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Protein and Inches #8081375 12/08/20 07:54 PM
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With a healthy population of deer, supplementing protein will put on how many inches? I have my thoughts but I will wait to see what the consensus is.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8081432 12/08/20 08:43 PM
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Im not gonna hang with this thread long cause it depends on too many variables to ever get an answer. I wish there was a black and white answer and its certainly an obvious question that many would ask. My answer would be that I dont know and that the more important component is knowing protein feedings real value is in the LONGTERM health of the herd. I know its not what you asked, but to me, in many cases a group of hunters would be better off taking the protein budget and using it to cover having less hunters. Having less hunters usually equates to killing less immature deer which will result in older/bigger bucks. Sorry, I guess thats not exactly on topic. This thread would get more play in the Deer Hunting section. Ill be curious to see if anyone offers the "one number" answer you are hoping for.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8081468 12/08/20 09:09 PM
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16 inches average 1st year.

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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8081472 12/08/20 09:11 PM
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Very loaded question, it comes with a lot of confounders to the answer. Let me explain....you start feeding protein to grow antlers, so that means you are interested in bigger deer, so what do you automatically do without thinking? Pass on younger deer or deer that don't fit your criteria for size to shoot and let them get older. Right there is the number one reason people have misconceptions about how much bigger deer will get when starting protein. You are selecting for/allowing for bigger deer just so you can get your bang for the dollars spent and the effort put into feeding protein. I guarantee you won't see a bit of improvement if you start feeding protein but day lease your place out every day and let all the bucks get shot up.

Having said all that, there are several "studies" that have looked into this very question. One study found deer averaged around 10-14" when given free choice supplemental protein vs purely native forbs. Of course there were some that gained more and some less, but the overall average was around 10-14" on a darted population of deer given free choice protein year round vs a similar size herd with similar range conditions without free choice protein.

Another study took similar genetics deer from several areas of poor nutrition to excellent nutrition and raised them in a enclosure with access to free choice protein. They found the deer from poor nutrition gained the approx 10-14" going from bad nutrition to good but never caught up to deer from the excellent nutrition areas even with the extra inches. They carried the study out three generations and found by the third generation's third year of life, you couldn't tell the deer apart from prior ancestral geographical location...three generations. So genetic expression is not only limited to nutrition, but also seems limited in some respect to the area's consistent nutrition. What that all means is if you live in an area that consistently only has 120" deer, feeding protein may bring them up to around 130's class, but it will take a very long time before you start to see consistency in the genetic potential maximization from nutrition.

This is the best take away from protein feeding, if you want to do it then do it, but don't think that throwing down a bunch of money on protein feeders and protein is going to make you a giant deer right away. If I had to choose only one aspect of deer management to implement on my place (due to time, money ,etc) it would NOT be protein feeding. But it does have a place in the management program if you can afford it from a time and money stand point.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Texas buckeye] #8082098 12/09/20 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Texas buckeye
Very loaded question, it comes with a lot of confounders to the answer. Let me explain....you start feeding protein to grow antlers, so that means you are interested in bigger deer, so what do you automatically do without thinking? Pass on younger deer or deer that don't fit your criteria for size to shoot and let them get older. Right there is the number one reason people have misconceptions about how much bigger deer will get when starting protein. You are selecting for/allowing for bigger deer just so you can get your bang for the dollars spent and the effort put into feeding protein. I guarantee you won't see a bit of improvement if you start feeding protein but day lease your place out every day and let all the bucks get shot up.

Having said all that, there are several "studies" that have looked into this very question. One study found deer averaged around 10-14" when given free choice supplemental protein vs purely native forbs. Of course there were some that gained more and some less, but the overall average was around 10-14" on a darted population of deer given free choice protein year round vs a similar size herd with similar range conditions without free choice protein.

Another study took similar genetics deer from several areas of poor nutrition to excellent nutrition and raised them in a enclosure with access to free choice protein. They found the deer from poor nutrition gained the approx 10-14" going from bad nutrition to good but never caught up to deer from the excellent nutrition areas even with the extra inches. They carried the study out three generations and found by the third generation's third year of life, you couldn't tell the deer apart from prior ancestral geographical location...three generations. So genetic expression is not only limited to nutrition, but also seems limited in some respect to the area's consistent nutrition. What that all means is if you live in an area that consistently only has 120" deer, feeding protein may bring them up to around 130's class, but it will take a very long time before you start to see consistency in the genetic potential maximization from nutrition.

