Fall is descending upon Rio Blanco County. The nights are getting longer and colder. Each year as the fall comes so do the deer and elk. As things get cooler they slowly come down from their summer feeding grounds into town and the surrounding areas. This means two things for residents: hunting season is on us and your horse or cow hay is no longer safe. Hunting season is something most residents look forward to. Having to protect your hay from the deer and elk is not something to look forward to. Luckily it is fairly easy to do and can be done in numerous ways.
How you choose to protect your hay will in a large part depend on how much you have. With winter coming you will want to stock up on enough bales to last you through the winter or have some ordered now to pick up later in the winter. Waiting until you run out in January or February to start looking for hay to buy will end up costing you a lot, especially this year with so many people loosing some of their hay crop to flooding. Determining how much you will need until the spring cut is a must.
If you are lucky enough to have a hay barn your problem with deer and elk is solved. Buying your hay now and getting it loaded into your barn would be a good idea before the snow makes everything harder. If you don’t have a hay barn yet you may want to consider building one if money permits. There are many different ways to build one from kits that you or a builder put together, to building from scratch, to hauling in a pre-built one. You can either do a fully enclosed barn or a partially open one. The fully enclosed barn will keep the hay all the way protected from both the deer and the weather. It can be very hard on people with allergies though as all that hay in an enclosed environment is tough. A partially enclosed barn can be done with three sides enclosed and one open or all sides halfway enclosed with the top open.
For many people financially a barn just isn’t in the cards. If you can’t afford a barn your hay can still be fully protected. The two most common solutions are tarping the hay or fencing it in. Tarps are available in all sort of sizes and can be purchased at feed stores like Meeker General Mercantile or Murdoch’s Ranch Supply or can be purchased at places like Walmart in Vernal, Rifle or Craig. You will want to measure carefully so you know what size to buy planning to get one bigger then the hay pile so you have extra tarp to use to tie it down. Buying a heavy duty tarp is a good idea because it will last longer in the harsh winter months and may be able to be used for multiple winters. Once you put the tarp over the hay you will want to secure it down so it doesn’t blow away. You can use stakes or bungy chords to do this. Just make sure it is easy to get hay to feed each day.
You may also choose to build a fence around your hay to keep the deer out of it. You will want to keep the fence far enough back from the hay that the deer can’t eat the hay through the fence. If you keep it just far enough back they can’t reach through and eat it, but close enough that there isn’t too much room for them to jump in it is ideal. They will not jump in the fence if they fear there is not enough room to jump. The other thing you can do is to build a fence high enough they can’t jump it or get panels from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The DOW will let you borrow huge wooden panels that the deer can’t jump that you can put up around the hay. They do want the panels returned in the spring though and will get all of your information to ensure you comply.
Whatever way you decide to protect your hay you might want to get on it soon. A few deer have already started to come down and more will surely follow in the coming weeks. Protecting your hay will ensure your horses have enough to eat over the long winter months. For more information on keeping your horses water defrosted in the winter months check out this article.