Why Using Minerals For Deer Is Crucial
By: Heath Wood
Being as that these minerals and attractants are most beneficial to deer during the early to mid-summer months, it makes me curious as to why they are not on the shelves in May or June instead of with products being used in September, October and November.
Each summer I am amazed as I listen to deer hunters as they began their off-season regimen in order to prepare for the fall season. During this time, I love seeing the anticipation, passion and hard work from hunters that want to try to grow big bucks on their property. Unfortunately, it is also during this time, in my opinion, that some of the biggest miss conceptions occur when it comes to benefiting deer by feeding them minerals and supplements. This mis-informed mistake often takes place before it is even in the hunters’ hands, it often takes place in outdoor retail stores. One of my personal pet peeves is that in which some sporting goods stores stock the shelves with minerals, feeds and other attractants towards the end of summer along with other hunting products such as deer scents and grunt calls. These are two different phases in deer that are advertised as one. In my home state, for example, it is illegal to use any type of food attractants within 20 days of hunting season. Yet, at the beginning of hunting season it is not uncommon to witness shelves that are fully stocked with those attractants. Being as that these minerals and attractants are most beneficial to deer during the early to mid-summer months, it makes me curious as to why they are not on the shelves in May or June instead of with products being used in September, October and November. The other common misconception is how fast and the amount of minerals that it takes to develop better antler growth to one’s deer herd. I think some hunters are under the impression that if they put out some salt and 2 or 3 bags of minerals during the summer that they should have bigger bucks that fall. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but that isn’t how it works. The truth is, it takes a large amount of minerals, for several years in a row, with great genetics to produce bigger bucks. The good news is that hunters are not wasting their time, there are still some great benefits that come from giving deer food and minerals.
When most hunters begin to look at what they can do for antler growth, they look for 2 key types of minerals, being calcium and phosphorous. These are 2 minerals that are naturally found in deer’s antlers. By feeding them those two minerals it improves antler growth by providing much needed nutrients. Even though I first mentioned that growing big bucks in one season isn’t going to happen, that does not mean that hunters shouldn’t use minerals at all. If one will use minerals a few years consecutively, yes antler growth will increase. Another great reason to keep using minerals is to benefit the overall deer herd. Calcium and phosphorus are the 2 minerals that help antlers, yet they are also 2 minerals that improve milk production in does, and help fawns grow by improving their bones. Remember, antlers are bones, they need the same nutrients to flourish. Another type of mineral that I like to add, if possible is sulfur. The main use for sulfur is to help control ticks. Imagine if your ears and around your eyes was covered with ticks. Not to mention the other areas on the rest of the body. The itching would drive one crazy, creating a high level of stress. One of the biggest factors with a buck’s antlers not growing to their potential is that of too much stress, knowing this adds another factor to the laundry list of reasons that minerals should be put out throughout the spring and summer months.
¨There are many other benefits from minerals, for example, helping digest foods during the summer months. As for what kinds of minerals one should use is solely based on one’s preference. In my personal experiences, I prefer using Big and J’s Headrush.¨
The next question that one may ask is what minerals to use that have these key ingredients included and when and where to put them. The spring and summer months are the most crucial times for deer to consume the right minerals. As mentioned before, antler growth and healthy does and fawns are a direct result of getting the right minerals. There are many other benefits from minerals, for example, helping digest foods during the summer months. As for what kinds of minerals one should use is solely based on one’s preference. In my personal experiences, I prefer using Big and J’s Headrush. This is a mixture that contains several key trace minerals, including zinc, copper, manganese (which antlered animals really need) and cobalt. The reason I prefer the Headrush compared to other minerals is because these minerals are bioavailable, meaning they are readily absorbed by the animal as opposed to excreted. Headrush also contains calcium, which as mentioned earlier, is key to bone/antler growth. When putting in a new mineral site, I like to find a location near water such a creek, pond or next to a green food plot. There is a high content of water found in several of the green plants that deer eat on throughout the summer months.
Once I have found a good location, I will use a shovel and a small bucket of water. One can bring water along or retrieve from a nearby pond or creek. Take the shovel and dig a hole approximately 2’ X 2’ and approximately 6” to 8” deep. Once I have loose dirt out of the hole, I will then pour a good amount of minerals on the dirt, but not all of it. Next, I will cover the minerals with dirt until all mineral is covered. Then I will pour the remaining minerals on top, sprinkle the mineral in the same 2’ X 2’ area. Last, I will pour water over the minerals and loose dirt. This helps to soak the minerals into the soil, which makes the deer want to dig for it. Deer will continue to dig for the minerals throughout the summer. It is recommended to freshen up the sites periodically throughout the summer as deer dig deeper into the hole. Continue to pour additional minerals into the existing site and add more water to repeat the digging process. I will usually make 3 to 4 different mineral sites throughout one piece of property in which I am hunting. The amount of land one has access to will depend on how many sites to have. Of course, bigger pieces of land will need a few more sites.
Mineral sites are a great way to improve the overall health of one’s deer herd, and also increase the chance of antler growth. Another great benefit of mineral sites is that of providing a great location for using a game camera. Capturing photos of the lick site will result in the ability to take an overall inventory of deer, including how many fawns were born in one year, what bucks are sporting antlers and it also allows for one to get a better idea of the buck to doe ratios by having multiple cameras capturing evidence.
Throughout the latter part of the summer, I will also add a couple camera set ups of some type of food supplement such as corn, apples or one of my favorites Big and J’s BB2, which is a high aroma feed that contains a high protein that is much easier to digest, which makes it a favorite amongst deer. This helps keep deer coming back to the same areas for an extended period.
Every hunter who has a legitimate concern for their deer herd should always be using the benefits that come from using minerals throughout the spring and summer months of the year. Improving the entire deer herd as opposed to only concentrating on bucks is a reward in itself and will make ones hunting season better by doing so.