Will Minerals Actually Grow Bigger Bucks?

Big white-tailed deer stir all kinds of emotions in hunters, and it seems that the bigger they are the more messed up we become.

by Scott Bestul

My body was certainly living in the moment, my knees trembling as I watched the buck emerge from a rain-soaked sumac thicket and shake himself like an oversized Great Dane. But my psyche was transported back to my boyhood—specifically, to a memorable story I'd read about Daniel Boone killing a grand buck over a mineral lick.

Some 20 yards from my treestand was a pawed-out depression in the dirt. The depression was created by hundreds of whitetail visits to a highly specific area in the soil. I'd found the spot while scouting the previous spring. I didn't know if I'd found a natural mineral lick or simply a spot where a previous hunter had dumped pounds of salt or mineral. All I knew was that the place screamed for a treestand, so I hung one and waited for fall. I encountered the huge buck on my first visit to the spot.

My shaking continued for long minutes after the buck had air-dried himself. As he approached the "lick," I struggled to come to full draw and something (a slight noise or, perhaps, deep instinct) made the buck pause to re-check his surroundings. Panicking, I jerked my sight-pin toward his shoulder and released in one motion. The arrow slipped harmlessly under the buck and he whirled, evaporating into the sumacs like fog.

That hunt occurred more than 20 years ago, long before the popularity of improving whitetail nutrition and hunting opportunities by establishing food plots and providing mineral supplements. I still don't know if that depression in the dirt was natural or man-made.

Whitetails & Minerals: A "Natural" Relationship

The hunters of Daniel Boone's era knew all too well that deer and other game animals were attracted to certain mineral-rich sites. Licks, springs and even bogs that were rich in minerals like sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium attracted deer, elk, moose, caribou, bison and even sheep and goats. Needless to say, hunters, from Native American to early white settlers, were drawn to the same sites. Later, the appeal of mineral licks was observed by such naturalists as George Shiras and Theodore Roosevelt.

What pulls whitetail deer to such mineral licks? John Ozoga, a respected wildlife researcher from Michigan, explained the attraction as largely seasonal. "The majority of licks are composed mostly of sodium, or salt," he noted. "And deer are very attracted to salt, particularly in the spring and early summer months. During this period, most of the forage available to whitetails is high in potassium and water, yet low in sodium. This apparently creates a sodium deficiency that deer attempt to fix by visiting natural mineral licks."

Ozoga says sodium is essential to healthy whitetail physiology, helping deer regulate "fluid volume and blood pressure, maintain osmotic balances and buffer systems." If salt is lacking in their diet, whitetails will retain it in their systems by simply passing less of it in their urine, Ozoga notes. But if a deer becomes severely salt-deficient over a long period, it may suffer impaired food digestion, decreased appetite and growth.

Salt, however, isn't the only mineral of importance to whitetails. Biologist and whitetail expert Grant Woods says that calcium and phosphorous are also essential building blocks for whitetails. "They're both required as a doe produces milk for her fawns, or a buck grows antlers for the year. Each process is a very difficult one for deer," he said.

Ozoga and Woods agree that whitetails will, and do, "rob" their skeletal systems by drawing the necessary calcium and phosphorous from it if they're unable to obtain those minerals from outside sources. And they also concur that deer will replace these vital minerals in their skeletons after fawns are weaned or antlers harden. That wild, free-ranging deer have accomplished this for centuries is testimony to their amazing resilience and adaptability. "All I know is, deer are amazing in their ability to find the forage that their bodies need to not only survive, but flourish," Woods said.

The Million Dollar Question

Naturally, modern deer hunters who now learning the fundamentals and fine points of herd management are wondering if supplementing minerals will help whitetails during these peak times of high mineral requirement. Ozoga remains skeptical: "Recognizing the attraction that deer have for natural mineral licks, I could be swayed to believe in supplemental minerals very easily. But to date, I haven't seen any scientific evidence to convince me."

