Many have done it simply because they want to bring deer to a particular spot. “There is a hole. That proves they use it.” Maybe they’re hooked on it and can’t stay away. Maybe this, hopefully that, but let’s get to the bottom of it.Minerals are a necessity for the health of both bucks and does. Both need them for skeleton growth. Does benefit by being healthier for breeding. Bucks benefit by growing bigger antlers. Look at a soil map of the United States and a map of record book whitetails side by side and you can easily see the correlation. Richer soils have historically produced bigger bucks. The overall whitetail population is also higher in these same areas. Does that mean if you live in Pike County, IL you don’t need to supplement feed? You don’t NEED to supplement feed anywhere. Studies show a healthy diet is the key to success. There is the problem. How do you know if your deer are getting the right food? In reality Joe hunter can only do what is feasible. Mineral sites are the first step to success.
What minerals are we taking about?
Sodium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, strontium and manganese. It isn’t coincidence that most of these are directly related to bone growth, bone density and digestive health.
Sodium is number one for digestive reasons. When a deer is browsing in the Spring and Summer months, this forage is high in water and potassium. This messes up the animal’s natural sodium conversion and it becomes sodium deficient. They now have to seek out a sodium source. You add the other minerals at this same site in order to kill two birds with one stone. The minerals above help in enzyme activity for the digestive system. Enzymes assist the deer to break down the food it eats. Better digestion equals more intake. The more intake the better.
Calcium and phosphorous are the primary substances needed for healthy skeletal structure and antler growth. A deer’s skeletal system is growing the first 4 years of it’s life and most minerals taken in go directly to that. When a deer’s skeletal system has fully formed, it then has a surplus of minerals that enter the bloodstream and turn into larger racks. More minerals make it to the rack at age 5 because the skeleton has stopped growing. The more minerals they have at 1, 2, 3 and 4 the skeleton gets what it needs and the antlers benefit in the end. A deer has the ability to draw calcium and phosphorous from it’s bones and transfer those to it’s antlers during growth. The problem is it has to be there in the first place and be replenished in a timely fashion.
Copper and zinc work in deer as in humans. They assist in fighting off infection.
How do you start a site?
People have varying ways of putting out minerals. I have two that I personally use:
- Mix 4 parts di-calcium phosphate and 1 part salt in a container. Take a shovel or tiller and break up a 4ft circle of earth. Pour the mixture into the dirt and mix with the shovel a bit. Di-cal phosphate alone is bitter and the deer won’t eat it alone. Mixing it with the salt covers up the bitterness and they will make short work of the site.
- Go buy a trace mineral block at the local farm supply. Take it out into the woods and set it down. This $7 block is an easy way to start mineral supplementation. I use a Cargill’s Champion’s Choice block. Here are the top 6 ingredients: Sodium Chloride, Ferrous Carbonate(key in the fight of osteoporosis), Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Reddish Brown Iron Oxide, Copper Sulfate. It has a lot of the list right in the block.
When do you start a site?
Any time is the right time. They need it. Get it going as soon as you have the opportunity.
I have seen deer hit a mineral lick in December, but it is proven that they must have the salt during the Spring and Summer.
Deer need minerals for digestion and bone growth. They actively seek out salt due to diet. We use this opportunity to mix in the other minerals at the same salt site they are seeking out. Get your sites out any time. Replenish them at least every March or when you think they have gotten the good out of it.
I hope this has been a help to you. Whether your goal is to grow a healthier herd or simply kill more deer, this is a cost and labor effective way to do just that.