"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Using Bump Feeders

From out of the December morning fog, a healthy boar walked nose-up down the soggy jeep trail, tail a-swishing. The .300 put an end to that. Ten minutes later, a flock of hens lingered by the feeder picking corn kernels out of the holes punched in the old oil drum. They were interrupted by a cow that beat the can around like a plaything, knocking some of that yellow gold on the ground. That’s fast company.

I like bump feeders, much more so than motorized versions. Not that the spinners aren’t effective; if you put corn on the ground, something is going to chow down in no time. No, I like the bumpers for convenience and economy.

A bump feeder can be constructed out of just about anything that’ll hold corn and not made of paper or burlap. My current model is a huge, bright blue barrel that at one time, according to the man who gave it to me, held water from the Red Sea for some sort of phosphate experiment. I don’t know. It hangs on our lease, and yesterday I put 150 lbs of whole corn in it. I’m somewhat concerned the hogs will break their noses hitting this heavy contraption. Anyway, Dad, for some reason, had a metal hoist in his garage we used to suspend the rig, and we drilled holes in four spots around the bottom. It lords over that corner of the property and has become a popular buffet spot for the local swine and turk-a-lurks.

Drilling the holes can be tricky. You want a few kernels to spout out, but you don’t want them gushing like a winning slot machine. Turkey should be able to peck corn out easily, and the hogs and deer can get enough to keep them curious and coming back for more. If you kick it with your boot and 6-8 kernels hit the ground, you’ve done well.

This can be frustrating to the uninitiated who are used to a substantial dusting of yellow grain scattered across the forest floor at dawn and dusk. I felt the same way the first time I saw one. The cattle rancher maintained a couple on a section of land in Manatee County I hunted several years ago. Being young, I wanted more. He shook his head at my impertinence and for good reason, I soon learned. He had one placed by camp, and there’d always be deer hanging out, even when we had a campfire blazing as we whooped and hollered. And two of the largest hogs I’ve seen harvested in Florida came from nearby.

I don’t have any statistical corn-eaten-by-game to corn-eaten-by-vermin ratio available, but I soon became convinced more corn went into the gullets of deer, turkeys, and hogs than to squirrels, crows, and raccoons. Anything eating off of these had to work for it; hung high enough, even the crafty raccoons had difficulty thieving the feeder. Hung even higher, it became off-limits to all but the tallest hogs. So, you save some money on corn ensuring your designated targets are feeding and not the local vermin.

Over the years, I’ve used different variations of the bump feeder. A long time back when I was more creative, I employed a green 5-gallon bucket fitted with a foot of 2-inch PVC hanging down so the deer could reach up and get it, but the turkey and hogs were left wanting. I once hung an old metal trash can with one slot cut into it that resulted in a couple dead does.

The ease of use is the final advantage. No more changing batteries or solar panels to keep them charged. It’s not liable to break or be ruined by weather or gnawing rodents. If someone steals it, you’re out materials and cost of labor.

Feeders are excellent tools in Florida and throughout the thick, swampy South. For hog management, it’s the berries. And harvesting a hog that’s been noshing on corn for a while translates heartily at the dinner table. I’ve never shot a buck of any size over corn, but for does it’s a fine management instrument and for filling the freezer. If you hunt land that allows baiting, do consider the bumpers.

Be careful, though. Feeders become popular spots for all predators, human and animal alike. Travis called me today to say a 7-8 ft. gator was hanging out under my bump feeder awaiting the inevitable troop of swine or raccoons. Or maybe my right leg if I'm not paying attention. Maybe he’ll hang out until August when gator season is underway. That’d be a heckuva story!

1 comment:

Ian Nance said...

I may go on a diet after seeing these photos....