Antler growth is already set, but providing key nutrients to your local deer now will continue helping herd health
by Larry Case
Hunters in America have set up ambushes around salt and mineral licks in America since the first pilgrim loaded a blunderbuss in the New World. Natural salt licks attract wildlife because they provide minerals that are typically deficient in their diets. Animals will travel for miles for salt. It is no coincidence that some of the early travel routes wound and meandered to include locations of natural salt licks. Look at a map of your home state and see how many towns and areas have the word “lick” in them. Salt Lick, Mineral Lick, Licking, and Lick Creek are just a few.
Finding a natural lick can be quite a bonus in your hunting area. Some licks have been around for ages and may have a large area where deer and other animals have pawed and dug in the ground to get to the salt and other minerals that leach to the surface. I once found such a lick in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, that was seven feet deep from the surface.
While many animals crave salt and minerals, some hunters may forget that this goes for bucks and does as well. In one study, it was shown that a doe nursing a fawn needs over 200 grams of calcium in a 60-day period. A buck, while growing antlers, requires 200 grams of calcium, so both should have it readily available to do well.
The Two Big Questions
To me, the two main questions for using deer feed and mineral supplements are 1) does it attract deer and 2) do these supplements help antler growth? First, let’s look at the attractant part.
For a test, I selected 6 random sites to place Boss Buck feed and attractant products. These sites were in southern West Virginia near the Virginia state line. While the area certainly has deer, I don’t think anyone would say there is a high population of whitetails present. The individual sites were erratically placed to determine if the mineral and feed attractants would entice deer.
Along with a trail camera, each site received a portion of Boss Buck’s Boss Booster Concentrated Mineral Attractant, Boss Sauce Liquid Feed Attractant, Boss Block Mineral Attractant (mineral block), and Boss Builder Feed Attractant (feed in addition to mineral supplements).
Boss Buck, besides offering a wide variety of wildlife feeders and accessories, produces several different feed and mineral attractants, as noted above. The Boss Block Mineral Attractant is available in long-lasting Acorn, Apple, and Soybean flavors and creates immediate and extended attraction for big game animals. Each block is a hefty four pounds and is formed in a unique shape that promotes minerals leaching into the soil. The Acorn, Apple, and Soybean Mineral Blocks are perfect for establishing new mineral sites or for maintaining existing mineral sites to help keep them active for months.
The Concentrated Mineral Attractant in powder form is easily poured onto rotting stumps or logs or mixes directly into the soil and soon becomes a lick that deer will visit often. Boss Sauce Apple, Acorn, and Soybean Liquid Mineral Attractants, available in easy-to-transport 1-gallon bottles, provide powerful aromas that create long-lasting appeal. Simply pour over new or existing mineral sites, rotted stumps, or decomposing logs near a game trail. You can also set up Boss Sauce Apple or Acorn Liquid Mineral Attractants in front of trail cameras to capture more photos and videos. Boss Buck Feed Attractant combines salt and other minerals along with food ingredients that are protein-based and available in 5- and 20-pound bags.
Some of the sites for the test received all the Boss Buck attractants while others just got a few. I didn’t really doubt that these items would attract deer, and I was right. Some of the sites had visits from deer the first night they were placed in the woods, and this was in locations that had not previously been a bait or mineral site. The sites that were not visited the first night were hit within a day or two. Yes, the Boss Buck products attracted deer. As a side note, the deer mineral attractants did not seem to interest our healthy black bear population, which can be maddening when trying to attract whitetail deer.
But Does it Help Your Bucks Grow Bigger Antlers?
This, of course, is the question of the ages when it comes to the feeding of supplemental minerals to wild deer. While some would say that there is no scientific data to show that making mineral supplements available to wild deer enhances antler growth, you could also say that there is no scientific data to show that it does not.
So, what do we know about deer antlers? We know that, while they are growing, antlers are made up primarily of protein. In the velvet stage, the antler is a living thing supplied with blood through thousands of blood vessels. When the antler stops growing, it begins to harden and becomes true bone. The velvet peels off, the buck rubs his antlers on every tree and bush in his area, and he gets ready for the strenuous fighting and mating season. In the hardened bone stage, the antler is made up primarily of protein and minerals—mostly calcium and some phosphorus. All of these are found in Boss Buck Feed Attractant, and calcium and other minerals are found in the other attractants.
Could having these proteins and minerals readily available to a buck while he is growing antlers influence the growth of those antlers? You can make up your own mind, but I vote yes, it would. Don’t forget that does need mineral supplements as much as the bucks. Ask a commercial deer farmer if he gives his deer any mineral supplements. You can bet your boots he does.
Trail Cameras and Mineral Licks
Spring and summer are the times to have your mineral attractants out and the only way to properly monitor them is with a good trail camera. The bucks are going to be growing antlers and you will want to see how that progress is, well, progressing. Mineral licks around deer bedding areas are difficult to check without disturbing deer, so let your cameras alone for a few weeks at a time or set your mineral sites and cameras away from these areas, placing them in food plots or along trails. Be mindful of the position of the sun upon rising and setting as it will affect the quality of your photos and video. A long interval between trigger events may be best as you could end up with hundreds of pictures of the same group of deer.
You may not have a natural mineral lick on your hunting property but placing some Boss Buck mineral attractants may be the next best thing.
Providing nutrients for healthier deer is its own reward for most hunters, but monitoring deer throughout the critical growing months not only helps gauge inventory of the resident population, it also allows you to key in on the bucks in your area that will demand special attention once hunting season rolls around. For that, we need good cameras placed in those strategic locations.
The new DS4KMAX from Stealth Cam is one such trail cam. Building on the original DS4K, which was the industry’s first 4K video trail camera, the DS4KMAX ups the ante with an impressive 32 MP sensor—2 MP more than the DS4K.
In short, the DS4KMAX delivers the highest resolution video, still imagery, and quality audio offered in the trail camera segment, with 4K ultra HD video and 32MP still imagery to capture crisp details. Included are dual images sensors tuned to optimize day and night captures.
Stealth Cam DS4KMAX Specifications
- 4K Ultra HD Video
- 32 megapixel Ultra Hi-Res Performance
- Dual Image Sensors
- Simultaneous image/video capture
- Range Control – Adjustable PIR
- Security Mode re-writes to SD memory when card is full
- Reflex™ Trigger < .4 seconds
- 42 NO GLO IR Emitters
- Intuitive backlit menu programming
- Matrix™ Advanced Blur Reduction
- Retina™ Low Light sensitivity
- 16:9 Wide Image Ratio
- Quick Set pre-programmed option
- Burst Mode 1-9 images per triggering
- Adjustable intervals of 1, 3, 5, 10 seconds
- 5-59 sec or 1- 59 min recovery time out
- Time / Date / Moon Phase / Temperature / Name Stamp
- GEO-TAG GPS Tagging
- Manual shot capability
- Secure Lock password protection
- SD Card slot up to 512GB
- Test Mode
- Video & USB output
- Operates on 12 AA batteries
- External power jack for 12V battery box
- Active Time Setting
- Multi-Lingual (English / French / German / Spanish)
- Preset Time & Date (CST)