For deer hunters the calendar doesn’t stop – the season prep just keeps marching on toward summer. Whitetails are in the woods and fields right now craving the minerals and nutrition they need. If your property doesn’t support them naturally or through your habitat management activities, they will look elsewhere. Here’s how you can meet their dietary requirements this spring and summer, using Big & J® deer minerals and feed!
Importance of Deer Minerals
Every whitetail hunter has seen minerals for deer on sale in sporting goods stores, but they may not understand the true purpose of those minerals. Like us, deer depend on a balanced intake of various minerals to keep their bodies functioning properly. In some mineral-rich areas, the habitat may provide enough for deer to get by. Natural soils may contain the mineral content that deer crave, leading to natural mineral sites. Plants also absorb and uptake minerals from the soil, and deer meet many of their mineral needs by consuming vegetation. Some plants are better than others in terms of mineral content, and the growing tips of plants are often more mineral-rich than other parts of the plant. Also, in the case of spring and summer, plants are often so water-rich that they actually dilute the body’s sodium content (which is why salt licks are often so utilized during this time). But some habitats don’t supply enough of or all of the minerals deer need, which is why deer mineral supplements are helpful and necessary.
Whitetails of all ages and both sexes need deer minerals for healthy body systems. Pregnant or nursing does need minerals to fuel the growth of fetal skeletal systems and support the fawns, in addition to also keeping their own skeletal systems intact. In fact, pregnant or nursing does may need up to 4 times the amount of calcium and phosphorous as compared to does without fawns. Young fawns need minerals to continue their growth spurt and promote healthy bodies. Bucks need minerals from spring through summer especially to build up the mineral content in their bodies, requiring up to 90% more during antler growth. Once the skeletal system is “saturated” in that respect, they can allocate more minerals for antler growth, with calcium and phosphorous being two of the most common minerals in antlers. Until their skeletal system needs are met, their antler growth will not be optimal.
Don’t Forget Deer Feed
Like deer minerals, whitetails need a reliable source of food to grow healthy bodies and larger antlers. If the body’s nutritional needs aren’t met, antler growth in bucks will be slower and more diminished. Hardened (bony) antlers are composed of about 45% protein, 22% calcium, and 11% phosphorus, which should explain why these three are so critical over the summer. If natural food sources (e.g., browse, forbs, etc.) aren’t adequate, deer will also seek out agricultural crops or food plots, which can be higher in overall nutrition and protein content in many cases. For example, soybeans or clover have protein levels exceeding what can usually be found in most native forage sources. As fall approaches, deer switch to high energy diets (i.e., digestible carbohydrates and fat), so they can bulk up for winter.
One way to further improve the nutrition on your property is to provide supplemental deer feed. Where legal, adding a feeder to your land with high quality supplemental deer feed (i.e., not just corn) is a great way to “fill in the gaps” of the dietary puzzle. It’s best to use high protein feed during the spring and summer, and then switch to high energy feed for the fall and winter.
Big and J Minerals and Feed
Big & J products are what we stand by to meet a deer’s mineral and nutritional needs. Many hunters just toss a salt block out and call it good for mineral purposes, but that’s only a small piece of the overall puzzle. Sure, deer need it and will definitely use it (just like we will happily eat salty chips or popcorn), but it’s not providing the other important minerals they need for bone and antler growth. Likewise, adding a brassica plot on your land only provides food for a narrow part of the year, leaving whitetails looking for more. As a bonus, the aroma of Big & J products is intense, attracting more deer than a simple pile of corn and a salt block. Here’s how Big & J feed or deer minerals can fit into your program.
- BB2 Granular– this granular feed and attractant is a great source of digestible fiber, fat, and protein (minimum of 18%). It does provide a fair amount of phosphorous and about 1% calcium, but additional mineral supplementation would be needed to meet a deer’s full potential.
- BB2 Cube – essentially, this is a block version of the BB2 granular, offering higher protein and lower salt content than any consumption blocks out there. Plus, it’s easy to carry into remote areas in a backpack.
- To-Die-For – this attractant provides powerful nutritional supplementation of 20% protein and 7.5% fat, but it also has a calcium and phosphorus content that will nearly meet a deer’s requirements all on its own.
- Deadly Dust– this supercharged sweet corn blend offers up to 10% protein and digestible energy of 90%. It also contains calcium to almost meet the dietary needs of deer, in addition to some phosphorous. But its powerful corn aroma will also attract deer when it is sprinkled over a regular corn pile.
- Legit – this mineral supplement offers a complete source of calcium and phosphorous for whitetails, but it also includes many trace minerals that are essential for healthy deer. It is apple flavored to the fullest degree and will pull deer in to investigate.
- Headrush, Meltdown, and Deer Dig It – these three mineral supplements are sodium-based, but also contain varying amounts of other important minerals, and are great to mix into the other mineral sources above.
Strategies for Deer Minerals and Feed
Now you know why deer may need supplemental nutrition and minerals, how it affects them, and some good sources of both. Here’s how you can supply both on your land and the best times to do it.
The spring and summer – when does are pregnant or nursing, fawns are growing, and bucks are bouncing back from winter to grow antlers – is a critical time for whitetails. Obviously, well-maintained food plots and managed native browse areas will provide a lot of great nutrition and minerals for deer. But where legal, consider also using a feed station with BB2 granular. This feed packs a nutritional punch, but can be improved even more when mixed with some To-Die-For, which has even more protein content and minerals. Over the summer, deer will establish their daily routines around your feeding station (which will help when hunting season comes around). On more remote hunting areas, bring a couple BB2 Cube blocks in and drop them off, which will provide the same benefits and stand up to the elements well. As fall approaches, try mixing some Deadly Dust into your corn feed to improve its attraction and add some more digestible energy.
As for mineral supplementation, try combining mineral stations of Legit and either Headrush, Meltdown, or Deer Dig It. A combination of these deer minerals provides the two most potent ones (calcium and phosphorous), but also sodium and several other trace minerals important for antler growth and healthy body development. Try adding a watering hole next to the minerals, as deer will often be thirsty either directly before or after consuming minerals. These sites also make great trail camera locations, as you can keep tabs on the deer activity.
Locations for Mineral and Feeding Areas?
Wondering where a mineral or feed station might be best located? An ideal location would be somewhere already associated with food and heavy travel, such as a food plot or natural funnel. However you may want to think more critical about the placement of each site. Depending on your state regulations on mineral and feeding sites, you may want to place it in an area that offers easy cleanup or is an area you’ll likely not hunt around to avoid baiting restrictions. On the other side of regulation is the ability for over the mineral and feed stations, which you will need to work into your bigger overall approach to a property (wind direction, access, stand location, etc.). Using a mapping app like Basemap will allow you to picture and plan this overall strategy, and give you the opportunity to refer back to it when summer scouting, hanging stands, or placing more trail cameras.