As I tugged on my baseball cap to deflect the setting sun, I unpocketed my Mt. Dew, brushed a mosquito off the sleeve of my T-shirt and lounged a bit deeper into the swiveling chair of the shooting house. Dang, I was comfy.
It wasn’t until just after the sun dropped behind the hardwoods that I realized buck fever is infectious even in the middle of summer. The mature whitetail strode onto the clover field behind a gaggle of young bucks and surveyed his surroundings, sniffing the early July air. With nearly 2 full months of antler-growing days still ahead, the brute was already wearing more than 140 inches of antler. Even from 200 yards with a naked eye, I could see there was no doubt this fella was a stud.
I struggled with trembling fingers to steady my binoculars and follow the buck as he mingled with the other feeding deer and slowly made his way to the far edge of the field. For the next 45 minutes, I watched the buck feed in a stationary location, moving only his neck, head and glorious antlers down to the ground and then back up again to look around and swallow his findings. My voyeuristic gaze was finally broken by the coming darkness.
After pocketing my empty soda cans, I sneaked along the field edge to where the buck was standing and lit my flashlight. Forty yards farther, I came upon the Holy Grail from which the big buck ate: a mineral site.
Back at the shed, a few other outdoor writers and I circled around Dave Forbes, whitetail fanatic and Co-CEO of Hunter’s Specialties. It turns out I wasn’t the only peeping tom lucky enough to see big deer; every other “deer watcher” saw at least one 2-year-old whitetail that would easily be of Pope and Young quality come fall.
A 2-year-old whitetail that would make the archery record books? Wow.
And once everyone else wandered away from the table, I took the opportunity to ask Forbes about the mineral site I came across. His secret: Hunter’s Specialties Vita-Rack 26.
Give Whitetails What They Need
I specifically got into outdoor writing and editing for two main reasons. First, I love to write and love to hunt, so combining them to make a career seemed logical. Second, and perhaps more importantly, an English degree was one of few disciplines available that allowed me to forego all chemistry classes. A mere mention of the word “chemistry” makes me more nervous than a small nun at a penguin shoot.
But as it turns out, understanding how and why Vita-Rack 26 is so effective is extremely basic; after all, I wanted to learn how to create my own Pope-and-Young-caliber 2-year-olds. According to Forbes, even the best food plot seeds, pampered with the best efforts in the best of locations, can only do so much for whitetail nutrition. Limiting factors such as uncooperative weather and marginal soil composition directly affect the growing and nutritional potential of any food plot. More simply put: Some times a food source cannot give a white-tailed buck everything he needs to achieve his maximum antler-growth potential.
And that’s where Vita-Rack 26 comes into play. Comprised of 26 vitamins and minerals essential to antler growth and overall deer nutrition, Vita-Rack 26 “fills in the cracks” of nutritional value when other available food sources fall short of delivering.
“Through the use of trail cameras, we’ve documented whitetails visiting a particular Vita-Rack 26 site throughout the course of several years,” Forbes said. “Some - times a particular deer will visit the site for a few minutes, sometimes for more than an hour—it all depends on the stress level and what the deer needs at that particular time in its life.”
In a recent study conducted at C and D Farms in north-central Missouri, Vita-Rack 26 proved to drastically decrease the presence of ticks on the local whitetails. According to farm Manager Trenton Tallman, whitetails harvested throughout the fall hunting seasons that were residents of the property and had year-round access to Vita-Rack 26 (established through the use of trail camera monitoring) were void of all ticks. However, deer harvested that had never before been seen— which were likely “nomads” from the onset of the rut—all carried ticks. These nomadic deer were also the smallest (in body weight and antler size) harvested in their respective age brackets.
The significance? Vita-Rack 26 is aimed at complete year-round nutrition, designed to create an overall healthier deer herd. After all, healthier does generally deliver healthier fawns, and a buck must sustain bodily nutrition before the excess nutrition and energy can be devoted to antler growth.
And as much as I love to see healthy fawns, nothing makes me smile like a tall-tined, heavy-racked, well-fed whitetail buck— especially when I’m sitting behind him with a bloody arrow.