What are your own deer mineral strategies? Are they even legal in your state to use? When do you place them in the woods and fields of the lands that you hunt?
Something puzzling is that although many states allow for mineral supplementation during the off-season, they generally do not allow the use during the months of hunting season. What's puzzling about that, is that there is a drastic decrease in mineral usage from late August to October. In fact there is such a drop in use, that in the past I never even bothered to continue placing my deer cams to watch mineral stations in the Fall. By October each year, the total deer cam pictures dropped to just a single-digit %, when compared to the Summer months. I am not sure if it has to do with an assumed unfair advantage or not, but from what I can see the disadvantage would come to those that actually hunt over a mineral station. This has as much do with the daily needs of the local deer herd, as it does to do with the Annual Late Summer Shift, as mature bucks vacate their growing season ranges, to their preferred Fall range.
If you ask 5 people why they choose to use minerals, you may get 5 different answers. Deer cam pics, fawn and antler growth, overall herd health and even to sweeten a favorite stand location are all certainly understandable intentions. But what is the true power of using mineral stations that is most often missed? For Establishing Deer Movement Patterns, which is especially critical for linking habitat improvements together on private lands. Follow along as I reveal the top 5 deer mineral strategies that you can use this growing season.
Popular Deer Mineral Strategies:
1. Fawn devlopment, Antler Growth and Overall Herd Health
Deer become fairly locked into their Winter ranges until the beginning of Spring green-up. Although the actual timing of the green-up in your area can vary greatly from year to year, deer drastically increase their range to expand and include their Summer ranges. Fawning grounds and bachelor buck habitats begin to be filled with the annual Spring influx, and this features the perfect timing for the placement of minerals. Can you actually improve the health of the herd while producing increased antler growth and improved fawn production? Well if you believe every shred of mineral packaging material you sure can...and if you believe most sources of peer-reviewed scientific whitetail evidence; you can't. Years ago one mineral company even placed two pictures of bucks on their label basically stating that here is a mature buck that was not grown with minerals on 1 side of the picture, and here is a mature buck that was grown on minerals on the other. It was fairly obvious to the trained eye that one was a 1.5 year old buck and the other was a 3.5 year old, and it was early claims like this that I believe actually discredited the industry to some extent. But now the entire industry has greatly advanced. There seems to be some great options out there, with a lot more credible claims to their success.
So which claims should you believe? Let's look at it this way, is there any credible source out there saying that minerals are actually bad for the deer herd in your area? I haven't personally heard of any, so in that case by all means, procede with if nothing else, "it can't hurt". And who know's, you may be actually improving the overall health of the herd which could be an outstanding reflection of great intentions!
2. Summer Viewing Opportunities
Do you have a home or cabin that offers the opportunity for you to view wildlife? If so a backyard mineral station may give you the perfect opportunity to observe the local deer herd during the lazy days of Summer. Best of all, mature bucks are rarely located during the Summer where they will be located during the Fall, so your observations will typically carry an extremely low potential for any negative impact.
3. Sweetening a Bow Stand
I think it's accurate to talk about a bow stand more than a gun stand because by the time the majority of gun seasons roll around, the use of mineral stations by the local deer herd has just about ceased completely. If legal in your state, deer mineral strategies that include your favorite early season bow stand can sometimes offer some great opportunities. This is especially true during bow season openers that begin in early to mid September while the entire deer herd, including mature bucks, may still be practicing their Summer movement patterns. However once the annual shift of mature buck movement takes place, the opportunities for a quality sit over a mineral site often descreases drastically.
4. Deer Cam Mineral Strategies
Although you can get a great inventory of the local bucks by Creating Summer Mock Scrapes, there is nothing better that I have found to capture a great reflection of warm season giants, than by creating a mineral site. Summer deer mineral strategies that offer a great place to hang a deer cam isn't only an incredible opportunity, I wouldn't even recommend establishing a mineral site that couldn't be viewed with a camera.
From newborn fawns to antler growth, a mineral station offers the least invasive, and most defined way to use a deer cam to observe the local deer herd 24/7. But don't stop with pics of monster bucks and cute little fawns! Instead, take this time to soak in some important clues into your habitat efforts. This is worth repeating: "Mature bucks often live in completely different type of habitat during the Summer, than they do during the Fall". Your #1 time to attract, hold, mold and build a Quality Deer Herd is during the Fall and not during the Summer. What does your Summer game cam tell you about your habitat?
*Frequent Summer mature buck sightings aren't necessarily a reflection of great habitat. Bucks love to inhabit the cool understory of shaded, mature hardwood forests that are adjacent to high quality Summer food sources. However, this is exactly the variety of food and cover that they do not inhabit during the Fall. On the majority of the parcels that I have hunted or managed that contained the highest quality deer herds, Summer mature buck pictures were often infrequent and inconsistent. Of course not always, but you may find that if your Summer deer mineral strategies reveal very few deer cam pictures, your habitat could be closer to producing a quality deer herd, than not.
5. Establishing a Pattern of Use: Missed Opportunities
Any quality deer hunting and habitat design will feature a linkage of deer habitat improvements that work together to encompass the complete daytime movements on the land your hunt. I mention daytime, because it matters very little where the deer travel to under the cover of darkness, as long as they return when the sun shines. Food sources, travel corridors, bedding areas, water sources and even mock scrape lines should work together to move deer parallel to your borders, as well as to the inside of your borders. What can be the habitat glue that holds it all together? Your various deer mineral strategies.
Using a mineral station to reinforce the intended movements of deer travel on the lands that you hunt can be an outstanding practice for you to employ! Where travel corridors from remote bedding areas dump into a food source, or even somewhere in between, are great locations for a mineral station. Are you trying to point deer to a particular social hotspot within an expansive field? Add a mineral stations where deer can exit cover and have a direction of travel to focus on. By establishing the links of deer movement during the months of March, April and May, you will be surprised how the local deer herd will relate to those same movements during the months of October, November and December; even despite the drastic decline in mineral use. The patterns of movement developed by doe family groups during the Summer months, will often be replicated by mature buck movement during the Fall, especially when those movements are in line with Fall cover and food enhancements.
Habitat improvements should always link together to create logical movement patterns across the land that you hunt, and the opportunity for the use of mineral stations should not be overlooked for linking your entire habitat and hunting plan together.
What are your favorite and most used deer mineral strategies? I personally recommend that the combination of "the entire package" of potential should not be overlooked, including the ability to establish patterns of deer use early, that will be later utilized during the hunting season. Do you want to grasp the possibiltiy that minerals can be used to improve herd health, sweeten a stand location or offer an outstanding location to inventory a Summer herd? Then make sure to place the minerals in a location that also links your habitat improvements together.
The answers may be many, but whichever set of deer mineral strategies you choose to employ, I don't think you can really go wrong if you consider the big picture of seasonal mineral use.