Imagine drawing your bow on a trophy Pope and Young buck in your bowhunting area! In some areas, this is not an unusual occurrence, but in some it is pretty rare. Why is this?
In reading the articles of such whitetail authorities as Dr. James C. Kroll, Larry Weishuhn, and others, I learned that the three things necessary for a buck to attain those trophy antlers are genetics, age, and nutrition.
Genetics is one thing that most of us can do little about, unless you can fence in the deer and have the finances to buy huge breeder bucks to introduce into your herd.
In regard to age, we can pass up smaller bucks and let them grow another year or two and maybe grow larger racks, but the problem is that they may wander onto your neighbor’s place and be shot anyway.
Good Nutrition Is Key
Authorities seem to agree that no matter the quality of the genes or the age of a buck, maximum antler growth will not occur without good nutrition. Deer need a high-protein forage, but they also need calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals in order to grow trophy racks.
In many areas, deer may not obtain the needed minerals due to the condition of the soil. Lime and fertilizer may help some, but may not be enough. Many companies offer mineral supplements that have the proper ratio of calcium and phosphorus as well as vitamins and trace minerals to help deer attain better antler growth.
Although many people would just pour the minerals on the ground, Kroll warns that this promotes the possibility of spreading pathogens and disease. Instead, he advocates the use of a mineral feeder with a roof. While antlers are growing, however, bucks hesitate putting their heads into anything that might damage antlers, Kroll says, so the distance from the top of the feeder to the bottom of the roof should be a minimum of 3 feet.
With this in mind, my father and I set out to build a fairly low-cost feeder using scrap lumber that would meet these requirements.
Building A Feeder
We started by building a box frame with 24-inch-long 2x6s. A bottom tray was added by cutting 1x lumber to length and attaching to the box with decking screws.
The main frame was constructed of four 2x4s, 58 inches long. They were attached to the “short” side of the box so that the top edge of the box was 22 inches from the bottom of the 2x4s. For stability, two 2×4 feet, 44 inches long, were nailed across the bottom of the 2×4 uprights on each side.
You now have a free-standing feeder that lacks only a roof. The roof frame was made by using 2x4s or 2x6s, 25 inches long, and cutting a 15-degree angle on one end where they meet at the peak. To hold these pieces together while nailing them to the uprights, a short piece of 2×4 was nailed across each side. This also serves as a spacer for the two uprights. Another piece of 2×4 was nailed between the two sides, just below the peak of the roof frame. This added additional structural support to the frame.
The roofing was corrugated roofing tin obtained at a local building supply store. (An 8-foot x 26-inch-wide sheet with cover one feeder roof.) Using tin snips, we cut two pieces, each 42 inches long, which allows for a slight overhang on either end. These were nailed to the roof frame using roofing nails, and each nail head was covered with roofing tar for waterproofing. Where the pieces of tin meet at the peak, they can either be overlapped slightly, or you can buy a tip roofing cap at the supply store and nail it on.
You now have a low-cost mineral feeder that can easily be carried and positioned by two people. Just fill with your favorite mineral supplement and let the deer do the rest. Who knows, maybe next fall that P&Y buck will be yours!