Deer feeding initiative underway
Barnum couple feed hundreds of deer each day
A deer watches Mike and Linda Neault put out food as part of the emergency deer feeding initiative.
Mike and Linda Neault of Barnum loaded up 1,300 pounds of deer feed at the local feed store March 15 to feed deer at three sites on public land. The deer pellets were provided with funds that were released from the Department of Natural Resources for the Winter Emergency Deer Feeding Program. That food would only last a week.
"It should have started a month ago," said Mike in a telephone interview. "We could have saved more deer. Does are carrying fawns and need protein. They are not only starving, they were freezing to death. The wolves and coyotes were eating them alive."
Mike and Linda are members of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and are two of more than 1,000 volunteers from the association who are feeding the deer in northeastern Minnesota. The couple feeds hundreds of deer at the three sites daily. They are allotted one pound per deer per day.
"I've seen deer that didn't make it," said Mike. "That's tough to see. Some are bleeding from predator attacks. They can still walk and come for the food."
Mike explained the systems of the deer change during the winter from grazing (grass, grain and corn) to browsing (tender bark of brush and tree branches). People that feed alfalfa to the deer aren't doing them any favors.
"The stomachs of deer that have died were found to be full of alfalfa," he said. "The deer pellets that we get contain ground up browse, as well as other nutrients."
Mike and Linda took this reporter to one of the sites where they put food out for the deer.
As they approached the newly logged area where the deer congregated, the white flags of the deer tails could be seen all around the open area as they ran away.
Linda and Mike estimate there were 100 deer that day, but they have seen as many as 400 in that location.
"One day it was like a wagon train going by," he said. "They just kept coming and coming and coming."
Linda climbed over the snowbanks and dumped the deer pellets on tree stumps and leftover logs.
"If we put the pellets in the snow it gets mushy," said Mike. "They won't eat it when it's mushy."
Deer stopped and watched the trespassers.
Mike said the deer herd yard up in the winter to help themselves survive, and that was one spot where they have yarded up for centuries.
"When the snow is deep like it has been this winter, one deer will break a trail until it gets tired," he explained, "And then another deer will break trail for a while. That's how they get through the deep snow."
A deer trail could be seen through a wooded area.
Mike and Linda are avid deer hunters, but hunt about 30 miles from their home area.
"We eat a lot of venison," Mike said. "It's lean meat. My cholesterol levels have come down."
But their hearts go out to the deer suffering through the brutal winter.
"We pay 50 cents towards programs like this when we buy our hunting licenses," Mike said. "They could have started this program earlier. It would be like you paying extra at the grocery store for times when you needed food and couldn't afford it. It would be like them telling you that you couldn't have the money that you paid in when you went to get some food."
The last time the funds were released was in 1997, according to one source.
"We will feed the deer until the snow is gone", said Mike. "We do it because we are animal lovers."
The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association will be hosting a dinner and raffles at the Hermantown Shriners Building at 5152 Miller Trunk Highway on April 17, starting at 5 p.m., to raise funds for children who want to go to the association's Forkhorn Camp. No reservations are needed.
Call the Neaults at (218) 389-0055 for more information.