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!Originally Posted by Matt Harper
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.
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!
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…Originally Posted by Matt Harper