In deer management, there is no off season. Even during the spring and summer, you should be monitoring your herd. This lull between the seasons is one of the most important times when it comes to the health of deer.
Pregnant does need proper nutrition for fetal development during the spring, and for lactation when they give birth. Minerals are key to aiding antler growth as well. It’s important to note that genetics, age and proper nutrition are the integral parts of producing a trophy buck. Providing your deer with minerals won’t create huge gains in their antlers overnight. What it can do is supplement what they’re lacking during crucial growth periods.
Start mineral sites in strategic locations. You want to ensure the deer are not only aware of the site, but are using it regularly. Once they do, not only will they be healthier, but you can use it to monitor bucks as they grow throughout the summer.
Benefits of Minerals
Antlers in the growth stage are comprised mainly of calcium and phosphorus, as well as lower traces of magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. Researchers at the Mississippi State University (MSU) Deer Lab have found providing bucks with calcium and phosphorus in areas where those minerals are lacking in the soil can be beneficial for antler growth. Bucks with diets low in those two minerals often have delayed antler growth and velvet shedding. However, there’s debate about the clear benefit relating to antler growth when providing the other aforementioned minerals such as iron and zinc.
Calcium and phosphorus are also crucial for pregnant does, aiding in bone growth, milk production and metabolism. And for fawns and yearlings, they’re key to skeletal development. The MSU Deer Lab also recommends engaging in active habitat management, which is proven to allow deer to take full advantage of available nutrients in their diet.
Generally, deer lack sodium in the spring and summer due to their water-rich plant diet. According to the University of Missouri Extension, does require twice as much sodium than bucks “due to reproduction demands.” Use a mineral supplement that includes salt, in addition to calcium and phosphorus, for that reason. The deer will actively search for concentrated sources during the summer.
Types of Minerals
There are three forms of minerals: granular, liquid and block. Granular minerals are mixed right into the soil, sometimes with the aid of water. Blocks will last longer in areas with high rainfall. However, it takes longer for them to break down into the soil. Minerals in liquid form seep into the ground the fastest and can be poured onto logs or tree stumps. Although they work faster, these sites won’t last as long.
Start off with granular or a block mineral in the spring, and refresh it as the summer wanes with a liquid. However, there’s no wrong answer when deciding what form to use. Some land managers use all three throughout the spring.
Deer mineral sites are simple to create and come in three forms: block, granular and liquid.
Where to Start a Mineral Site
Make it easy for the deer to find new mineral sites. Establish them near travel corridors, funnels, or habitat edges where terrain transitions. Brush away the leaf litter from the ground, dig a shallow hole, break up the soil and then pour or place them there. Old stumps or rotted logs also make good locations, especially for the liquid and granular forms.
Be sure to set up a trail camera near all of your deer mineral sites, as well. This’ll provide you with plenty of pictures throughout the summer as you make a buck hit list. That’s the added bonus of this project: it’s an easy way to watch the progress of antler growth.