Biological Clock Governs Life and Health of Deer....And smart whitetail managers know how to keep time

 By: John Frank Deese

Our world is changing at a pace faster than we have ever seen before. Vast improvements in science and technology have allowed us, as conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts, to manage our natural resources in ways never previously thought possible. We also have the latest-greatest camo patterns, the lightest treestands, and clothing that eliminates your scent. You can even have trail-cam pics sent directly to your cell phone or computer without ever re-entering the woods.
With so much “change” occurring in our lives, it is nice to know that there is one thing that will always remain unchanged. It is steady and as consistent as the rise of the morning sun. It is called the biological clock. And no, it has absolutely nothing to do with that busted date you had a few years ago.

The biological clock is obviously just a term I use to describe nature and its repetitive cycle year after year. As outdoorsman, we can learn many things by simply observing this cycle and creating management plans and goals that flow with it. For example, if creating a healthier deer herd is your goal, then ask yourself this question: “When do whitetail deer experience the MOST physiological change?” The answer is clear: early spring through late summer. Physics proves that it takes energy for anything to experience change. So we know that deer need vast amounts of quality food during the spring and summer months to support the many physiological changes that occur during this time. In the majority of the U.S. does begin gestation in early winter, and begin lactating in early spring throughout the summer months. Bucks begin producing a new set of antlers during spring and the process continues through summer as well. It is not a mere coincidence that the whitetail’s quality nutrient demand is greatest during the spring and summer in about all of the U.S. It is rather a perfect example of a species taking full advantage of a season where nutrient availability is greatest. Whitetail deer have relied on the consistent yearly cycle of the “biological clock” for thousands of years, long before there was designer camo, and high fence ranches.

With all of this being said, there are many nutritional gaps during spring and summer that nature does not fill. Let us discuss antlers for an example. Antlers are a secondary sex characteristic, which means that they are not the body’s first priority. Nutrients will first be used for normal body growth and function, and the remaining nutrients can be used for antler development. Besides bucks being harvested at an early age this nutritional gap is the main reason bucks never reach full antler size potential.  In most parts of the U.S. bucks begin their rigorous 200 day antler-growing cycle in early spring when natural food sources are at a minimum. They are physically exhausted from the previous rut and nutrition is needed to re-gain their proper body weight. So antler development is delayed until the nutritional requirements of the body are met. The pair of antlers will likely be “stunted” and growth cannot be compensated later. What can we do to eliminate these shortfalls in antler growth? Well, research at the Whitetail Institute answer that question over 20 years ago. 

Whitetail Institute perennial food plots are one of the best if not the best solutions to nutritional shortfalls that occur naturally throughout the year. They can provide the crucial high protein food source that all deer need and can provide it all year. These “nutritional buffets” are not only important for growing antlers, but also for growing babies. Does are in gestation during winter and early spring when food sources are limited. They must not only supply their own body with nutrients, but care for that “future trophy” as well. A fawn born from a healthy mother possesses a huge advantage or “head start” over fawns born from nutritionally-deprived mother. It is crucial that pregnant does have unlimited access to high quality forage during this time. Again, Whitetail Institute provides the absolute best products that offer year-round high quality forage. The products available to the hunters include Imperial Clover, Chicory PLUS, Alfa-Rack Plus, Extreme, and the list goes on.    
The nutritional requirements of whitetail deer change dramatically as they follow nature’s yearly cycle. As previously mentioned, management plans and goals should follow this cycle when managing for any natural resource. That is why the Whitetail Institute has developed Cutting Edge, a line of products that flow with this nutritional cycle. Cutting Edge is divided into three blends: Initiate, Optimize, and Sustain. Cutting Edge Initiate is designed to be used in late winter/early spring and it targets the nutritional gap that occurs just before spring green-up when bucks are growing antlers, and does are entering the 3rd trimester of pregnancy when 2/3 of total growth occurs. Cutting Edge Optimize is designed to be used after the green-up in spring and throughout the summer.. As an example, let’s look at a lactating doe that has just given birth to a “future trophy”.
A deer’s milk is very nutrient dense, and that milk is almost always of high quality. However, the quantity of milk produced depends on the health of the doe. What does this mean? It’s quite simple…a fawn born from a healthy doe will receive more milk (nutrients), thus enhancing its overall growth potential throughout its life. Cutting Edge Initiate, and Optimize were developed just for this reason.  Just as bodybuilders enhance their diet with nutritional supplements to gain muscle mass, Cutting Edge is used to help deer reach their full potential.

When spring is on the horizon, the days will be slowly getting longer. Many hunters have long forgotten about the whitetail deer. They are planning summer vacations of sun-filled beach trips and campouts with the kids. Many will have turkey fever as they sharpen their calling skills with mouth calls, box calls, and slates. Some are putting new line on the ole’ fishing reel and repairing those leaks in the aluminum boat. Deer hunting is often the LAST thing on hunters’ minds, when it should be the first priority if they want to harvest bigger, healthier deer. The seasons change, hunters’ interests and priorities change, but the biological clock is still ticking…