"Feeding the Need and Watching them Grow"
An interview with Phillip Bowman. A Mississippian and his desire to prove that Dreams can come true if you’re willing to step out and take the Deer management challenge…
S.O. - What was the determining factor that sparked a flame that led into wildlife management for you?
Bowman – Growing up we always had a ranch or lease in Texas, and would travel there to hunt as often as possible. I also hunted with friends here in Mississippi. As I got a little older I started wondering why we hardly ever see and even kill what back then was so called BIG DEER.
I remember witnessing several die offs in Texas, and probably due to over population. I saw the same problems here in Mississippi. We would see spikes, large and small, older deer with abnormal antlers and just plain old Jacked up bucks… I often wondered how states in the Midwest like Illinois, Kansas, Iowa etc… have such tremendous deer, both in body size and in antler development. My guess was that it had to do with the deer density, food, genetics and age. I always had the dream of having a place of my own and try to obtain the same results here in Mississippi.
All that hit home in 2000 when I purchased my first farm in Yazoo County, MS on the Big Black River, a place known for good genetics, great soil. But this particular place had been mismanaged, poached and beat down for many years so I knew I had my work cut out for me and my dreams.
My first decision was to meet my neighbors and see what type of management program they were following, but to my surprise they were on the “IF IT’S BROWN IT’S DOWN” program, especially bucks, now he told me that they didn't like shooting does due to the fact that they were our buck factories!
I took some sound advice from friend Rob Stockett who assured me that this property could be turned around. I agreed and sought the help of D.M.A.P. biologist William McKinley and we were on our way.
My neighbors try to convince me that trying to manage a deer herd was impossible due to the flooding of the river, size of the deer, and the pressure from dog hunters and such. But I knew I just had to create the proper habitat, work the deer numbers and let the Big Black soil and the Good Lord do the rest.
S.O. - Did you consult a wildlife biologist or get any professional advice before getting started?
Bowman– Yes, like I mentioned earlier, I contacted D.M.A.P. Biologist William McKinley
S.O. - How many acres of property do you manage for wildlife?
Bowman – We own and manage 1500 acres in the Mississippi Delta.
S.O. - How many acres of your property are cultivated for row crops and which type?
Bowman – We sow 220 acres of row crop and rotate between corn and soybeans; the balance of the property is approximately 300 acres of CRP, 80 acres of food plots and the remaining 900 acres are in timber management.
S.O. - When was protein supplemental feeding introduced to your herd and why?
Bowman – We had been feeding Purina Deer mineral on my Big Black Property and started feeding protein on my Clarksdale, MS property the day I purchased it in May of 2006. In 2008 I started using wooden covered troughs and put out around 120 bags of protein that year.
Even though I had plenty of browse and natural food I wanted to give the deer a little extra boost in late season and after the rut to help carry them into spring and summer. I had read that the faster a deer can regain fat, muscle and tissue the quicker it can use the nutrients gained from its diet in antler development with low stress. This led to my supplemental program and I began feeding in Late Dec into Jan.
Mature Buck eating from Steel Gravity feeder
S.O. - Do you supplemental feed year round or just the high stress periods of late winter and late summer?
Bowman - I learned a long time ago that you let the deer and the wildlife tell you what they want and need. So i decided to feed as long as the deer were eating the feed provided. Based on my experiences in the Ms delta region the deer relied on supplemental feed heavily during the late winter months and in early summer Jan – May, then it would taper off in June, July and August and then pick up again in late August through early September then decline again in late Sept through late December. The deer seemed to rely on supplemental sources during the high stress periods more often then any. And again, I let the deer reveal to me what they wanted and needed; it’s truly a simple formula to follow...
When native browse and mast like white oak, red oak, pin oak and wild pecan are available during early fall the deer will go into the late winter stress period much stronger. Bucks bounce back from the rut quicker and the does that are now carrying fawns are less likely to abort due to high stress and low nutrition and often deliver twins and sometimes triplets. It's these years that we also notice a lower supplemental intake and a shortened time in months that we have to feed before spring green up.
S.O. - What is your chosen brand of protein feed and what is the guaranteed analysis % of your brand?
Bowman – Delta Whitetail http://www.deltawhitetail.com/ has been my chosen brand and this is solely based on deer consumption and not personal preference and or price, its simple the deer like it and its working for my herd.
The formula and or recipe is as follows:
Crude Protein - 18%
Fat - 2%
Phosphorus - 14%
Calcium - .90 – 1.35%
Salt - .40% min – .90% max
Steel Bran Style Deer Feeder
S.O. - In your opinion which works best for you and your program? Gravity feeders vs wooden trough feeders, which do you prefer and why?
Bowman – No question Gravity deer feeders are the best bang for the buck, literally. I have tried trough feeders in the past and the percentage of feed we were wasting vs what our deer were eating made my decision an easy one.
