• DIY Deer Minerals: Part 1

    Introduction

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Harper
    If your goal is to achieve maximum health and productivity of your deer herd, maximum nutrition must be a part of your program. If you are lacking in any vital nutrient, your goal will not be achieved. Supplementation means to “add to” the existing diet, not to replace it. If you start taking a mineral supplement each day that does not mean that you quit eating. You are simply making sure that your body receives any minerals that may be missing in your diet. The same is true for mineral supplementation for deer.
    The preceding quote was courtesy of Matt Harper from his article “Minerals – Unsung Heroes”, which can be found in Volume 20, No. 3 of Whitetail News or by visiting the Whitetail Institutes article archive. (Minerals Article) I selected this quote to start off this article because of the simplicity with which it explains the importance of mineral supplementation in any herd management plan. We rarely question the importance of taking a multi-vitamin, yet many hunters feverishly argue against the importance and benefits of minerals supplementation to a whitetail. With a deeper understanding of the minerals themselves, and how they are utilized, comes an understanding that deer certainly do benefit from mineral supplementation; something that I now view as common sense. My goal in the first installment of DIY Minerals is to take some of the information I have gathered over the years and present it in a common sense manner. After all, the vast majority of deer hunters in our state are Average Joes who strive to do the best they can with the resources they are given and common sense is the language they speak!

    Why DIY?

    The whitetail world we live in is constantly changing. It seems like every day there is a new gadget, gimmick, or guaranteed recipe that will ensure your success for the upcoming season. It is up to us as consumers, and as sportsmen, to evaluate each of these claims in order to make a decision to buy, or implement, this new tool into our arsenal. Through the course of trial and error I have found that while some of these claims prove themselves creditable, the greater part of the remaining gimmicks prove to be just that – a gimmick. More than anything, these gimmicks are purely attraction based substances offering little, to no intrinsic value to our herd.

    Perhaps the biggest gimmick on the market in my opinion, are the pre-packaged mineral mixes that make pretentious claims about their ability to grow “giant antlers”. We have all seen these colorful buckets and packages at the sporting good store. Generally, they feature a monster buck on the front of the package and a generic claim elsewhere that reads something like “Use of Brand X supplemental minerals is proven to grow substantially larger bucks.” If that is indeed true, then why is it that whitetail biologists still maintain that age and nutrition are by far the most important aspects in the growth of large antlered bucks?

    My goal is to show you how you can avoid spending $25 of your hard earned money on a few pounds of “gimmick”. Instead of a gimmick focused solely on attraction, I am offering information on how you can make your own mix, 200 pounds worth, for around $60 that provides your deer herd with much needed minerals. I’ll start by addressing the benefits of mineral supplementation and include a recipe for your own “home brew”. Once we know why we should provide minerals and what we will use to deliver those minerals, I will discuss site selection, preparation, maintenance, and monitoring in Part 2 of DIY Minerals. Remember, I am neither a whitetail biologist, nor am I an expert on mineral supplementation. What I am is an educated consumer who has used the vast amount of resources at my finger tips, along with my own personal experiences, to create a mineral supplementation plan for my hunting areas that I believe is far more effective than the latest gimmick.

    Why minerals?

    Before we look at the benefits of mineral supplementation on the growth of antlers, we need to understand that minerals do far more than that within our deer herd. Adding a sure source of minerals to your herd’s environment will aid in digestion, lactation, fawn growth, and overall health. In the past, I have been criticized for drawing the comparison between whitetails and other ruminants such as dairy cattle in relation to the benefits of mineral supplementation. Being familiar with dairy cattle and knowing that deer and cattle are closely related ruminants, it seemed like a reasonable “leap of faith” to assume deer would also benefit in a similar manner. Perhaps it will help to hear that from someone with a degree in Wildlife Biology!

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Harper
    However, warehouse loads of research have been conducted on domestic ruminants such as cattle, goats and sheep proving that mineral supplementation increases body weights, milk production, reproductive efficacy, immune function and more. Because a deer’s mineral needs are at a minimum, equal to domestic livestock and more likely greater, it would go without saying that mineral supplementation would be beneficial to wild, free-ranging deer .
    When the ingredients of our DIY mineral mix are consumed by a deer, the deer are essentially taking a multi-vitamin that we’ve crushed up and made available to them. The ingredients in the mix will subsequently elevate the level of useable trace minerals in their system. Similar to the effects of a multi-vitamin on our system, a whitetail making good use of our mineral site will notice an increased metabolism. An increased metabolism will aid in forage digestion and provide the deer with an array of amino acids that will impact body weight. Because lactation places the greatest protein demands on a doe, the increased protein retention she gains from a higher metabolism helps her stay healthy, and in turn she produces milk that is higher in protein. Her fawn(s) ultimately consume this high protein milk which gives them a jump start on becoming strong and healthy adult deer. A buck fawn born to a healthier mother, with higher protein milk, only stands to benefit from our hard work and what that hard work can equate to, brings us to the next part of the discussion…

    Does it really help grow larger antlers?

    Now that we have seen the presence of trace minerals within our herd can help in ways we may not have considered, it is time to look at the one reason why most of us even give thought to this process. Can my time, effort, and money really help me to grow larger bucks on my hunting property?

