Minerals: Health, Antlers, and Photos!
By Dan Johnson
Hopefully by now you have had time to knock on a few doors and gain access to more hunting property on which you get the opportunity to maybe try what we discuss in the following articles. If you haven’t had the chance to do any shed hunting or take part in any late season scouting, setting up a trail camera over mineral stations on the properties you hunt can provide you with a lot of useful information and at the same time possibly help the overall health of your deer herd. As the deer start to visit the mineral site and you begin checking your trail camera, you will begin to see specific details of your herd like buck to doe ratios, age class, fawn recruitment, and overall numbers just to name a few.
From a bowhunter’s perspective, May is a month, on the surface, that doesn’t seem to have a lot going on for whitetails. When you look a little closer, there is actually a lot going on. Does are nursing fawns and the bucks are in the beginning stages of growing their antlers. During this period of time there are a lot of minerals, which if provided in the right dosage, can dramatically benefit the deer herd. For example, I recently spoke with a deer biologist who mentioned that during the antler growing season the whitetail buck can have a severe calcium deficiency almost to the point of osteoporosis. In theory, if some form of a calcium supplement is provided during this period, the bucks overall health “should” improve verses a buck who is not exposed to additional mineral whether that extra mineral goes to antler development or to bone growth and stabilization. At the same, nursing can take a lot out of a doe, especially if she has twins or triplets. And, although I have done no research on the subject, I would imagine if a mineral supplement was introduced to her diet it would do more good than bad.
As far as the mineral itself is concerned, there are all different shapes and sizes currently on the market. Most of them claim that if used throughout the whole year the results will be “bigger bucks”. I call B.S. as there is no real way to determine those claims. Some have special flavors, some have guarantees, and some are endorsed by “hunting celebrities”. If you look closely at the ingredients, the largest is mineral in the bag or bucket is salt. The same exact thing that is in your everyday salt block. The deer will find it, then use it.
I use minerals for one reason and one reason only, to get deer in front of my trail cameras. If I felt that the mineral provided an overwhelming boost to the herd health, I may run mineral all year long, however that is not in my budget as the stuff is not cheap. I have used several brands over the years and have even made my own by buying a mixture of minerals from a local co-op and noticed, that on average, the minerals with some sort of added scent seem to draw more deer. That is my overall goal, so that is what I go with.
I will usually start these mineral stations in late April or early May depending on when I get the time to get out to my hunting properties. I will refresh them about once a month or once every 45 days depending on how fast the mineral is being used and the deer that are visiting them. Because you cannot hunt anywhere close to them I recommend locating them on a field edge or on a portion of the farm that you don’t hunt. Then, as the growing season comes to an end and the deer stop visiting them, I will stop adding minerals. This usually happens about the time that the velvet comes off.
When it’s all said and done, I love looking at velvet trail camera pictures… and that’s why I run mineral stations. Good luck!