This is the best take away from protein feeding, if you want to do it then do it, but don't think that throwing down a bunch of money on protein feeders and protein is going to make you a giant deer right away. If I had to choose only one aspect of deer management to implement on my place (due to time, money ,etc) it would NOT be protein feeding. But it does have a place in the management program if you can afford it from a time and money stand point.

What he said, ^^^^^


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082103 12/09/20 01:19 PM
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Never thought about quantifying the progress only to do my best.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Hudbone] #8082792 12/09/20 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudbone
Never thought about quantifying the progress only to do my best.

Some of us quantify/analyze/overthink most everything. Its enjoyable to some. For me a question like this would theoretically be important if we ever chose to feed protein. Its never just about me but I hunt with well over 20 people over two leases and all decisions I/we make have to be thought out, quantified, make sense and an attempt to justify costs to the extend most would agree. I have determined in MY SITUATION its really not in the best interest of our group as a whole to feed protein. I dont want to derail the thread and turn it into a debate though.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082815 12/09/20 09:08 PM
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Id say way too many factors to nail down. One of the biggest is annual rainfall variations.

In dry years and wet years we shoot healthy deer, we dont see ribs or hips unless a deer is sick or very old etc. I believe it helps the antlers, but I wont try to quantify it.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082878 12/09/20 09:54 PM
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Got on South TX lease with no prior protein program. Two of the eight hunters took trophies. Largest deer taken that year was a beautiful 160. I was graced with a really pretty twenty inch wide 6 1/2 year old ten who grossed 152. He is a true trophy to me and gave me the incentive to stay on.

Among other things, we started to feed protein the next Spring. Skip forward 7 years and I was graced with a 176 which looks better than it scored. The next year, we took a 6x6 which grossed 186 and netted 182. Several 170s since then and chasing some big boys this year. Have mgt bucks already down that dressed 184 and 192 and an 8 that grossed over 150 B&C.

When we started, trophies were 140 plus. Now we can't get hunters to take mid-150 deer. Not sure how much of a boost the protein is, but do know it to be an integral component of a successful, working formula.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082949 12/09/20 10:55 PM
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I guess I should have elaborated on my question but I didn’t want to give away my position. There are some really informative answers and I appreciate them. My estimate was adding 4 to 6 inches on average. Obviously a ton of variables that are specific to each location. Trying to decide if the cost vs benefits are worth it. I feel age structure and carrying capacity are two things we can focus on without the additional expense.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082971 12/09/20 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Leonardo
I guess I should have elaborated on my question but I didn’t want to give away my position. There are some really informative answers and I appreciate them. My estimate was adding 4 to 6 inches on average. Obviously a ton of variables that are specific to each location. Trying to decide if the cost vs benefits are worth it. I feel age structure and carrying capacity are two things we can focus on without the additional expense.

I agree with all that. The other part of your equation you may already know but its one I have a hard time with. That is WHAT IS THE COST per person per year. Ive asked a bunch of people and I get answers like the cost of a bag or how much they put in each feeder or how often the fill etc. It seems someone good do a thorough answer but once again every situation is different and its hard to get a hard answer to what it will cost. The answer to how many inches is much more variable than the cost. I wouldnt begin to try to figure inches on a first year basis but instead try to figure what improvements may be gained after 5 years or more. Overall herd health of ALL deer is the big boost. Doe health equals fawn survival and fawn health which perpetuates to everything in future generations. Then it takes a few years after that to realize the benefit in inches of antler on the ground. Thats the problem for me, it takes a real commitment by everyone to spend that kind of money over that many years and who knows if the lease situation will still be intact that many years down the line. Dont get me wrong, protein works, but its a huge commitment in money and TIME for a payoff that realistically is years away. Im sure someone will disagree with everything ive said. Im just glad STx is away so he cant bash me(not that he usually does, but he knows way more than me, as others do.)