Woods takes less of a hard-line stance. "Any research linking the benefits of mineral supplements for wild, free-ranging deer is inconclusive," he admitted. "So, ‘proving' that providing minerals will help bucks grow antlers or does nurse fawns is difficult. That said, I'm a big believer in mineral for the same reasons that I take a multivitamin every day. Sure, I might not need everything that's in the vitamin, but I take one to cover my bases. The same goes for deer. If minerals help deer get something they're lacking, you're helping them achieve their potential. If you've got a bucket with a hole in it, you can pour all the water you want to into that bucket, and the water will only rise to the level of that hole."

Biologist and avid deer hunter Matt Harper is another believer. Harper, who grew up raising cattle and went on to receive a degree in animal science from Iowa State University, said, "The benefits to other ruminants such as cattle, has been shown conclusively for years. So I take more of a common-sense, logical approach. By providing deer with mineral they might need, you're ensuring they'll face no deficiency during a critical time of the year."

Maximum Benefit

Despite scientific backup, there's little doubt that hunters, especially those hoping to maximize whitetail potential on their property, will continue to provide minerals for deer.

For these users the question becomes: How do you go about selecting and administering mineral to get the most bang for your buck?

Buying a high-quality product seems the most logical starting point. Most established companies have invested countless hours and dollars in research to discover not only what minerals are essential to whitetails, but when deer need them most and how best to deliver the goods.

Salt, as we've discussed, is highly desired by whitetails and is a common, if not dominant, ingredient in many mineral blocks and mixes. In fact, some less-than-reputable manufacturers will rely almost exclusively on salt, which deer consume voraciously for a time, especially during early spring and summer. "But the whitetail need for salt declines quickly," Woods said. "You can continue to use it to attract deer, but the ratio of salt should be altered so you can deliver other minerals to them."

While we don't have room to cover the specifics of any manufacturer's recipe, or how whitetails might benefit from each element, Woods and Harper concur on the primary ingredients. "You can break minerals down into two categories," Harper said. "Macro minerals are the most important building blocks and include salt, calcium and phosphorous. Trace minerals are needed in much smaller quantities, but can be important to deer in some specific areas. These include magnesium, copper, selenium, iron, cobalt and zinc."

Realistic Expectations

Hunters should expect to see whitetails use minerals heavily during spring and summer months, then fall sharply as autumn arrives. "Usually, by the time plants are hardening in the woods, deer have less use for mineral licks," Woods noted. "In most places, by the time hunting seasons open, whitetail use of licks will have diminished or dropped off altogether." Nevertheless, hunters should be aware of state regulations regarding hunting near salt blocks or other mineral licks.

Also, whitetails in some areas might be more attracted to mineral licks than deer in other habitats. "In regions with heavy lime deposits, such as those along major rivers like the Mississippi, whitetails might not need or seek out minerals as actively," Harper said. "But areas with acidic soils will typically be minerally deficient and deer might use them heavily. Still, I've known very few areas where the deer wouldn't benefit from mineral supplementation. I live in Iowa, a place where whitetails seemingly have no problem getting high-quality nutrition. Yet I've been using minerals for years on my land and have noticed significant gains—both in body size and antler quality—in the bucks living there."

Establishing A Mineral Lick

According to Grant Woods, the best time to put out mineral is late winter to early spring. "I place one bag of mineral per site and generally only one site per 160 acres, depending on deer density," Woods said. "Naturally, the best spots to place mineral are in areas where deer already like to go, such as trail crossings, travel corridors and natural funnels."

Harper added: "I believe the best mineral comes in granular form. It's simply easier for the deer to eat it than licking on a block. Plus, my goal when placing mineral is to mimic a natural lick. I find a good trail or crossing, then move off it 5-10 feet, scrape up the ground with a hand rake and pour the mineral on the ground. As the mineral gets rained on it will leach into the soil and deer will lick the dirt to consume it. That's how it works at a natural lick."

If hunters have never used mineral on a property, Harper recommends placing small doses at several locations, then replacing it at only the spots that show the heaviest use: "That way, you're letting the deer select the spot where they feel most comfortable."

