Minerals have been documented to be important for antler development. During spring antler growth is triggered by increasing daylight. Until late summer there is a complicated set of processes that result in transfer of nutrients from the deer’s body to the antlers. In late summer, a sharp change in testosterone levels begins the process of hardening and shedding on the velvet.
The growing antlers are primarily protein. The hardened antlers are made up of mostly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium. There are other trace minerals found in antlers but are deemed to be less important to overall growth.
During spring and summer most deer forage has a high water and potassium level, which means that most deer are sodium deficient at this time. Most soils that are not close to the coast are deficient in sodium. Deer therefore seek out this mineral. Salt is used along with molasses and sweeteners to make the minerals palatable. Without the addition of salt or sweeteners trace minerals are just plain old bitter.
Even though minerals have been deemed important in antler growth, most studies can show no difference in antler growth based on mineral supplementation except in cases of severe nutritional deficient diets. The things that make the most difference in antler size are age and overall nutrition. It is likely that you are already addressing these things through your food plotting, so the addition of minerals and blocks may not be required to harvest those big antlers.
There are some non nutritional reasons to put out minerals though. They are great lures if hung in food plots or areas surrounding plots. It is great for photography in off season and it is rewarding to watch deer seeking these licks out in an area you have plotted. And what the heck, a good set of licks on your property may lure them away from the neighbor’s like a candy store!
Create Your Own Lick: Step-by-Step Instructions:
Step 1: Purchase 50 pounds of dicalcium phosphate. This can be found at a feed store or farm supply. (your basic 2:1 calcium:phorsphorus supplement)
Step 2: Purchase 50 pounds of sodium chloride. Make sure this is coarse salt. You can also find this at your local feed store or farm supply.
Step 3: Bring both bags with you when you go hunting. You’re going to need a second set of hands for this, so enlist the help of one of the guys for this one.
Step 4: Find an old deer trail and dig a small hole approximately one yard wide. This hole should be a few yards off the trail.
Step 5: Pour in equal amounts of the dicalcium phosphate and salt. The salt is needed for good taste. The deer won’t touch the dicalcium phosphate without it. ( The dicalcium phosphate is your basic 2:1 calcium/phophorus supplement-doesn’t matter the brand)
Cost is cheap. You should not have to spend more than $20 for everything.
Before you make your lick, contact your state’s wildlife department. It some states if it considered illegal to place licks during hunting season.