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8082990 12/09/20 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Leonardo
With a healthy population of deer, supplementing protein will put on how many inches? I have my thoughts but I will wait to see what the consensus is.


First, by 'healthy' population, are you referring to condition of the deer or number of the deer? I'd just about guarantee that any biologist that shows up, first words out of his mouth are going to be 'Reduce the number of deer you have'. If you're not HF or really large acreage, that's going to be very hard to do. I have a friend with 3500 acres. They've been managing for about 12-14 years now and don't supplement with protein. !st year biologist told them to kill 83 deer. They kept their records and over the first 6 (or so) year period, weight of harvested does increased 8lbs on average and harvested bucks gained 13lbs. 4.5 and older bucks went from averaging 120" to 135". Now, you have to average that out between increased feed from fewer deer, but also increased antler size from killing more of the correct deer earlier. But a gain in feed will definitely increase antler size, and I'd agree with the number mentioned above in the 10-14" range.

So my suggestion is, if you can control mouths, start there (or do both). If not, and you can stomach the feed bill, put all the protein to them that you can, it will definitely have a positive result.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8083000 12/09/20 11:24 PM
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4 to 6 inches on protein? So what would they put on without protein and you lowered the amount of deer you have on your property? Hard to say. A few years ago i thought about trying a protein feeding program. I don't actually hunt deer myself I just have them on here. I bring in hunters to take out the amount each year I think needs taken. I really don't care on size of those taken just the numbers. I started feeding protein and within the first month at one feeding station they were consuming close to 75# per day. That was around $15 per day. Around $5500 per year. With the amount of competition out there doing hunts it did not make any sense. So I quit and just charge so much a point and in the end probably come out making more per deer than those that feed protein full time. And as always this is just my opinion and everyone knows what that is. Maybe it stinks more than others but who knows.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8083067 12/10/20 12:09 AM
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I would surmise lower deer density is actually much more impressive to a deer mgt guru than efforts a throwing supplemental feed to the correct beneficiaries. Too many numbers and you cannot feed enough. You won't achieve what you want.

Above "someone" said, " Not sure how much of a boost the protein is, but do know it to be an integral component of a successful, working formula." There is no magic bullet, but there are working pieces.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8083102 12/10/20 12:39 AM
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Hud pulling an oxner there...

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8091221 12/16/20 02:31 AM
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There are to many factors to put an exact number on it. Region of the state, habitat, rainfall, age structure, density, body sizes, buck to doe ratio, number of feed stations, etc. can all factor in on results. I have seen buck jump as much 40" to as much as 80" in one year. Seen bucks only get 10" better in 4 yrs. Some areas the deer do not show their genetic potential till they hit 6 or 7 yrs old to even older. I have seen basic main frame Hill Country 8pt at 4 yrs of age(that score around 130) go to a 5x5 typical at 5, 5x6 typical 6 and then a 6x7 typical at 7 that scored 160. I have also seen a buck that was a native hill country weak 5x5 buck at 2 yrs of age go to a 7x6 typical at 3(that scored in the upper 130's..found one shed) to a 7x7 at 4 yrs of age that score 177 gross. Some areas the deer can show their genetic potential with huge jumps at 3 or 4 yrs of age...then not much after. All deer will make huge jumps at younger ages...from 1 to 2 can be huge. Most deer will make a big jump from 4 to 5 yrs of age in just about all areas of the state. But some will make above average jumps each year.The thing that protein does is when a doe is raised on protein she then produces a fawn raised on protein that weans onto a feeder quickly. That fawn is going to express his genetic potential better. Deer raised on feed do not show the huge jumps in score each year that those who only benefit from large swings in rainfall do.
Here is a buck that I killed this year that was not very impressive the 2 previous yrs being just a main frame 4x4. I can not be sure what he was the previous years. I felt he was at least 5 last year so that would make him 6 this year. If he score low 120's last year then he jumped 24" in a very bad rainfall year. He has had access to free choice protein year round. I have average about 5500 lbs per yr the last 5 yrs now.
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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8093054 12/17/20 04:04 PM
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This is my opinion and only an opinion- I am not a biologist but I did get my wildlife degree from A&M. If you get on a lease that has next to no management plan or says we don't shoot bucks until they are at least 3-1/2 and then decide to institute a management plan where you require feeding protein and now say you can't shoot anything under 5-1/2. Will you see an increase in antler growth- most likely. Will it be because of the protein or age? You won't know because you changed more than one parameter at a time. You might get the increased growth from age only. Genetics is going to play a large role in this also and there is nothing we can do about that. A lot of it comes down to is it worth it to you to spend $1000-$2000/year in protein to go from 130 to 140 bucks. It isn't to me but then I don't define my hunting success in inches.

