrong. I have personally tested more than a dozen products over the past 9 years with Dr. Kroll, no I do not work for him, ( feed-mineral blocks-gadgets-camo-blinds-Electric Fence-Food Plots of all types of seed-feeders-tracking devices-scents-attractants….) and only two worked the way it was claimed. But, do note Dr. Kroll has never mentioned the name or the manufacturer of the many products that did not work, he only tells you what did pass the test. I challenge you to do as we do and research something, and try to prove yourself wrong before you open your mouth or use a key board.

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