A mineral lick is an inexpensive way to improve the quality of the deer on your property and hold the bucks there. Here’s how to set one up.
I have become convinced that every deer hunter is really a “trophy hunter” at heart. While many hunters rail against so-called trophy hunting, even the most ardent “meat hunter” would still love the opportunity to shoot a nice buck. In fact, the next time someone claims to be opposed to trophy hunting, ask them this question: “if a big 10-point buck and a doe were standing side by side, which one would you shoot?” You know the answer to that question, so I guess we all have an interest in shooting a really nice buck no matter what forms our basic core hunting choices.
Having a chance to shoot a larger buck is the driving force behind much of deer hunting and land management for deer hunting these days. More and more people are managing their property for mature whitetails with the hopes of seeing and harvesting more deer with big racks. Food plots, cover enhancement, sanctuaries, and inviolate areas are all methods hunters successfully use to improve their deer hunting experience.
One of the least expensive ways to improve your deer herd is the use of mineral supplements. The good news is that they can be used anywhere, not just on the land you own or lease. I use them often on land that I have permission to hunt and even use them from time to time on public land.
While deer are growing antlers, they need large amounts of minerals every day (particularly calcium and phosphorous), but other trace minerals are used in smaller amounts. Antlers can grow as much as an inch per day and without proper nutrition, antlers do not get as big and the overall health of the buck can suffer as his body robs the minerals from his skeletal system while the antler growth takes priority for about 100 days each year.
Providing minerals really helps the buck’s skeletal system stay strong, and it improves the overall quality of the body—not just the antlers.
Mineral supplements not only improve the health of your bucks, but the right minerals will be readily consumed by lactating does during the summer, further providing them with the nutrients they need. Fawns eat the minerals and improve their body condition, which helps their odds of making it through that first winter and in some cases may even help them avoid predators.
There are plenty of reasons to have minerals available to deer year-round but for the most part, they will be utilized from spring through early fall. I make sure my mineral sites are replenished right after the snow melts in the spring so it is ready for the fawning and antler-growing season.
Trail cameras placed on mineral sites are a valuable aid in keeping an inventory of your deer herd. Most every buck and doe in the area will visit the mineral site at least occasionally during the spring through the fall. It’s not only interesting to keep track of the bucks that are on the property but it’s a thrill to watch them grow. For me, watching the fawns mature is just as much fun as watching the bucks.
Many commercial mineral products have large amounts of salt in them, which makes them attractive to the deer, but does little to aid nutrition. Salt is cheap and helps the manufacturers keep their cost down. While salt certainly attracts the deer as well as mineral supplements with higher quantities of quality ingredients, it lacks the essentials and you will have to use a lot more of it, so the cost ends up being about the same. That’s a trade-off I don’t feel the need to make.
There are many producers of excellent mineral supplements, but for the past three years I have been using Monster Raxx with excellent results. It has a low salt content and therefore costs a bit more than the cheap brands you may find in the big-box stores. However, it does a bang-up job of attracting bucks and I have noticed a significant increase in the quality of the whitetails where I have used it.
This kind of mineral is very easy to use. I choose a location that the deer are likely to be nearby so they find it quickly. I also put it where I can easily place a trail camera covering it from the right distance. Clear all the ground cover in about a four- to five-foot area and spread an entire five-pound bag of the mineral on the ground and mix it in with a stick or a rake—that’s it. Add more every couple weeks to a month, depending on how many deer are using it.
In some soils, the mineral will seep down into the soil and the deer will eat the soil. Just keep adding mineral as it gets used up. Rains will help mix the mineral with the soil and the deer may create quite a hole while consuming the mineral.
Make sure you check your local laws regarding the placement of minerals. They are not considered bait in any states that I know of but some states may have laws requiring you to stop replenishing the mineral a certain amount of time before you hunt nearby. Mineral supplements are easy to use and reasonably priced. Pick out a couple sites and try some this year.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.
Images by Bernie Barringer