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Fawns on the ground

Posted on 06.06.2013

Now is a season of changes for white-tailed deer in Texas. Fawns are beginning to show up across the state, does are working hard to keep up with the new mouths to feed, and bucks are quickly growing knobby antlers covered in velvet. As we anxiously watch the antler growth process, take a moment to recognize that all the years of protein feed, selective culling and efforts to increase antler size is contained right in front of you, in the genes of this year's fawns. Are you doing anything to help the little ones out?

First of all, do what you can to help Momma. She is lactating and supplying the nutrition that her new offspring needs. If she is stressed and not able to care for her fawn as she should, then the chances of her fawn thriving and making it past this critical period are not good. Sure, you may have feed in the feeders, but are they spaced out well enough to offer all deer equal access? Are they fenced from feral hogs and cattle so that only deer can access them? If not, then the does may not have good access to quality supplemental feed and their milk quality and quantity may suffer.

Shorter watering stations allow access for fawns. Is fresh water accessible to fawns? They can't reach the tall livestock troughs or water sources inside a feed pen so consider shorter troughs and make a fawn access point on a panel or two of the feed pens if practical. Again, be sure you have water in more than just a few places on the ranch. With only a few water sources, predators can more effectively target and ambush fawns coming to those watering holes.

Predator control is the next obvious tactic for helping keep your fawn survival numbers up. Keep pressure on the predators on your ranch with constantly checked and maintained snares and traps. This is the time of year when you need to keep your predator rifle in the truck whenever you are out; don't miss an opportunity. Be sure that feral hogs are also on your radar, as they won't pass up the chance to make an easy meal out of a new fawn.

One last thought about helping your fawn crop: what are you doing now to help next year's fawns? The grass that your new fawns are hiding in right now didn't get there overnight. Bare ground and/or short grass makes a predator's job of locating fawns easier, plus it provides no shade making the ground a cooktop. Open up a few more areas on the ranch for growing tall grass and weeds. Plant tall grasses adapted to your region. Fertilize your existing fields. Edge effect and tall grass are some secrets to fawn survival.

Postpone shredding and brush work for now. Heavy machinery and five-pound fawns don't mix. Give them a little more time to grow bigger and be able to move out of danger. Remember, every trophy buck starts out as a wobbly-legged fawn. Everything you can do to get as many fawns through this critical period increase your chances for that next big buck in the future.