It''s "Deer Supplement Season". That time of year when does are pregnant and bucks have or will be shedding antlers. Or maybe it's already spring time and does are giving birth and nursing their new born fawns while bucks antlers are growing daily. Like us, deer need nutrition year round but this time of year is very demanding on a whitetail's body. Sure they survive but countless studies have proven that the environment in which they live has a tremendous impact on their health and physical development. Add in the demands their bodies undergo from now until fall and we begin to see the benefits of supplementing a wild deer's diet. The Definition of a Supplement is (something that completes or enhances something else when added to it) so when talking about wild deer, while we can not assume we will be replacing their current diet we certainly can take steps to enhance or supplement it. A Mineral site is one of those steps we can easily implement to supplement their nutrition and likely the cheapest.
Deer mineral sites are exactly as the name implies. They are a specific spot where you are dumping minerals on the ground or an old stump or maybe using some form of a block. The deer then begin to frequent this site and lick the area where the minerals are.
After I used minerals for many years starting with the traditional cattle salt and cattle trace minerals that have close to zero calcium and phosphorus and almost all salt, I shifted to minerals designed specifically for Wild Deer. So with that said I believe mineral sites are an important part of your program and if nothing else they provide an excellent place to place a trail camera and survey your deer. It can be the best location to see the bucks on your property and watch them as throughout the antler growing season.
What to look for in (or not in) a Deer Mineral. The minerals are normally a mixture of salt, calcium, phosphorus, and many other micros to create a certain analysis. Some of the better ones also contain key vitamins to aid in the bodies uptake and utilization of the minerals. Antler and fetus development benefit from a proper proportion of Calcium and Phosphorus. A calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1 is ideal and well-designed DEER Mineral formulations designed for wild deer should contain the proper balance of calcium to phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals that aid in fetus development, bone and antler development, handling environmental stress as well as general body functions. There is a homemade mineral mixture you can find on the web that contains 2 parts cattle trace mineral, one part stock salt and one part di-calcium phosphate. The analysis on this would be close to this but will vary some if other ingredients are added. I only listed the three minerals because everything else is in such low numbers they are barely measurable.
Then you have commercially available blends. One alarming thing I see as I scan the ingredients listed on the commercial offerings at the local feed and seed or sporting goods store is the high levels of Selenium. Selenium is naturally available in a deer's environment and is rarely a lacking element. Remember we are talking wild deer so a mineral blend should be designed with that in mind and selenium is toxic to deer in high amounts. That threshold is narrow between just enough and too much. If the amount found in native plants is high then increased by the amount in the minerals we are at risk of crossing that threshold. A good safe number to look for would be Selenium less than 10ppm and more preferable less than 5ppm. Many livestock,cattle, goat and sheep minerals have higher levels so if the deer minerals you are looking at have higher levels, I've seen many over 25ppm, what you may be looking at is a re-badged livestock mineral or someone who didn't do their homework when designing the mineral. Another thing to consider is the mill I use to blend my mineral will tell you that selenium is the most dangerous and toxic ingredient they deal with. So much so that they do it in a caged area and have to wear special protective clothing that has to be changed one the worker is finished handling it. It is for this reason and the fact that deer obtain selenium from natural forage that it is left out of Herd 360's formulation of Max 360 Deer Mineral
Why Should I use a quality mineral made specifically for Wild Deer? Even if you aren't a "trophy hunter" you should still want your deer to be as healthy as can be. Wild Deer may have different needs than humans but sodium isn't one of them. Too much sodium is bad for us and it can be bad for deer as well. The truth is and I don't care what the latest star studded advertisement claims, Deer do not crave plain minerals. I can promise you if you could take any of the deer minerals being sold today and extract the salt/sodium content out (with some products you'd be left with an empty bag) and then pour it on the ground that the deer won't touch it. Then go back some time later and add some form of salt that the deer will start digging, licking and chewing on it. Sure you can pour out a bag of rock salt or cattle salt and the deer will dig a hole and sometimes depending on the herd density you may wind up with a crater big enough to loose your four wheeler and get hundreds of trail-cam pictures but you haven't benefited their health one bit. If all you are after is attracting deer to a spot to get trail camera pictures then a salt block or cattle block or even a bag of water softener salt is gonna provide excellent results.
