3 Reasons for Whitetail Supplements

Chances are good your local whitetails — bucks and does — could benefit from a smart mineral supplement plan.

3 Reasons for Whitetail Supplements

The author’s hunting partner Levi Duncan with a brawny buck that likely benefited from a mineral diet combined with great whitetail habitat management.

My family owned a small ranch property in South Dakota’s Black Hills for more than 30 years. The previous owners had established a livestock mineral station that rested on a large, flat limestone rock for cattle. We continued the practice with equine supplements while pasturing our saddle horses on the property. The combination of sodium chloride and trace minerals leached into the surrounding soil. After 3 decades, the deer and elk pawed, gnawed and ate a 1-foot-deep moat around that tabletop rock. It was obvious from the dirt evidence that at varying times of the year, antlered game desired a dose of minerals. My current horse mineral site continues to experience daily visits by the deer living on my Wyoming property.

Mineral supplements benefit greatly when combined with an overall habitat management program on a property. Be sure to check your local hunting regulations before spreading mineral; in some states, it is considered baiting.
Mineral supplements benefit greatly when combined with an overall habitat management program on a property. Be sure to check your local hunting regulations before spreading mineral; in some states, it is considered baiting.

Implementing a mineral program on your property has merit in most instances, although even the experts admit research is lacking on the benefit to whitetails. Before you begin distributing pounds of mineral, study up on legality first. You may be prohibited from using minerals on your property. The concern over chronic wasting disease (CWD) and the spread of it based on evidence it can be dispersed through soil at sites heavily visited by ungulates has changed some state regulations. Other states may allow it outside of hunting season, but it needs to be shut off 2 or more weeks before hunting season. And some states have no rules against minerals. Do the research to avoid penalties.

Next, consult with soil experts in the area including your local Natural Resources Conservation Service, big game biologist, livestock experts and anyone who might be able to give you insight if your property is mineral challenged. It could be that your property does not have any deficiency, but do not bet on it. Unless you are pouring immense dollars into soil health, fertilization, food plots and supplemental feeds, your deer will appreciate some seasoning to their diet.

Of course, mineral supplements add another investment to your already bloated budget of managing a whitetail property. The following could persuade you that the investment is worth it. 

1: Health of the Herd

Once you determine the legality of mineral supplements and the likely missing components, give a supplement program strong consideration. The main reason for this investment is a possible benefit to overall herd health. Without question you have heard that minerals can boost antler growth, and who does not want the opportunity at a giant buck? Nevertheless, more is at stake than just the potential for an extra 10 inches added to a rack. 

Overall health of the herd aids in reducing the effects of weather, disease, predation (fewer weak deer) and stress that materializes from many of the sources mentioned and more. Spring through summer, supplements may play an extremely vital role in deer health. First, as the herd emerges from winter, where the cupboards are bare, mineral supplements could help carry deer into the spring green up before natural supplements peak. Bucks begin growing new headgear soon after jettisoning their previous adornment with minerals needs. Just as important, female deer may need a boost as they grow one, possibly two new herd members in their belly. By May, those new fawns begin appearing on the landscape with mom’s role of growing transitioning to nurturing via milk.

Calcium and phosphorous rank at the top for whitetail mineral needs, especially for mom’s daycare duties with an extra dose of magnesium. In addition to keeping a lactating doe healthy and possibly helping bucks grow more antler inches, calcium aids the nervous system, blood clotting and muscle control according to research. Phosphorus plays a role in healthy metabolic functions. Calcium and phosphorus, in a two-to-one ratio, make up many packaged products. 

Supplements that also include sodium, sulfur, plus trace elements of iron, copper, selenium, manganese and zinc, also hold value. Again, this is based on analysis of antler makeup and assumptions from the minerals found in deer, plus what benefits livestock. 

Although I know some peers who mix their own recipe, relying on experts to put together a supplement is best. Companies such as Evolved and Whitetail Institute offer blends to meet your needs. And although salt may not be a mainstay in the mineral requirement, studies prove that its presence increases the use of a mineral site. One study showed the increase at up to four times more usage.

Deer will let you know quickly how much supplement they desire, and that gives you the intel on how your property ranks for mineral content.

2: Herd Inventory

Possible health benefits aside, a valued return from a mineral site is herd inventory. As your established mineral sites become common knowledge, visitation throughout the seasons guarantees you an inventory of the deer living on your property. By monitoring trail cameras, noting individual deer and deer groups, you should be able to garner information on how many deer call your property home, plus see the usage to reveal actual mineral demands.

Trail cameras around natural browse, food plots and water sources also help paint a large picture of the deer using your property as home base, but minerals do it with precision. Deer literally have to stop in an x-marks-the-spot location for a mineral fix. Other than a small water source, deer may dodge the camera on other sites.

3: Predictable Patterns

Another benefit to a mineral site concerns deer pattern. Unless you manage and hunt a postage-stamp-sized property, placing minerals every 50 to 75 acres ensures less competition and freedom for deer groups to use it at leisure. Instead of scattering sites randomly, put your hunting app to use to map locations based on existing deer travel patterns. Mineral sites strategically located between food plots and sanctuary on established trails make sense, especially just inside cover. It engrains a pattern and zeroing in on pinch points or funnels gives you more hunting options besides traditional edge sets. Again, make sure that hunting over minerals is legal or the length of time it needs to be removed before hunting. 

Final Thoughts

From humans to livestock, mineral supplements have proven beneficial. Ample research has confirmed that bucks utilize calcium and phosphorus for antlers, and female deer benefit from the addition of magnesium during the fawn months. A mineral supplement program does not hurt if you have the resources, and by providing nutritious feed in an inclusive habitat management program, you should have your bases covered for optimum whitetail wellbeing.

Using feeders, cover troughs, tubs or something as natural as a carved-out stump (above) keeps your mineral investment contained and long lasting.
Using feeders, cover troughs, tubs or something as natural as a carved-out stump (above) keeps your mineral investment contained and long lasting.

Sidebar: Dissemination of the Goods

Over my years of hunting across whitetail country, I have witnessed minerals dispersed via a medley of methods. Oftentimes, as in the case of my first mineral experience in the Black Hills of South Dakota, many people just place blocks on rocks or scatter the elements in a muddy pit. These sites get used, but depending on what you purchase and the elements your hunting ground weathers, the investment might not be used as efficiently as a more protected site. 

Better options include devices that hold the supplement and even cover it to avoid it being washed, or blown away. Simple tubs, carved out stumps and rock holes keep your minerals contained. Enclosed feeders where deer need to put their mouth into a tube for a dose also offer an option, as do covered feed troughs like you might see in a livestock operation. A proven hunting app such as HuntStand (www.huntstand.com) provides you with an aerial view to help with the best placement on a property before you go to lengths to place mineral sites.


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