© By Othmar Vohringer
While deer only need small amounts of minerals for full antler development having no minerals, or not enough, will result in in less antler growth than what genetically might be possible. Minerals are not just important for antler growth but also for the overall health and development of deer, lactating does and growing fawns in particular.
How to establish a deer mineral lick?
Practically you can put minerals anywhere and deer will eventually find it. However, to maximise the benefits for you and the deer it is best to place minerals where deer frequent. Look for topographical structures such as deer crossings, field and woodland corners, creek bottoms, ridges and saddles that are away from view of people or vehicle traffic. Find the secluded places that provide deer with a measure of security.
Although it is legal here in British Columbia to bait deer I do not use mineral licks for baiting deer. Just as I never place a stand directly over a food source or food plot.
Because I want deer to feel safe on the lick or food source and keep returning to it regularly. Putting up a stand direct at the lick or food source will eventually make deer suspicious, resulting in deer abandoning it altogether. Also, it can be quite difficult to kill a deer at the lick or food source, especially for bowhunters, as deer constantly move around. I hunt the traveling deer. With that said, I place licks in such a way that it funnels the traveling deer past my stand location.
A lick can also be used to redirect deer traffic. Let me explain what I mean with a situation I faced last year. I hunted an area consisting of a large wide open field bordered on one side by thick brush and the road on the other side. Several trails went from the field into the brush but there was no predicting what particular trail the deer would use at any given time. Set up over one trail and deer move one of the other trails. Change stand locations to the trail the deer used and they would use the trail you sat over the day before. The brush is so thick you can’t see more than a few feet inside it. My solution to the problem? Redirect deer traffic by making a deer lick. I placed two mineral salt blocks inside the woodland on the thicket edge where the brush thins out. Checking the mineral lick in late winter I noticed that the deer established a large well used trail leading from the thicket to the mineral lick.
I recharged the lick with new mineral salt blocks early this year and the deer still hitting it strong. Come summer, around July, I will hang a stand on the new trail between the thicket and the mineral lick, refresh the lick again and leave the area alone until September, the beginning of the fall archery season.
Preparing a deer lick station.
When you found a good spot to establish a deer mineral lick don’t just dump the minerals in a pile on the ground. If there’s a rotten tree stump on the spot hollow it out and then pour mineral granulates into it. If there’s no tree stump clear a spot of about 5 to 8 feet in diameter down to bare soil. Spread lightly and evenly with mineral granulates. Check back in intervals of about one month and replenish minerals as needed.
If you use mineral blocks, as I do, clear a spot down to the soil and place the mineral block in the middle of it. To give the lick a quick start, or as an additional attractant, you can spread a few handful of grain or chopped apples around the mineral block. Unlike mineral granulates there’s no need to check mineral blocks frequently. The mineral blocks I put out in late winter last year still were in good shape this spring, unlike the mineral granulates I used for another lick station that were completely gone. Refreshing mineral licks for several seasons will saturate the soil to the point where deer will begin to eat the soil too, making it a traditional lick that deer and other wildlife will return to every day for many years. Hanging a trail camera near the mineral lick will have the benefit that you can check what deer and other wildlife visit and on what time of day. Cameras also let you keep taps on the antler growth of the bucks.
Give mineral licks a try this season, it’s an affordable way to help the deer getting important minerals and if placed correctly can improve your hunting success rate too.