That buck you’ll be salivating over this fall? By the end of April, his antlers have already started growing.
Studies have shown that antler growth begins as the amount of daylight increases. We can’t do anything about that, but we can take steps to help bucks achieve the biggest antlers their genetics will support.
It’s all about nutrition and minerals. Although most bucks will start to grow antlers by the end of April and early May, it’s the healthiest bucks that start the earliest. As the antlers grow, they consist of a core of developing bone and cartilage, covered with velvet.
The natural browse and farm forage that’s available for deer does not contain an adequate amount of phosphorus and calcium to boost optimum antler growth. Many hunters wait until a couple of months before opener to start a mineral lick, but that’s a mistake. Start a mineral lick now, and resupply it as needed throughout the summer.
The necessity of providing mineral licks is proven by harvest data. Ask any hunter what states grow the biggest bucks, and they’ll say Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and other Midwestern states. But the big bucks come from certain counties in those states and there’s a reason for that.
Big bucks come from the major river bottom areas in the Midwest. That’s because those rivers periodically flood, which deposits rich soils along their banks. That soil is high in calcium and phosphorus. If you don’t have that rich natural forage, you can offer mineral licks.
In addition to calcium and phosphorus, deer also need potassium, magnesium, and sodium. In fact, mineral licks are often high in sodium for that reason and another — while deer need sodium, they also enjoy it. And it gets them to ingest the calcium and phosphorus, which would not be palatable otherwise.
Mineral licks can’t replace the value of natural forage, but can go a long way towards improving antler quality, especially if offered during the prime period of antler growth — late April through September. And when the season starts, remember another way to help deer increase antler size — pass up the small bucks!
If you’re searching the Sportsman’s Guide website, just type in the word “mineral” and you’ll get a wide selection. Buying online is great — the products are heavy. Would you rather load them into a shopping cart and tote them around a store, or have them delivered right to your door?
There are three basic types:
This Apple Burst apple-flavored block offers up the nutrients to help bucks reach their full genetic potential. It’s loaded with antler and body-building minerals and nutrients including plenty of vitamins A and D.
Lucky Buck Mineral
Lucky Buck has been expertly developed with just the right ratios of minerals that deer love. It’s also mixed with an ingredient that will limit the amount deer want to eat (unlike competitor’s attractant mixes that have grain or molasses, by-products that cause deer to overeat).
Liquid options can be poured on the ground or on a stump. Popular choices include Ani-Logics Mineral Dirt 180 Liquid. This easy-to-use and efficient method for promoting herd health is formulated to make up any deficiencies in diet. The proprietary Ani-Sheild TX4 formula adds essentials such as Copper, Zinc, Manganese and Selenium, which promote antler growth and probiotics and oils to improve digestive health.