A Few Licks Now For Bigger Smiles This Fall

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:

Article in Progressive Farming
Article on ESPN

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.

The Great Feral Cat Debate

Today in counties throughout Wisconsin there is a debate that will help shape the future of the feral cat in the Badger State.   On this blog we’ve previously discussed briefly the feral cat predicament facing the outdoors in many states.   But in Wisconsin, unlike in Minnesota where a “ditch cougar” is fair game…the laws need to be changed on the books so these critters can be removed to prevent their marauding ways in the outdoors.

The devastation caused by a feral or house cat gone wild is well documented by many sources.   Unfortunately, these cats become so adept at killing that their impact on song birds as well as game birds is noticeable and hard to defend.

Still, I find it somewhat odd how this big debate is going on in Wisconsin over something that in Minnesota we often take for granted.   Fact is, in Minnesota if we are hunting and come across a collarless cat it gives us every reason to make it a dead cat.

However, in Wisconsin it is not that simple.   Seems Wisconsin has a system where the Wisconsin Conservation Congress meets and takes a vote on issues that get recommended to the DNR for rule or legislative action.   Tonight, there is expected to be lots of emotion flowing as cat-lovers likely will show their support for the feline killers.   On the opposite side, sportsmen are also passionate about having the right to kill the cats by having them removed from the protected animal lists.

What this all comes down to is wildlife management at its best.   When populations get out of hand nature needs to either take its course or mankind needs to play his/her part in controlling the species that otherwise does not get controlled.   In this case, the feral cat has few enemies to keep populations in check…but lots of opportunity to wreak havoc on the environment.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see what happens in Wisconsin after this evening.   This is a debate that has been in the national spotlight ever since it was first proposed several weeks ago.   In fact, the issue has fueled the passions of both sides who feel strongly the cats should either be left alone or controlled by any means available.

So often we as sportsman find ourselves in a position of having to reduce numbers on one species of animal for the betterment of many others.   It’s hard to understand why the bleeding hearts can’t see that killing one cat will allow many other creatures to live and thrive.   But no, when it comes to mankind intervening in some way to make this happen…we become the murderers and the inhumane.

For my money, the folks who are truly inhumane are the ones who would stand in the way of seeing the feral cat de-listed to unprotected status in Wisconsin.   These cats are not "fluffy" who gets their food from a Whiskers cannister served in a crystal dish.   Nope, these are cruel kittys that have long since lost any domesticated connections to a farm or home.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Wild Turkey Seeks Up-town Metrosexual Lifestyle

Yesterday’s Minneapolis StarTribune contained a story of how a wild turkey has taken to city life in downtown Minneapolis.   To most, it was a curious sight watching a turkey check out life in one of our nation’s more populated cities.   Still, it made me wonder how a turkey seemingly gone astray could get ink in a big city newspaper by only mentioning the unusual sighting.

Instead, the StarTribune missed the opportunity to have at least dedicated a few lines of copy explaining to a largely urban populous how the wild turkey is truly a conservation success story.   Fifty years ago such a sighting would have been unusual and reportable in any woodlot within the borders of Minnesota.   But not today.   No, today wild turkeys are so commonplace that in some areas a sighting of a pheasant rooster is probably more rare than seeing a flock of turkeys.

Next week begins the first of Minnesota’s several turkey hunting seasons where permits are available only on a lottery system.   If permits go unclaimed, as many permits apparently do in some areas, then in some instances permits can be obtained over the counter.

Could it be that the turkey in this story has an unusual sense of self-preservation and that it came to downtown Minneapolis to seek refuge for next week’s hunting season?   Who knows, I doubt that is the case, but when wild turkeys are expanding their range so aggressively that they are now appearing in heart of Minnesota’s largest city…it can only mean good things are happening all over our state with this species…and such seems to be the case.

I only wish that sportsmen would get more credit for these sightings and other good deeds where non-hunters, alike, receive some satisfaction through their viewing.   Indeed, a wild turkey causing a commotion through downtown Minneapolis can be directly linked to the sportsman and our conservation practices…but don’t expect a liberal newspaper such as the S’Trib to ever give us any credit.   To do so would break a long-standing tradition of only reporting the negative when it relates to our state’s unheralded conservationists.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.