Minerals And The Law

Check your state regulations regarding the practice of hunting near mineral licks and/or salt blocks. In many states the practice is illegal. Some of these bans can likely be traced back for centuries, when mineral licks were widely used by early American hunters as a hotspot for bagging game. However, it's interesting to note that these hunters were allowed to pursue game year-round. That's important, considering that deer visits to mineral licks were likely highest during the spring and summer months.

This doesn't mean all bans on hunting near mineral are archaic or ill-conceived. But with virtually all modern deer seasons occurring during fall, a time when deer are perhaps least likely to be attracted to minerals, the potential for irony is high. "I've always found it interesting that it's illegal to hunt over a salt block in my home state," said Michigan researcher John Ozoga. "Yet, it remains legal to place corn or other grains as bait and hunt directly over that. It's illegal to use the thing they're least attracted to, yet perfectly fine to use the things they are. That's never made sense to me."

Just the opposite situation exists in my home state of Minnesota. Here, placing salt and/or minerals is a legal method for attracting deer, yet hunting near "grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay or other food" is strictly prohibited. The message? Don't torture yourself with logic. Check your state regs and hunt only in a legal manner.


North American Hunter Top Stories

\r\n\r\n

by Scott Bestul

\r\n\r\n

My body was certainly living in the moment, my knees trembling as I watched the buck emerge from a rain-soaked sumac thicket and shake himself like an oversized Great Dane. But my psyche was transported back to my boyhood—specifically, to a memorable story I'd read about Daniel Boone killing a grand buck over a mineral lick.

\r\n\r\n

Some 20 yards from my treestand was a pawed-out depression in the dirt. The depression was created by hundreds of whitetail visits to a highly specific area in the soil. I'd found the spot while scouting the previous spring. I didn't know if I'd found a natural mineral lick or simply a spot where a previous hunter had dumped pounds of salt or mineral. All I knew was that the place screamed for a treestand, so I hung one and waited for fall. I encountered the huge buck on my first visit to the spot.

\r\n\r\n

My shaking continued for long minutes after the buck had air-dried himself. As he approached the \"lick,\" I struggled to come to full draw and something (a slight noise or, perhaps, deep instinct) made the buck pause to re-check his surroundings. Panicking, I jerked my sight-pin toward his shoulder and released in one motion. The arrow slipped harmlessly under the buck and he whirled, evaporating into the sumacs like fog.

\r\n\r\n

That hunt occurred more than 20 years ago, long before the popularity of improving whitetail nutrition and hunting opportunities by establishing food plots and providing mineral supplements. I still don't know if that depression in the dirt was natural or man-made.

\r\n\r\n

Whitetails & Minerals: A \"Natural\" Relationship

\r\n

The hunters of Daniel Boone's era knew all too well that deer and other game animals were attracted to certain mineral-rich sites. Licks, springs and even bogs that were rich in minerals like sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium attracted deer, elk, moose, caribou, bison and even sheep and goats. Needless to say, hunters, from Native American to early white settlers, were drawn to the same sites. Later, the appeal of mineral licks was observed by such naturalists as George Shiras and Theodore Roosevelt.

\r\n\r\n

What pulls whitetail deer to such mineral licks? John Ozoga, a respected wildlife researcher from Michigan, explained the attraction as largely seasonal. \"The majority of licks are composed mostly of sodium, or salt,\" he noted. \"And deer are very attracted to salt, particularly in the spring and early summer months. During this period, most of the forage available to whitetails is high in potassium and water, yet low in sodium. This apparently creates a sodium deficiency that deer attempt to fix by visiting natural mineral licks.\"

\r\n\r\n

Ozoga says sodium is essential to healthy whitetail physiology, helping deer regulate \"fluid volume and blood pressure, maintain osmotic balances and buffer systems.\" If salt is lacking in their diet, whitetails will retain it in their systems by simply passing less of it in their urine, Ozoga notes. But if a deer becomes severely salt-deficient over a long period, it may suffer impaired food digestion, decreased appetite and growth.

\r\n\r\n

Salt, however, isn't the only mineral of importance to whitetails. Biologist and whitetail expert Grant Woods says that calcium and phosphorous are also essential building blocks for whitetails. \"They're both required as a doe produces milk for her fawns, or a buck grows antlers for the year. Each process is a very difficult one for deer,\" he said.