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Harper
    The internal core [of an antler] is the protein matrix and the outside layers are mineral deposits. The more mineral deposited on the antlers, the thicker the outside layers will be. Contrary to what one might think, mineral is not taken from the diet and directly deposited on the growing antler. Instead, digested mineral is deposited on the deer’s skeletal structure and then absorbed from the skeleton and transported via the blood stream to the antler.
    We talked about increased protein retention as an added benefit for lactating does, but growing antlers are nearly 80% protein, and increasing protein retention can help increase antler mass and size. So what is the remaining 20%? That is where the trace minerals in our DIY mix come in to play. Most of us are aware that a buck will devote the first 4-5 years of his life to developing his skeletal structure, taking away from antler development in the process. It stands to reason that providing that buck with protein rich milk as a fawn, and a mineral site in his core area through his early years, will speed up the development of his skeletal structure and in return allow him to focus on antler development at an earlier age.

    Calcium and phosphorus are the most common minerals in a whitetail’s antlers, contributing to nearly one-third of a mature antlers weight. However, these are not the only minerals present in those antlers. A University of Georgia study, cited in an article by Brian Murphy of the QDMA, detected 11 different minerals in the whitetail’s antlers. In addition to calcium and phosphorous, the next two most common elements reported in the study were magnesium and sodium. Lesser amounts of other minerals were found including potassium, barium, iron, aluminum, zinc, strontium, and manganese. Other than calcium and phosphorous, little is known about the role of these other minerals in antler growth.

    Based on the preceding, it becomes clear that these other trace minerals are important in antler development. Due to the constant need for minerals, whitetails have developed the ability to store calcium and phosphorus in their skeletons, subsequently transferring these minerals to their developing minerals during antler growth. While this is indeed a handy piece of evolution, the sources of calcium and phosphorus that are stored in the skeleton can only provide a small portion of the minerals that are needed for optimum antler growth. The rest must come directly from their diet while their antlers are actively growing. Therefore, mineral supplementation prior to and during antler growth can prove to be beneficial.

    With all that being said, we are still left with this questions: Will mineral supplementation transform a 140” deer into a B&C deer in one year like Brand X wants you to believe? The answer is a simple “No”. We must not forget the importance of nutrition, genetics, and age when it comes to growing bigger deer. If that 140” deer does not have the genetics to become a B&C deer, supplying him with a constant supply of minerals will not change that. Similarly, if you do not allow that 140” deer to reach maturity, it will not matter what you provide him with in terms of supplements if he is unable to live long enough to reach his potential. Although supplying minerals is a boost to a whitetails nutritional intake, if his diet is nutritionally deficient in all other areas, then the benefits of our minerals become a moot point. However, if that 140” deer has good genetics, lives to maturity, and consumes a nutritionally balanced diet, the constant supply of minerals he has access to from a fawn drinking his mothers protein rich milk, to visiting a mineral site as he is growing the best rack of his life, is very likely pay off in the form of additional inches of growth to his rack. But to think that we can transform a 140” deer as a 3.5 year old, to a B&C deer as a 4.5 year old by dumping a bag of Brand X on the ground is naive. So is the thought that dumping our DIY mix on the ground will do the same…

    How can I make it my own?

    From what we have read, we know that our mix needs to have a high concentration of calcium and phosphorus in order to aid in antler growth. We need to include additional trace minerals such as magnesium and sodium. But we also need to ensure that the deer find out mineral site and we can improve the effectiveness of our site location by including something in the mix that deer can’t resist – salt.

    During the spring and early summer, deer are almost always suffering from a sodium deficiency due to the high potassium and water content of the forage they consume at this time of year. This affects their ability to efficiently convert sodium in the body and subsequently increases their need for sodium intake. This makes deer actively seek out concentrated sources of sodium such as our mineral site. With the needs of our herd now understood, let’s take a look at the mix…

    The Ohio Outdoors DIY Mineral Mix:

    • One-part Stock Salt
    • One-part Di-Calcium Phosphate
    • Two-parts Trace Mineral Salts


    All of these ingredients should be available at your local feed mill, co-op, or Tractor Supply for around $60. The stock salt is essentially ice cream salt and is a very common item for a feed mill to carry. Di-Calcium Phosphate is an additive used in dairy cattle operations to aid in digestion and protein retention, also common at a feed mill. Trace Minerals is commonly used for sheep and goats. In the past, I have taken the stance that selenium can be harmful to whitetails if consumed in large enough quantities, so I used a trace mineral without selenium just to avoid that remote chance it might be harmful to some of the deer in my herd. It has come to light in recent years that the actual level of selenium that would need to be present to cause harm to a whitetail is far beyond what would be found in a mix of trace minerals containing selenium. So I have recanted my stance on using trace minerals without selenium that a few of you might be familiar with.

    This weekend, I plan to revisit two sites that have been working sites for me over the past couple of years. In Part 2 of DIY Minerals, I’ll address issues surrounding site selection, site preparation, maintenance, and monitoring. With any luck, I’ll have some pictures of this year’s shooter buck in the early stages of development in the next 30-60 days!!!

    Be Sure To Check Out Part II


    AKA Bowhunter1023
    This article was originally published in forum thread: DIY Minerals: Part 1 started by Jesse View original post