Starting Deer Mineral Sites
By this point, the spring green-up has taken hold in much of the country. Even the most northern states are being blessed with pleasant temperatures. What that means for your deer is that they’ve already begun recuperating from the stresses of winter. As a land manager, what you can do to compliment that is establish deer mineral sites.
The coming months are crucial for whitetails. While the woods are lush - food is abundant and life is easy right now - the deer are packing on pounds to prepare for next winter. Many does are pregnant and require proper nutrition to ensure healthy fetal development and aid in lactation after they give birth. Meanwhile, bucks are growing their antlers. Providing them with minerals will supplement what they’re often lacking in their natural diet.
There has been plenty of research done on the benefits of minerals for whitetails. Recent studies by Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) biologists have unveiled that in mineral-deficient areas, providing mineral supplements can help antler growth. However, age and good nutrition are the main and most important factors to grow a big set of antlers. What this means is that mineral sites are a part of a well-rounded management plan, not a magic formula to produce trophies.
Researchers at the Mississippi State University Deer Lab have studied whitetail genetics for years. Their research shows that antlers in the growth stage are made up mostly of calcium and phosphorus. To a lesser extent, they are comprised of magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. The addition of phosphorus and calcium into the soil when it is lacking can help antler growth. Both minerals are also important for pregnant does, and aid in milk production, metabolism and bone growth. For fawns, there are skeletal development benefits as well.
Since deer are consuming so many plants that are rich in water this time of year, they’re generally lacking sodium. Due to reproduction demands, does require twice as much sodium as bucks. For this reason, you’ll want to use a supplement that includes salt, which deer can’t get enough of. A salt lick will attract deer throughout the summer.
What Types of Minerals To Use
Liquid minerals seep right into the soil, are fast-acting and effective. They can also be poured onto logs and tree stumps. However, it won’t last very long and you’ll have to reapply several times throughout the summer. Blocks last the longest, but it takes more time for them to dissolve. Minerals in granular form can be mixed into the soil or with corn or other supplemental feed pellets for use inside of a feeder. An effective method is to use a block or granular minerals initially, and use a liquid to refresh the site periodically throughout the summer.
Establishing a Site
The best mineral sites are those that are easily found. Establish them where deer already frequent, such as near bedding areas, travel corridors and highly trafficked feeding areas. Stumps and logs are great locations for liquid forms. All three work best in a shallow hole in the ground with the soil broken up.
A plus to the project is you’ll have an easy way to monitor bucks’ antler development by having a trail camera near all of the sites. While the deer will eventually change their patterns as fall approaches, you’ll have a reliable buck hit list. Then, as winter bears down again, you can rest a little easier knowing the whitetails on your property are as healthy as they can be thanks to supplemental nutrition.