\r\n\r\n

Ozoga and Woods agree that whitetails will, and do, \"rob\" their skeletal systems by drawing the necessary calcium and phosphorous from it if they're unable to obtain those minerals from outside sources. And they also concur that deer will replace these vital minerals in their skeletons after fawns are weaned or antlers harden. That wild, free-ranging deer have accomplished this for centuries is testimony to their amazing resilience and adaptability. \"All I know is, deer are amazing in their ability to find the forage that their bodies need to not only survive, but flourish,\" Woods said.

\r\n\r\n

[MEDIA:1327027]

\r\n\r\n

The Million Dollar Question

\r\n

Naturally, modern deer hunters who now learning the fundamentals and fine points of herd management are wondering if supplementing minerals will help whitetails during these peak times of high mineral requirement. Ozoga remains skeptical: \"Recognizing the attraction that deer have for natural mineral licks, I could be swayed to believe in supplemental minerals very easily. But to date, I haven't seen any scientific evidence to convince me.\"

\r\n\r\n

Woods takes less of a hard-line stance. \"Any research linking the benefits of mineral supplements for wild, free-ranging deer is inconclusive,\" he admitted. \"So, ‘proving' that providing minerals will help bucks grow antlers or does nurse fawns is difficult. That said, I'm a big believer in mineral for the same reasons that I take a multivitamin every day. Sure, I might not need everything that's in the vitamin, but I take one to cover my bases. The same goes for deer. If minerals help deer get something they're lacking, you're helping them achieve their potential. If you've got a bucket with a hole in it, you can pour all the water you want to into that bucket, and the water will only rise to the level of that hole.\"

\r\n\r\n

Biologist and avid deer hunter Matt Harper is another believer. Harper, who grew up raising cattle and went on to receive a degree in animal science from Iowa State University, said, \"The benefits to other ruminants such as cattle, has been shown conclusively for years. So I take more of a common-sense, logical approach. By providing deer with mineral they might need, you're ensuring they'll face no deficiency during a critical time of the year.\"

\r\n\r\n

Maximum Benefit

\r\n

Despite scientific backup, there's little doubt that hunters, especially those hoping to maximize whitetail potential on their property, will continue to provide minerals for deer.

For these users the question becomes: How do you go about selecting and administering mineral to get the most bang for your buck?

\r\n\r\n

Buying a high-quality product seems the most logical starting point. Most established companies have invested countless hours and dollars in research to discover not only what minerals are essential to whitetails, but when deer need them most and how best to deliver the goods.

\r\n\r\n

Salt, as we've discussed, is highly desired by whitetails and is a common, if not dominant, ingredient in many mineral blocks and mixes. In fact, some less-than-reputable manufacturers will rely almost exclusively on salt, which deer consume voraciously for a time, especially during early spring and summer. \"But the whitetail need for salt declines quickly,\" Woods said. \"You can continue to use it to attract deer, but the ratio of salt should be altered so you can deliver other minerals to them.\"

\r\n\r\n

While we don't have room to cover the specifics of any manufacturer's recipe, or how whitetails might benefit from each element, Woods and Harper concur on the primary ingredients. \"You can break minerals down into two categories,\" Harper said. \"Macro minerals are the most important building blocks and include salt, calcium and phosphorous. Trace minerals are needed in much smaller quantities, but can be important to deer in some specific areas. These include magnesium, copper, selenium, iron, cobalt and zinc.\"

\r\n\r\n

Realistic Expectations

\r\n

Hunters should expect to see whitetails use minerals heavily during spring and summer months, then fall sharply as autumn arrives. \"Usually, by the time plants are hardening in the woods, deer have less use for mineral licks,\" Woods noted. \"In most places, by the time hunting seasons open, whitetail use of licks will have diminished or dropped off altogether.\" Nevertheless, hunters should be aware of state regulations regarding hunting near salt blocks or other mineral licks.

