Several years ago I started taking vitamins quite simply because I don’t always eat right. Doing something as easy as popping a vitamin with a few other supplements each day helps ensure that my body gets the nutrition it needs even when I don’t always put the proper food stuffs in my mouth.
I do the same for the wildlife on my farm. I’m not going to leave it to chance that the soil in this valley has the proper minerals to allow the critters that roam on my land to grow big and strong. To ensure this happens, I create several artificial mineral licks on my land for the sole purpose of providing nutrition for the wildlife.
Before I move on with this topic I want to offer this disclaimer: Please check your local regulations to ensure that any of the techniques and ideas I am describing in this blog are legal in the area where you live and hunt. Hunting over mineral licks or salt is illegal in many states as it may be considered baiting. Ethics also dictate that you should not position an artificial salt or mineral lick as an aid to your hunting technique.
In Minnesota where I live, for instance, the regulations specifically state that “liquid scents, salt and minerals are not considered bait.”(page 64) Understand, however, that does not mean that I place the lick sites in such a position that my hunters will be juxtaposed with their deer stands to use such a site as an inducement for deer to come closer to the stand. Furthermore, studies have shown that mineral licks (unlike bait) are used primarily in the spring and summer seasons…and by fall the deer have their minds on other things. Still, if using minerals is legal on your property place the sites with some careful thought.
Most experts agree that on a piece of property like mine that is 160 acres in size you only need one site. Still, about five years ago I established four such sites scattered throughout my property so I maintain them each spring by freshening them up with some new granular mineral.
That leads me to the obvious next question of what to use. Honestly, I take the easy way out and just buy a couple bags of mineral salt with selenium from my local farm supply store. If your pockets are deeper than mine, you can certainly pay for the fancy mixtures that are said to be proportioned to proper ratios for what deer and other game need. Another idea is to concoct your own formula and go from there. Here’s a recipe you might want to use as a starting point.
The thing that most interests me is how heavily some of these lick sites get used. Note in the picture shown how the depression is 8 to 10 inches deep. No, in case you’re wondering I did not dig that out. The depression is from deer and wildlife pawing at the ground and literally eating the mineral enriched soil. In fact, some experts claim that deer would much prefer chewing on a small chunk of soil than licking on a block that seems unnatural.
The other problem with blocks can be disease transmission. A few years back the Minnesota DNR was actually recommending against sportsmen placing blocks out for deer to thwart the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). It probably isn’t a good idea for one deer to lick on something that moments later another deer would also likely be licking. Makes sense to me.
In the picture I’m also pointing out (with the arrow) that there now is a deer trail that comes from the thicket right to the mineral site. Water collects in this small basin and helps to leach the mineral into soil. Right now you will notice I dumped about 25 pounds of mineral on this site…but within about 4 weeks or so (depending on the frequency of rain) this mineral will completely dissolve and refresh the mineral site for another season.
For additional information on deer minerals and how others use them, take a look at these resources:
Like I said, providing a deer lick is one of the little things you can do to help improve the property in general where you hunt. I certainly do not advocate placing the licks in a nearby area where hunting takes place in the fall…but you must use your discretion and do what is right. Fact is, if they are not convenient for the deer and placed in fairly high traffic areas the sites will likely not get used for any great benefit to wildlife.
Now each morning when you take your vitamins you can only hope that the deer on your hunting grounds are also practicing good nutritional behavior. Maybe with a little luck and a very little effort, that big buck will have an even bigger rack come fall when he lands within your sights.
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.