Setting the late-winter dining table for wildlife

(Photo by Steve Pollick)

Late winter, food gets real scarce for wild critters, from deer and wild turkeys to raccoons, rabbits, songbirds, and more. To prove that, all you have to do is put out a little feed in front of a trailcam, and wait, but not for long.

I was in my local farm-supply store the other day and saw a lonesome, end-of-season bag of “deer corn” sitting on the shelf at clearance price. Why not, I thought.

I usually feed songbirds all winter, various seeds and suet, close to the house where we can see them. It is not unusual to see a raccoon or possum in the dawn’s early light, gleaning spilled birdseed beneath suspended feeders. And once this winter a band of eight turkeys sashayed through the yard, pecking fall birdseed.

But putting out a few pounds of corn out by the trailcam in the creek bottom, where I usually have a couple of mineral licks, well that might be something. Indeed, the results were amazing.

On Feb. 17 my cam had caught a buck, still wearing antlers, gleaning around the mineral block, though no corn was yet out. This may be a late-shedding buck, I thought. I hoped to find out, using the pile of corn as a draw. It did not take long, at least for everything but the buck.

Within a day, deer, antlerless, showed up in daytime one and two at a time, with up to five at night. Up to three raccoons at a time. Two, three rabbits, again at night. Daytime the place was swamped with cardinals and bluejays, among other groundfeeding songbirds. It may only be a matter of time for the wandering band of wild turkeys, which had pecked under my backyard songbird feeders, to find the pile, which I replenish every other day or so. Maybe even that still-antlered buck will turn up.

This time of year natural seeds and overwintering berries have all been gleaned. Young, new shoots on saplings and brush become targets for bunnies and deer, among others. You can see the clipped ends on succulent branches and twigs. But put out some corn, with mineral licks for dessert, and the late-winter dining table is set for wildlife.

It all took no advertising. Wildlife is good at finding food, especially easy meals. The trailcam proved it.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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