\r\n\r\n

Also, whitetails in some areas might be more attracted to mineral licks than deer in other habitats. \"In regions with heavy lime deposits, such as those along major rivers like the Mississippi, whitetails might not need or seek out minerals as actively,\" Harper said. \"But areas with acidic soils will typically be minerally deficient and deer might use them heavily. Still, I've known very few areas where the deer wouldn't benefit from mineral supplementation. I live in Iowa, a place where whitetails seemingly have no problem getting high-quality nutrition. Yet I've been using minerals for years on my land and have noticed significant gains—both in body size and antler quality—in the bucks living there.\"

\r\n\t\r\n

Establishing A Mineral Lick

\r\n

According to Grant Woods, the best time to put out mineral is late winter to early spring. \"I place one bag of mineral per site and generally only one site per 160 acres, depending on deer density,\" Woods said. \"Naturally, the best spots to place mineral are in areas where deer already like to go, such as trail crossings, travel corridors and natural funnels.\"

\r\n\r\n

Harper added: \"I believe the best mineral comes in granular form. It's simply easier for the deer to eat it than licking on a block. Plus, my goal when placing mineral is to mimic a natural lick. I find a good trail or crossing, then move off it 5-10 feet, scrape up the ground with a hand rake and pour the mineral on the ground. As the mineral gets rained on it will leach into the soil and deer will lick the dirt to consume it. That's how it works at a natural lick.\"

\r\n\r\n

If hunters have never used mineral on a property, Harper recommends placing small doses at several locations, then replacing it at only the spots that show the heaviest use: \"That way, you're letting the deer select the spot where they feel most comfortable.\"

\r\n\t\t\r\n

Minerals And The Law

\r\n

Check your state regulations regarding the practice of hunting near mineral licks and/or salt blocks. In many states the practice is illegal. Some of these bans can likely be traced back for centuries, when mineral licks were widely used by early American hunters as a hotspot for bagging game. However, it's interesting to note that these hunters were allowed to pursue game year-round. That's important, considering that deer visits to mineral licks were likely highest during the spring and summer months.

\r\n\r\n

This doesn't mean all bans on hunting near mineral are archaic or ill-conceived. But with virtually all modern deer seasons occurring during fall, a time when deer are perhaps least likely to be attracted to minerals, the potential for irony is high. \"I've always found it interesting that it's illegal to hunt over a salt block in my home state,\" said Michigan researcher John Ozoga. \"Yet, it remains legal to place corn or other grains as bait and hunt directly over that. It's illegal to use the thing they're least attracted to, yet perfectly fine to use the things they are. That's never made sense to me.\"

\r\n\r\n

[MEDIA:1327031]

\r\n\r\n

Just the opposite situation exists in my home state of Minnesota. Here, placing salt and/or minerals is a legal method for attracting deer, yet hunting near \"grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay or other food\" is strictly prohibited. The message? Don't torture yourself with logic. Check your state regs and hunt only in a legal manner.

","mobileBody":"
[MEDIA:MzAsMjU5NjU0]

by Scott Bestul

My body was certainly living in the moment, my knees trembling as I watched the buck emerge from a rain-soaked sumac thicket and shake himself like an oversized Great Dane. But my psyche was transported back to my boyhood—specifically, to a memorable story I'd read about Daniel Boone killing a grand buck over a mineral lick.

Some 20 yards from my treestand was a pawed-out depression in the dirt. The depression was created by hundreds of whitetail visits to a highly specific area in the soil. I'd found the spot while scouting the previous spring. I didn't know if I'd found a natural mineral lick or simply a spot where a previous hunter had dumped pounds of salt or mineral. All I knew was that the place screamed for a treestand, so I hung one and waited for fall. I encountered the huge buck on my first visit to the spot.

My shaking continued for long minutes after the buck had air-dried himself. As he approached the \"lick,\" I struggled to come to full draw and something (a slight noise or, perhaps, deep instinct) made the buck pause to re-check his surroundings. Panicking, I jerked my sight-pin toward his shoulder and released in one motion. The arrow slipped harmlessly under the buck and he whirled, evaporating into the sumacs like fog.