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Russ79] #8093122 12/17/20 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ79
This is my opinion and only an opinion- I am not a biologist but I did get my wildlife degree from A&M. If you get on a lease that has next to no management plan or says we don't shoot bucks until they are at least 3-1/2 and then decide to institute a management plan where you require feeding protein and now say you can't shoot anything under 5-1/2. Will you see an increase in antler growth- most likely. Will it be because of the protein or age? You won't know because you changed more than one parameter at a time. You might get the increased growth from age only. Genetics is going to play a large role in this also and there is nothing we can do about that. A lot of it comes down to is it worth it to you to spend $1000-$2000/year in protein to go from 130 to 140 bucks. It isn't to me but then I don't define my hunting success in inches.

^^^Very good comments on changing two things at once and not knowing which one, if either, contributed to the change. An increase may of just been a better rainfall year.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Russ79] #8093129 12/17/20 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ79
. . . . A lot of it comes down to is it worth it to you to spend $1000-$2000/year in protein . . . .


I could only wish

Last edited by Hudbone; 12/17/20 04:54 PM.
Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8095526 12/19/20 05:01 PM
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protein helps, so does water, so does genetics, it also requires an optimum calcium/phosphorous ratio in the diet 2:1.... but all that together helps and back to the genetics part.... proper game management for that particular property is key... the biggest deer on your property DONT KILL until they hit 7.5....use several season of doing nothing but culling out inferior deer.... same age deer as your trophy but much smaller = harvest


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8095821 12/19/20 09:34 PM
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Culling inferior bucks is only part of the equation since half the genetics of the fawn comes from the doe and how are you to know which doe is throwing the crappy genes?

Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8095835 12/19/20 09:45 PM
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By culling your doe herd extremely well and hard. Selective harvest does not only apply to bucks but does also. What you shoot is more important than what you leave.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Russ79] #8095859 12/19/20 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ79
This is my opinion and only an opinion- I am not a biologist but I did get my wildlife degree from A&M. If you get on a lease that has next to no management plan or says we don't shoot bucks until they are at least 3-1/2 and then decide to institute a management plan where you require feeding protein and now say you can't shoot anything under 5-1/2. Will you see an increase in antler growth- most likely. Will it be because of the protein or age? You won't know because you changed more than one parameter at a time. You might get the increased growth from age only. Genetics is going to play a large role in this also and there is nothing we can do about that. A lot of it comes down to is it worth it to you to spend $1000-$2000/year in protein to go from 130 to 140 bucks. It isn't to me but then I don't define my hunting success in inches.

I’d be all over spending 1000-2000 to jump from 130’s to 40’s etc. most folks pay a lot more than that to shoot smaller deer.

I do agree with your premise that it’s not always the feed that makes the change.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8099040 12/22/20 01:38 PM
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I always remind folks that protein and cottonseed are called "supplemental" feed for a reason. Deer will spend way more time grazing on browse and forbs (therefore getting way more protein ingestion) than eating at protein feeder for a few minutes each day. As others have said there are many other factors. Number of deer per acre, is water available year round even in drought, how bad are the predators on the ranch, etc.

Where protein pays its way IMO is during stretches of drought. We had a 175 inch deer put on 21 inches and become a book deer during one of the worst droughts we have seen. He spent way more time at the feeders that year than in years before.


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Re: Protein and Inches [Re: Leonardo] #8099708 12/22/20 09:04 PM
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Exactly my thoughts tlk, supplemental for a reason. In times of environmental stress, drought/illness/etc, supplemental feed can make a big difference. But even in drought most deer will still prefer bad forbs over protien feed. Its just the way they are made.

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