When we provide deer antler supplements, we are providing them with minerals and vitamins.
Some hunters think this means putting out a salt block for the deer.
So why do hunters want to put out antler supplements or salt blocks? The most common reason is they want to help antler growth so they can harvest bucks with bigger racks.
However although the deer love the taste of salt and will lick and chew at the blocks in spring, salt by itself does nothing for their overall body health.
They need a special blend of minerals.
Antler growth is conditional upon trace minerals being in the soil that are absorbed by the plants which in turn are eaten by the deer.
If the soil is low in mineral nutrients, antler growth will suffer.
See our section on antler development for more information on antler growth.
When bucks are just beginning to lay down antler growth is when they need the calcified building blocks that minerals provide. So the time to provide the antler supplements is during late winter and early spring months.
Once you start the deer antler supplements, it is best not to skip a year so the deer don’t have a mineral rollercoaster ride.
When putting out a mineral lick, one should be adequate for about 40 acres.
Don’t expect overnight success as the supplements are used by the body first to achieve an optimum state of health – and then directed into antler growth and development.
It may take 2-3 years to see one and a half year old bucks with 6 or 8 point racks and more 8 or 10 point bucks wandering around.
Research on the analysis of antlers has shown the high importance of sodium, zinc, phosphorus [necessary for the utilization of calcium], calcium and manganese.
So when you are researching which brand of deer antler supplements to buy, look for ones that contain the following:
If the deer antler supplements also contain the following, that’s great:
- Vitamins E, A, D
When selecting a mineral mix, there are a few points to consider:
- The calcium and phosphorus ration should be at least 2 times as much calcium as phosphorus
- 25 – 50% salt in the mix to encourage use by the deer. Without the sweeteners, deer generally won’t use the mineral mixes if the salt is less than 25%. You may have to start with a high salt ratio and reduce it over time. The goal is to provide as much minerals with the lowest concentration of salt.
BEWARE: Don’t try to buy cheaply by getting mineral supplements from feed stores just because they are cheaper and are intended for cattle and sheep.
Copper is essential to a whitetail’s antler growth, however is toxic to sheep and cattle so isn’t included in supplements designed for them.
How To Use Them
Minerals are commonly purchased in a:
- Mineral block
- Granulated form
Mineral blocks can be placed directly on the ground.
Powder is usually placed on top of a partially rotted stump so that the slow rotting wood absorbs the minerals and the deer eat the soft mineral saturated wood.
Granulated minerals are best mixed in with earth as this is the most natural presentation and gets maximum use by the deer. Start by clearing an area about three feet in diameter of any vegetation. In the center dig a 6 inch deep hole about 24 inches in diameter and pour in the minerals.
Add the earth you dug out back on top of the minerals and mix them up.
Where to put them
A mineral lick should be placed along trails connecting bedding areas and feeding areas so they receive traffic.
Place the licks close to cover or areas where the deer can use them without being in open ground, so the deer will visit them day and night and not just night when they feel safe.
Avoid placing them near the roads to reduce poaching.