A bucks antler will only get as large and have as many points as his genetic code will allow. The key to reaching that peak is he first needs age and then nutrition then genetics. If he never gets to the 5.5-6.5 year he will never be as big as possible and with out proper nutrition he will never reach maximum potential genetics would allow at any age. It's also been proven that a buck fawn that starts life with less than optimum nutrition will never reach his maximum genetic potential at any age. Unless you have a controlled breeding program and a high fence then genetics are nearly impossible to control. Age is more controllable by letting young deer walk and nutrition is even more controllable for the average hunter. Healthy does produce healthy fawns and healthy buck fawns produce bigger bucks and healthier mature bucks grow bigger antlers, you can see the trend I'm sure.
So what should we focus on? Well a bucks antlers starts out as a protein framework or cartilage. Bucks with a lower protein percentage diet both when young and during their antler growing season will not reach maximum potential but for now we are talking minerals. The antlers are growing bone and besides protein, calcium and phosphorus are the main elements needed. At the end of the antler development stage a bucks antlers start to harden or mineralize. Where do these minerals come from. A buck has the unique ability to mobilize these minerals from it's bones to the antlers but it is believed that at least some comes from it's immediate diet too. This process creates a form of osteoporosis similar to what elderly people can experience. The difference is that as soon as the antlers are hardened the bucks body begins to replenish the voids left in the bones. This whole process requires lots of energy from a bucks body while at the same time shedding his winter coat(also takes energy) and storing up for the rut. Many believe that by providing ample amounts of these minerals not only helps a buck recover faster but by having them available during the whole growing season their body will suffer less. Then there are the does who are carrying and eating for more than one animal and then giving birth and producing milk. This creates and even greater toll on their body than what a buck goes through. Think about it this way. If you were going to do something that would put huge demands on your body like a long hike in the mountains or running a triathlon. You wouldn't wait until the week or day of or after to get into shape and start eating right. No, you would begin months, possible a year or more before, eating right and taking your vitamins. I don't think I can build a better case for using a quality deer mineral and providing mineral sites.
A well designed wild deer mineral will have ample amounts of calcium (13.5-18% 19% is max) and phosphorus(7-9%) in the proper ratio close to 2:1, low selenium (less than 5 parts per million) salt content less than 40%, vitamin A vitamin D and vitamin E. There are many other micros that will be included but the ones I have listed are the key ones we are looking for. Max 360 Deer Mineral is formulated for 16% calcium, 8% phosphorus and 35% salt to give wild deer what they need.
Why do deer use mineral sites? Nobody that I have found including studies done involving leading universities and biologists can give an exact reason of why deer use them and why they stop or back off. As I have already stated one thing for sure and I can say from experience, if you remove all the salt the deer won't touch it and if you offer just salt the deer will devour it so this leads me to believe that it's really the salt or possibly the sodium content that attracts the deer and keeps them coming back. The most logical conclusion I have seen biologists give is that because the highest use is during the hottest time of year. This also is a time of the year when sodium is at it's lowest availability. In fact when I set out to establish new deer mineral sites on a new piece of property I usually will buy several bags of water softener pellets to find the areas they will use the most. The beauty behind knowing this is that we can use a deer's craving of salt/sodium as a vehicle to deliver calcium and phosphorus as well as other vitamins and minerals.
Where and how do you make a mineral site? I'm not sure there is a one size fits all answer here either. There have been mineral sites that I have started that got little to no usage but then I start another 20 or more yards away and it gets constant use. Experimenting is the key here. Spots with plenty of cover will obviously get the most daytime use but any area frequented by deer is a great place to start. I suggest starting with just some water softener salt or stock salt if you want to save some money and also use some corn if they are stubborn to attract attention to it. Once you find a location the deer will use you can start adding a quality deer mineral. If you can find an old stump in an area with lots of deer sign that is a great place to start and if water is near by then it's even better. Clay or heavy soils also seem to be preferred by deer for mineral sites so if you can locate these you may have an ace in the hole.
When do deer use mineral sites? Deer mineral licks will be used year round but get the most usage during the warm and hot months of the year. In my area of the Southeast the time between Late April to October are the heaviest use times. You will read tons of promotions that claim it's because the bucks antlers are growing and they crave the minerals to help with that. I call BS. Simply remove the salt and the deer will stop using the minerals so in my opinion it has nothing to do with craving of nutrients. I like to keep my deer mineral sites fresh year round. I have one site that I noticed some activity on Dec 31/2016 so I came back and added a fresh supply of minerals. The next day it was full of hoof prints and pawing. Later that day I hunted from a stand that could see this mineral site and watched several deer use it. This makes me happy because I know those does are pregnant and are taking in a good dose of quality deer mineral.
So what are you waiting for? Get out and freshen up your mineral sites or start some new ones and thanks for reading and if you are interested in try a well designed true deer mineral that won't break the bank check out MAX 360 DEER MINERAL
Thanks for reading