MCGREGOR, Minn. (WCCO) – While it may appear to be a postcard perfect morning in the woods just north of McGregor, Minn. the long, tough winter has taken a toll on the woods and the state’s whitetail deer.
“There’s over three-feet of snow still in the woods,” volunteer Dan Guida said.
For the first time in 18 years, the Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association chapters are teaming up to help out.
Funded with $170,000 in money appropriated from hunting license fees, an emergency deer feeding program is targeting the hardest hit areas.
The DNR provides the feed and the MDHA supplies the labor to distribute it.
From McGregor and Cloquet, Minn. along the southern border to Minnesota’s arrowhead and the Canadian border, forests where the snowfall is deepest will be the areas of greatest need.
“When we go in here you’ll can see how they’re full of energy and acting like uh, you know they are healthy, versus just standing there with hunched up bellies just watching us drive by,” Guida said.
Guida and his partner, Randy Barnaby, will load their personal all-terrain vehicles for the trek deep into the Savanna State Forest.
Dozens of deer will scatter into the timber as the noise from the machines signals feeding time.
“These are wild animals. We want to keep ’em wild animals. We just want to give ’em a boost,” Guida said.
Every couple of days they’ll spread a high-energy, fat and fiber mix of pelletized feed, which has a molasses-like taste, onto logged off clearings where wintering deer concentrate.
The 50-pound bags are quickly spread over the ground in long narrow trails.
The Savanna State Forest is just one of the more than 1,000 sites across northern Minnesota where similar efforts are taking place.
Feeding is expected to last about three more weeks, based on the funding and the amount that has been given out. Of course, how long it is needed all depends on the weather.
For deer it’s a nutrition bridge until the melt gives way to natural food sources.
The efforts of volunteers like Guida and Barnaby show a deep commitment to nature, whether volunteers are hunters or not.
“Knowing there’s other people that will see them either hunting or just out on the ski trails or hiking around. People that necessarily didn’t pay into the fund but will still benefit,” Barnaby said.
The emergency deer feeding program is funded by a fifty cent fee charged on all deer hunting licenses sold in Minnesota.