Ask any avid bowhunter what he/she is doing right now and you will likely get an answer that deals with either planting whitetail food plots, distributing supplemental whitetail feed or starting and maintaining a whitetail mineral site. And, while much has been written on each, I would like to discuss why simply throwing out a mineral block with little thought about deer movement isn’t going to cut it. I would also like to talk about why that whitetail mineral block might not be what your local deer herd needs.
Manipulating Buck Movements
Let’s be honest, the main reason bowhunters start a mineral site is to shoot a big whitetail buck. Sure, there are additional benefits to throwing down minerals in your hunting area (more on this later), however, if you’re not spending a good deal of time considering the placement of your mineral site (and how the deer will react to it) then you are only hurting your chances of arrowing the buck you are hunting.
I am constantly amazed at the number of guys who capture image after image of a trophy buck under the cover of darkness, like below, and then return during daylight hours to hunt said buck. Many do so with the utmost confidence that the buck will return. But why?
Why will that buck suddenly change his behavior and visit your mineral (or food) site during daylight hours? That is the question that needs to be answered long before you drop your minerals in the dirt.
Because mineral sites are established long before the rut, a time when most mature bucks aren’t going to be on their feet during daylight hours, you have to find a location conducive to daytime movement. It does little good to place mineral sites in areas where deer do not feel comfortable moving during sun up.
Locating the Buck's Master Bedroom
Before I start a whitetail mineral site I like to try to determine where my target buck might possibly be bedding during the day. In my opinion, this gives me the best chance of seeing him during daylight hours and ultimately putting an arrow through him.
Trail cameras can go a long way toward patterning bucks and locating potential bedding areas and we have written about trail camera placement strategies. One is to start by hanging your cameras on the fringes and then work your way toward bedding areas if deer movement warrants it. However, be mindful of your impact to the area and don’t risk spooking your buck by delving too deep into his core area.
Rubs and scrapes from the previous year located near heavy cover is a great location to start. Once a few daylight images are captured you can then study the area more closely to determine possible areas a buck could be bedded and pinch points along his travel path in which to hang a stand.
Don’t Forget the Does
While locating bucks might be exciting, don’t overlook the value in attracting does to your mineral site. In short, they will attract bucks. Sure, its summer and the rut is months away. Still, it’s never too early to start locating and attracting does with your whitetail mineral site. I like to think of it as an insurance policy. When things go bad somewhere else and I am having trouble getting on a target buck I can always fall back on my “doe” mineral location.
A Word on Dissecting Minerals
Research whitetail minerals and you will be bombarded with a vast array of products that promise nothing short of “fatal” attraction on a whitetail. And, while I’ve used everything from a large, solid block of salt to the latest and greatest mineral product, I can honestly say that both attract deer equally well.
So, if the attraction to each product is basically the same then why not save your money and just buy a cheap block of salt? I’ve done it. However, I probably won’t do it again because there are products on the market that are designed to do so much more than attract deer. They can actually help your buck grow a larger set of antlers.
Thanks to a fellow bowhunter I’ve learned to look beyond the basic “attractiveness” of my mineral site and consider exactly what those minerals are doing to the deer that are using them. I’ve learned that the key to a great mineral site is balance and discovering exactly which minerals the deer in your area are lacking and then providing it for them. They will be coming to your site anyway. Why not make it worth their while (and yours)?
Your Properties Best Mineral Site
David Miller of Appalachian Range Outdoors is dedicated to finding specific solutions for serious whitetail deer management tailored to the Appalachian Region of the east. In doing so, he has taken a different approach to whitetail mineral sites. Here’s what he has to say on the subject.
“Ok, let’s get the facts out. There is no scientific research proving that minerals directly impact antler growth. However, minerals do impact antler growth! Now that I have completely contradicted myself, let me explain."
The nutrients within forage, hard mast, and everything else deer consume come from the soil in which they grow. The plant absorbs the nutrients from the soil, the deer eat the plant, and the deer absorb the nutrients from the plant. But, this only happens IF the deer has the necessary minerals within their bodies.
When the necessary minerals are not present within a deer they cannot absorb the nutrients from the food that they consume. In contrast, if the appropriate minerals are present then the deer can consume the minerals from the food they eat.
Not offering a whitetail the appropriate minerals they need is like asking a professional body builder to eat only Oreo’s for a month and then asking him to reach his max muscle potential. It’s simply not going to happen! It’s the same with whitetail bucks. Their antlers are the muscle.
A Different Approach
David has decided to take a different approach when it comes to the minerals he puts out. His process is to first gather a soil sample of the area and identify what minerals the soil is lacking. He then custom blends minerals to meet the precise needs of deer within the properties he is managing. He can do the same for you. He has for me and I have to say this may be the most effective mineral approach available on the market today at one of the most affordable rates out there.
The next time you walk into your hunting area to establish a whitetail mineral site, consider how the deer are going to react to the location you choose. In addition consider what exactly you are giving them...or not giving them.