Too much feed was lost by windblown rain and high humidity here in the south, and our biggest culprit was varmints. Not just Raccoon, but Opossums, skunks, squirrels, and even crows. Data obtained from trail camera surveys proved that we were losing 30-40% to varmints and critters and 15% to rain and humidity. We needed to make a change and quick...
You do the math and you will find other options in keeping critters out. Let's say your feeding 150- 200 bags a year at $14.00 - $17.00 a bag that will run you somewhere in the area of $2800.00 to $3400.00... Without question the initial investment for a quality all welded steel feeder during the first year of your program will save you MONEY. Not to mention the time and effort of cleaning out trough feeders filled with urine drenched and feces contaminated feed. I first decided on 4 Low-bay feeders from Steel Outdoors and my problem was SOLVED!!!
Big Buck eating from Steel Gravity Deer Feeder
S.O. - How long was your management plan implemented before the fruits of your labor were showing results?
Bowman – On our fourth year we started seeing some results on our older class bucks but it wasn't until year 5 that the real visible results on our 1 ½ and 2 ½ year old bucks were growing like wild grass.
By this time we had our deer density low and had been supplemental feeding for several years and we only were shooting management bucks.We also improved and added to the number of food plots on the property to aid in tonnage and variety.
A wildlife buffet so to speak!
S.O. - Did you have a goal in mind when you started your plan? And if so, do you feel the herd has reached its full potential on your property?
Bowman – Yes, I wanted to prove to myself and to others that in the Mississippi Delta with the help of good nutrition, low deer density, good herd management and proper age structure the south could grow deer that would rival any state in the Country
We have accomplished what we set out to do without Artificial Insemination, cross breeding or even transporting non-native deer. We used just what God gave us and truly became good stewards of the land, kept pressure to a minimum and watched the results grow one year at a time all with no other form of manipulation other than the fence around the property.
To date we have killed 6 of what we call truly mature bucks being at their full potential, 214” 205” 193” 189” 175” plus 5 or 6 others scoring in the mid 160’s to low 170’s over the last for years, so what we’re doing is working and we truly love watching them grow.
S.O. - As a landowner, would you encourage hunters that own or even lease smaller properties to implement sound management practices on their hunting ground? And how should they get started?
Bowman – Yes I most definitely would… We have managed other properties as well, from 200 to 2300 acres. We did it by creating sort of a coop between the neighboring landowners. It takes time, patience and communication! You will find out that most people want the same results you do, but they just don’t know how to get there. You first have to prove yourself and then build that trust and the results speak for themselves…
I would recommend starting with your local D.M.A.P. biologist and have them evaluate your property and your goals. They may have prior experience with your property or a property close by in your area. They may also help in facilitating a coop plan with adjoining land owners.
Once you begin I would recommend keeping as much data as possible, and trust me I am a DATA nut. But I feel the more “I KNOW” the more “THEY” will grow!
Data and information from deer harvest, weights and age to all the way to what food plots and seed blends the deer prefer and why and keep data on what’s working and what isn't and this will enable you to plan each year based on your budget. Keep data from year to year on amounts of rainfall, mast crops, Agriculture harvest and crop rotation, timber management and natural vegetation and browse availability.
But most of all keep it fun and don’t make it work. I mean it is a ton of work involved, but watching the fruits of your labor sprout from seed to harvest is fun and rewarding. The Bible says that the harvest is plentiful, but the Laborers are few Matt 9:35-38. And that stands true in the world of the Whitetail hunter, everyone wants to kill or have the opportunity at a mature deer, but very few want to put in the work sacrifice and patience it takes to let um grow to maturity. Trust me God knows what He’s talking about…
S.O. - Would you consider the practices you implement on your property a hobby/pastime, or now is it just a way of life for you and your family? And does your family support your time efforts and money spent doing what you love?
Bowman - Managing wildlife is a way of life for us. It’s just something my family enjoys. My kids have all grown up around it and have seen the results it brings and it also teaches them a sense of responsibility.
They enjoy checking the trail cameras and the anticipation that comes with not knowing what you might get on camera. They really enjoy the spring time and shed hunting to see what bucks made it through the winter and matching sheds with photos of bucks we have. My kids are a huge help on the farm, but their most fun is when we do our doe harvest, they like most kids that hunt love to pull the trigger, but they do realize that if they kill it, they clean it…
My wife Audra has always supported me. She kind of sees it as a science project and I being the mad scientist behind the project that never ends. But we work on it together and as a family for the most part. Audra just started hunting 3 years ago and had killed some great management bucks and just recently killed a 189” double split G-2 main frame 10pt, so we now consider her a member of the brotherhood according to our son Wesley…
Now if I could just get Audra to help shoot a few does and help with herd management!