That hunt occurred more than 20 years ago, long before the popularity of improving whitetail nutrition and hunting opportunities by establishing food plots and providing mineral supplements. I still don't know if that depression in the dirt was natural or man-made.

Whitetails & Minerals: A \"Natural\" Relationship

The hunters of Daniel Boone's era knew all too well that deer and other game animals were attracted to certain mineral-rich sites. Licks, springs and even bogs that were rich in minerals like sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium attracted deer, elk, moose, caribou, bison and even sheep and goats. Needless to say, hunters, from Native American to early white settlers, were drawn to the same sites. Later, the appeal of mineral licks was observed by such naturalists as George Shiras and Theodore Roosevelt.

What pulls whitetail deer to such mineral licks? John Ozoga, a respected wildlife researcher from Michigan, explained the attraction as largely seasonal. \"The majority of licks are composed mostly of sodium, or salt,\" he noted. \"And deer are very attracted to salt, particularly in the spring and early summer months. During this period, most of the forage available to whitetails is high in potassium and water, yet low in sodium. This apparently creates a sodium deficiency that deer attempt to fix by visiting natural mineral licks.\"

Ozoga says sodium is essential to healthy whitetail physiology, helping deer regulate \"fluid volume and blood pressure, maintain osmotic balances and buffer systems.\" If salt is lacking in their diet, whitetails will retain it in their systems by simply passing less of it in their urine, Ozoga notes. But if a deer becomes severely salt-deficient over a long period, it may suffer impaired food digestion, decreased appetite and growth.

Salt, however, isn't the only mineral of importance to whitetails. Biologist and whitetail expert Grant Woods says that calcium and phosphorous are also essential building blocks for whitetails. \"They're both required as a doe produces milk for her fawns, or a buck grows antlers for the year. Each process is a very difficult one for deer,\" he said.

Ozoga and Woods agree that whitetails will, and do, \"rob\" their skeletal systems by drawing the necessary calcium and phosphorous from it if they're unable to obtain those minerals from outside sources. And they also concur that deer will replace these vital minerals in their skeletons after fawns are weaned or antlers harden. That wild, free-ranging deer have accomplished this for centuries is testimony to their amazing resilience and adaptability. \"All I know is, deer are amazing in their ability to find the forage that their bodies need to not only survive, but flourish,\" Woods said.

[MEDIA:1327027]

The Million Dollar Question

Naturally, modern deer hunters who now learning the fundamentals and fine points of herd management are wondering if supplementing minerals will help whitetails during these peak times of high mineral requirement. Ozoga remains skeptical: \"Recognizing the attraction that deer have for natural mineral licks, I could be swayed to believe in supplemental minerals very easily. But to date, I haven't seen any scientific evidence to convince me.\"

Woods takes less of a hard-line stance. \"Any research linking the benefits of mineral supplements for wild, free-ranging deer is inconclusive,\" he admitted. \"So, ‘proving' that providing minerals will help bucks grow antlers or does nurse fawns is difficult. That said, I'm a big believer in mineral for the same reasons that I take a multivitamin every day. Sure, I might not need everything that's in the vitamin, but I take one to cover my bases. The same goes for deer. If minerals help deer get something they're lacking, you're helping them achieve their potential. If you've got a bucket with a hole in it, you can pour all the water you want to into that bucket, and the water will only rise to the level of that hole.\"

Biologist and avid deer hunter Matt Harper is another believer. Harper, who grew up raising cattle and went on to receive a degree in animal science from Iowa State University, said, \"The benefits to other ruminants such as cattle, has been shown conclusively for years. So I take more of a common-sense, logical approach. By providing deer with mineral they might need, you're ensuring they'll face no deficiency during a critical time of the year.\"

Maximum Benefit

Despite scientific backup, there's little doubt that hunters, especially those hoping to maximize whitetail potential on their property, will continue to provide minerals for deer.

For these users the question becomes: How do you go about selecting and administering mineral to get the most bang for your buck?

Buying a high-quality product seems the most logical starting point. Most established companies have invested countless hours and dollars in research to discover not only what minerals are essential to whitetails, but when deer need them most and how best to deliver the goods.

