Cautiously, he meandered through the brush along the woods edge, pausing every few steps to test the cool, damp air, his nose held high, trying to verify that no dangers were imminent. Although he was only 1 1/2 years old, this buck knew that he was prey to both coyote and man alike. His high level of cautiousness was most likely due to recent rains that had quieted the woods around him.
Upon arriving, and satisfied he was safe,
he slowly dipped his head down for a long cool drink from the chocolate-colored pool. Of the choices he had to take his daily drink, like the other deer in the area he preferred this spot after a drenching rain. This muddy pool offered more than a quench of thirst, for it satisfied his growing body’s craving for nutrients and minerals not found anywhere else around. With droplets cascading from his lips, he raised his head, took a brief look around and returned from where he came.
Two popular questions we get on are; “Do the deer minerals that ‘hook the deer’ like cocaine does really work?” and, “If I make a mineral lick for deer, is it a good spot to hunt over?“
In answering the first question I always recommend one of three sources for deer mineral and nutrient products, confident that their formulas are truly beneficial to deer (and other wildlife!), and not just a salt product with a “short list” of scant offerings of minerals and nutrients, and promises to “hook” the deer like they’re on hard drugs.
If you want to bait deer, you’re much better off with an automatic feeder throwing corn. So, for quality mineral supplements, buy from such sources as Antler King (www.antlerking.com), Whitetail Institute of North American (www.whitetailinstitute.com) and from your local feed and seed, or ranch supply store. Any of these suppliers offer specific products designed just for deer that will help them achieve improved levels of overall health, increased body weight, and greater antler (and other bone structure) and muscle growth. Calcium, phosphorus, and a long list of other minerals and trace elements must be prominent ingredients on the label. Avoid products that are almost pure salt.
Benefits Of minerals for Deer
Studies have shown that year-round supplemental feeding of minerals and supporting nutrients have a dramatic effect on deer in several ways:
Antler development begins 2 to 4 weeks earlier than non-supplemented deer
Increased antler mass, spread, and points on bucks of all ages, even 1.5-year-olds
Better reproduction – more multiple births
Deer tend to stay in the area
Also, understand that the best lick cannot make up the difference in a poorly nourished herd and poor genetics. Quality browse and other food sources rich in protein are necessary for the equation for growing larger than “normal” racks. Such a diet coupled with minerals, trace elements, and other high-quality nutrients, a lick will act as a catalyst to turn what they eat into more and better bone & tissue growth. In other words, do not expect too much if your deer don’t have enough quality foods to eat – the result of overpopulation from either poor management and/or extremely harsh weather conditions.
Things should be considered for creating a lick that will offer maximum benefit to the deer
Something many hunters fail to realize is that a quality mineral lick is more than a trophy buck growing “trick”, or big buck attractant. Properly placed, a lick will benefit the whole herd, including the does.
Think about it for a minute, where do the bucks come from?
The does. If your does are in excellent physical health and are they are obtaining quality browse, minerals and trace elements throughout their pregnancy, it stands to reason that their fawns gestating within them will also benefit greatly. Healthy does bear healthier, stronger, and bigger fawns and those are the kinds of fawns we want concerning future bucks (& does).
Do we want them dropping “Jethro Bodine’s”, or “Barney Fife’s”?
Let’s not forget the does with this project. Also, healthier, stronger deer are better able to ward off disease and withstand the rigors of the rut and the harsh winter weather that can follow in many climes. Now, how do we best make it available to our deer herd?
Three things should be considered for creating a lick that will be utilized and offer maximum benefit to the deer herd. They are 1. Location & Site Area, 2. Building the lick, and 3. Recharging.
1. LOCATION & SITE AREA
I like to locate my licks in low areas, not on the tops of ridges, placed along travel corridors (funnels, trail systems, etc.) that are located between a bedding site and a feeding site.
A well-traveled bench along the side of a ridge is also a good spot provided it has earthy soil. You can also place them between either two bedding sites or feeding sites, but I prefer placement between a well-used bedding site and feeding site. Remember, feeding sites in late winter can be very different from those in the spring, so you may need to create additional licks as food sources change unless your lick is really close to a bedding site or in a well-used travel corridor throughout the year.
2. How to make a mineral lick
Lick Site: The actual site you place the lick should offer a loose, loamy soil, preferably in a shallow natural depression where rainwater can accumulate.
Do not locate one in a soil that is hard when dry, this had too much clay in it.
Also, avoid thin soils that are laden with heavy stone or rock. Limestone soils are terrible as well, for it “binds” with the minerals in the lick and makes them unavailable to the deer.
Sandy soils allow the minerals to leach out after even moderate rains, so you will have to recharge such sites very frequently.
The site should also be in the shade most of the day. This prevents the site from drying out so quickly between rains. Even if the pool of water vanishes in-between rains, the deer will eat the mud and the dirt around the perimeter. Also, by locating the lick in an area providing good security cover for the deer, they’re more apt to use it during any hour of the day. As you can see in the photo below, this lick is heavily utilized and has been in constant use for over 6 years. It has grown into a lick that is 6 x 8 feet!
Step 1: Using a sharp shovel or spade, scrape away any twigs, branches, and rocks, then dig down 6″ – 9″ into and then turn over the soil with each stroke. Remove and discard any grass, small plants, and root systems as you go. I prefer a lick three feet in diameter, its soil very loose and fluffy.
Step 2: Pour the mineral contents onto the lick, evenly distributing the minerals over the entire lick area.
Step 3: With your shovel, “turn or fold” the minerals into the soil, incorporating both well.
Step 4: Then slowly pour 3 to 5 gallons of water over the entire lick. This process is key for “charging” the soil, thus generating immediate interest by the deer. Waiting for the rain can take a while.
Tips: If you want to speed up the time it takes for deer to find the lick, lay a couple of ribbons of corn from the lick, radiating out to frequented deer paths or other travel zones. Broadcast plenty of corn around the lick itself as well. Check state regulations to verify this is legal, especially if during hunting season and baiting is illegal.
I like to recharge my licks four times per year, timing each recharge with the four phases of growth and development of bucks, does and fawns.
Bucks have or are dropping their antlers. The growth process of their antlers begins shortly after the pedical wounds heal. Thus, their bodies need to accumulate minerals and nutrients to facilitate that new bone growth for the weeks ahead. Does (in most areas of the country) are mid-term in their pregnancy, and they need these minerals and nutrients to meet the requirements for both their body and the fast-growing fetus within.
Bucks are well into the rapid antler growth phase, adding up to an inch of bone per day! Does are dropping fawns, or have already done so and are thus lactating and feeding their fawns. They’ll need these minerals and nutrients in the weeks ahead to not only provide quality milk but also to aid in their recovery from the stresses of pregnancy. This is a very important time for both bucks and does.
Bucks have well-developed antlers in velvet, and have only about 4 to 6 weeks of growth remaining. Nutrients and minerals will continue to add value to antler growth and mass. Does continue to recover and provide milk for their fawns. Fawns are or are beginning to wean and feed alongside their mothers, so they’ll begin to utilize the lick also.
Bucks have long shed their velvet and are only interested in breeding during this phase. Recharging the lick provides continued supplements which will increase the ability of a deer’s body to better withstand the rigors of the winter ahead.
TO HUNT, OR NOT TO HUNT
I do not create a lick to hunt over. Out of the 17 stand sites in my hunt area, only one overlooks one of my licks, and not because the lick is there, but because the lick is situated in a well-traveled funnel. The more secure and safe the deer feels, the more likely they’ll take advantage of it. Should you hunt over a lick, make sure it is legal in your state and county. -Zano