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Mineral Supplements for Deer

 

Wildlife and the Outdoors

 

Mineral Supplements for Deer

 

Tracy L. Nelson, Area Biologist

 

            The use of mineral supplements has become popular among deer hunters and land managers in an effort to improve antler size on bucks using their property. Deer will indeed use mineral supplements either in block or granular form when they are available, especially in late spring and early summer. However, research has shown that mineral supplements provide little if any positive effect on antler size or body weight of wild free-ranging deer. This brings to light some important things to consider before using mineral supplements. First, one should consider that there is no magic item that can be done to improve antler size in bucks. Antler size is influenced by three factors: age, genetics, and nutrition. All three of these must be considered in managing a deer herd with improved antler development as an objective.

            A second thing to consider is that, on most soil types in Alabama, the addition of salt and other minerals is not needed. In most situations, deer are able to get the required doses of these minerals in their normal daily diet. It is important to remember that no supplement or wildlife food crop will substitute for practicing sound wildlife habitat management principles on the property. If proper habitat management techniques are applied, the minerals needed for good antler growth and skeletal development (calcium and prosphorus) will be readily available and evenly dispersed throughout the property, not just on selected sites where supplements are located.

            In order to have the most beneficial effect, supplements should contain the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus. For white-tailed deer, the proper ratio is two parts calcium to one part phosphorus. Mineral supplements should contain less than 35 percent salt in order to be most effective. However, commercial mineral supplements contain 50 percent or more salt by volume. Be sure to read the tag showing the percentages of each of the minerals contained in the supplement. This will ensure that the supplement contains the proper amount of trace minerals needed for antler growth and skeletal development. Pure white salt blocks provide little benefit for deer. In addition, it is illegal to hunt near or over mineral supplements (except pure white salt) while hunting in Alabama.

            With these considerations in mind, some managers and deer hunters may continue to use supplements on their property. If so, remember that there are no secret weapons to improving antler growth in deer. The combinations of using sound wildlife management techniques and good deer herd management is the key to improved antler growth. In most cases it requires much diligence and ample time to achieve the desired results.

            Fore more information, contact Tracy Nelson at 4415 Co. Road 75, Cedar Bluff, Alabama, 35959.

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