Salt, as we've discussed, is highly desired by whitetails and is a common, if not dominant, ingredient in many mineral blocks and mixes. In fact, some less-than-reputable manufacturers will rely almost exclusively on salt, which deer consume voraciously for a time, especially during early spring and summer. \"But the whitetail need for salt declines quickly,\" Woods said. \"You can continue to use it to attract deer, but the ratio of salt should be altered so you can deliver other minerals to them.\"

While we don't have room to cover the specifics of any manufacturer's recipe, or how whitetails might benefit from each element, Woods and Harper concur on the primary ingredients. \"You can break minerals down into two categories,\" Harper said. \"Macro minerals are the most important building blocks and include salt, calcium and phosphorous. Trace minerals are needed in much smaller quantities, but can be important to deer in some specific areas. These include magnesium, copper, selenium, iron, cobalt and zinc.\"

Realistic Expectations

Hunters should expect to see whitetails use minerals heavily during spring and summer months, then fall sharply as autumn arrives. \"Usually, by the time plants are hardening in the woods, deer have less use for mineral licks,\" Woods noted. \"In most places, by the time hunting seasons open, whitetail use of licks will have diminished or dropped off altogether.\" Nevertheless, hunters should be aware of state regulations regarding hunting near salt blocks or other mineral licks.

Also, whitetails in some areas might be more attracted to mineral licks than deer in other habitats. \"In regions with heavy lime deposits, such as those along major rivers like the Mississippi, whitetails might not need or seek out minerals as actively,\" Harper said. \"But areas with acidic soils will typically be minerally deficient and deer might use them heavily. Still, I've known very few areas where the deer wouldn't benefit from mineral supplementation. I live in Iowa, a place where whitetails seemingly have no problem getting high-quality nutrition. Yet I've been using minerals for years on my land and have noticed significant gains—both in body size and antler quality—in the bucks living there.\"

Establishing A Mineral Lick

According to Grant Woods, the best time to put out mineral is late winter to early spring. \"I place one bag of mineral per site and generally only one site per 160 acres, depending on deer density,\" Woods said. \"Naturally, the best spots to place mineral are in areas where deer already like to go, such as trail crossings, travel corridors and natural funnels.\"

Harper added: \"I believe the best mineral comes in granular form. It's simply easier for the deer to eat it than licking on a block. Plus, my goal when placing mineral is to mimic a natural lick. I find a good trail or crossing, then move off it 5-10 feet, scrape up the ground with a hand rake and pour the mineral on the ground. As the mineral gets rained on it will leach into the soil and deer will lick the dirt to consume it. That's how it works at a natural lick.\"

If hunters have never used mineral on a property, Harper recommends placing small doses at several locations, then replacing it at only the spots that show the heaviest use: \"That way, you're letting the deer select the spot where they feel most comfortable.\"

Minerals And The Law

Check your state regulations regarding the practice of hunting near mineral licks and/or salt blocks. In many states the practice is illegal. Some of these bans can likely be traced back for centuries, when mineral licks were widely used by early American hunters as a hotspot for bagging game. However, it's interesting to note that these hunters were allowed to pursue game year-round. That's important, considering that deer visits to mineral licks were likely highest during the spring and summer months.

This doesn't mean all bans on hunting near mineral are archaic or ill-conceived. But with virtually all modern deer seasons occurring during fall, a time when deer are perhaps least likely to be attracted to minerals, the potential for irony is high. \"I've always found it interesting that it's illegal to hunt over a salt block in my home state,\" said Michigan researcher John Ozoga. \"Yet, it remains legal to place corn or other grains as bait and hunt directly over that. It's illegal to use the thing they're least attracted to, yet perfectly fine to use the things they are. That's never made sense to me.\"

[MEDIA:1327031]

Just the opposite situation exists in my home state of Minnesota. Here, placing salt and/or minerals is a legal method for attracting deer, yet hunting near \"grain, fruit, vegetables, nuts, hay or other food\" is strictly prohibited. The message? Don't torture yourself with logic. Check your state regs and hunt only in a legal manner.

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