Mineral Sites for Deer | Utilizing Minerals for Your Deer Hunting Strategy
Most hunters think about using supplemental mineral sites for deer to simply provide minerals to their deer herd. Although the jury is still out on how beneficial mineral sites are for bucks when growing their antlers or to does when they are pregnant, one thing is for sure, deer use them. The simple fact that minerals can produce deer traffic to one location means that as a hunter, you would be smart to utilize that traffic to your advantage. Establishing mineral sites and setting trail cameras on those sites can allow you to gain valuable information about your deer herd and can provide insight on how deer are using a property. In turn, this data and the attraction of the mineral sites should be used in your deer hunting strategy to increase your ability to harvest a deer this fall.
When and Why to Put Out Mineral Sites
Deer behavior and pattern data is always valuable, anytime, anywhere on the property. However, mineral sites are used most during the spring and summer months. April and May are the best times to establish your mineral sites for deer. This allows plenty of time to get deer accustomed to the site before the spring green up and rains arrive. This timing is important as it correlates to the needs deer have during the spring and summer. Again, the actual minerals themselves are thought to increase herd health, but the main reason deer are utilizing these sites is for the salt. The video below explains this in more detail.
Why do we put out minerals for deer? This video discusses the science behind mineral sites and why deer are using them.
Deciding on Mineral Site Locations
In addition to providing sodium and some potentially limiting nutrients to your deer herd, one of the most common uses of supplemental mineral sites is to generate observational data of your deer herd through trail cameras. Selecting the best locations to establish mineral sites can help you maximize the data you get.
For example, it’s important to place mineral sites in areas that deer are already using. This is particularly important when you are first establishing a mineral site. Deer have to learn that the mineral site is there before they will use it consistently. Helping deer identify these sites can be as simple as establishing a mineral site close to a food plot or agricultural field. Another location to consider is to establish a mineral site along a travel corridor so deer can use it on their way from bedding to feeding. If you don’t plan on checking a camera or the mineral site itself very often, you may consider placing the site relatively closely to known bedding areas. This will reduce the area deer have to travel to use the site.
Photo Description: It’s important to place mineral sites in areas that deer are already using. This is particularly important when you are first establishing a mineral site. Deer have to learn that the mineral site is there before they will use it consistently.
After the mineral appears to be gone, there’s no need to relocate the mineral site. Simply place more mineral in that same location. Keeping the location of your supplemental mineral sites consistent will help you to better pattern how deer are moving on your property and will allow you to start putting together some pieces to the puzzle of how you can hang a tree stand to harvest a deer in the fall.
How Many Supplemental Sites Do You Need?
Now that you’ve picked out a few areas on your hunting property that you think would be great for supplemental mineral sites, you need to think about how many sites you actually need to establish. It is easy to think that more is better, but that isn’t necessarily the case in this situation. For instance, the more sites you establish on a property, the more options a deer has. This could translate into inconsistent use of any single mineral site, which will then make it more difficult for you to pattern how deer are using the sites and moving across the property. Another thing to consider is money. Although these supplemental minerals may not necessarily cost you an arm and a leg, nobody wants to spend more money than they have to. Making sure you have the right number of sites on a property will help you get the biggest bang for your buck.
So how many mineral sites do you need on a hunting property? A good rule of thumb is generally one mineral site per 100 acres. Depending on what part of the country you live in, an average home range of a buck is about 1000 acres and the average home range of a doe is about 600 acres. That means if you have a property smaller than that, deer are likely using your neighbor’s properties as well. Although putting mineral sites out on your property may help keep deer on your property the odds that any single deer is exclusively using your property is slim and putting multiple mineral sites within a 100-acre property is overkill; however, there are always exceptions to this. During the spring and summer, a bucks or bachelor group’s home range can be quite small and on encircle one or two bedding areas, a food source, and the route between them. With this in mind let’s say you hunt 100 acres that has significant terrain and habitat diversity. Let’s also assume you have two food plots or major food sources, two different sanctuaries, and two different hunting setups on opposite ends of the property. Splitting the property down the middle in terms of strategy and date might show that certain bucks or bachelor groups may have home ranges that only contain one side of the property. This means that you might want to consider establishing mineral sites in each food plot to allow you to draw in deer from neighboring properties while allowing for enough sites to reduce potential competition among deer. Each property is unique, and how deer utilize them continues to change each year so you may have to adjust the number of mineral sites you are establishing.
Photo Description: This hunting map shows a roughly 100-acre property with two distinct hunting areas. It also happens to show two different bucks and the extent of their know home ranges on the property. This means that both the location and density of mineral site is strategic for gathering data on the bucks. Locating two mineral sites around the two opposite food sources will generate observational data for the two different bucks.
Mineral Sites and Trail Cameras
Again, the obvious advantage to putting out minerals for deer includes pairing trail cameras with each site. Information like deer density, fawn recruitment (the number of fawns that survive to the fall), and establishing your hit list of bucks is all vital information that deer hunters who are serious about deer management. Besides generating the mentioned data above, they can also be used to pick up on key pattern behavior such as time, direction of travel, and weather and wind stats to accompany with that information.
Photo Description: The obvious advantage to putting out minerals for deer includes pairing trail cameras with each site.
Choosing your camera settings is important when placing trail cameras on mineral sites. You will often times have multiple deer using a single site for consecutive days, so choosing a setting that maximizes the number of pictures you will take may not be the best option. Doing this often leads to you spending much more time going through your photos and more battery life wasted. Taking a video or adjusting the camera to hybrid mode will result in showing how deer interact at these sites, but again depending on the length of the video, you may end up spending much more time going through videos than is needed. This can also help reveal those key behavior characteristics and make it easier to see direction of travel. If your camera doesn’t produce the best video try using a setting that allows you to take a single photo every two or three minutes. If you are a big fan of using a photo burst setting, delay the time in between taking pictures to five minutes or so as this is about the average time a deer might spend at the site. This will ensure that you will still capture most, if not all of the deer using the mineral site without having to go through as many photos.
Obviously using mineral sites for deer can help you pattern whitetails and provide them with nutrients that they may not be obtaining from their food. However, there are several things you need to consider before establishing mineral sites on your hunting property.
First, you need to look into your state's regulations because not every state allows the use of supplemental mineral sites. Some states consider using mineral sites to be the same as baiting and therefore deem their use as illegal. Other states may allow you to use mineral sites, but not hunt over them. If that’s the situation you find yourself in then there are things you can do so you can provide these mineral sites during the summer while still hunting those same areas in the fall. The biggest issue with mineral sites is the leaching of the mineral and sodium into the soil, which keeps deer coming back to that site even when the block is removed from the area. This is why many state agencies consider establishing mineral sites as baiting but if you can prevent the leaching then you will still be able to hunt that area. Preventing leaching really isn’t too hard. You can do things like placing a movable mineral stump in the area so you can place your mineral on the top of the stump instead of directly on the ground. Then you can easily remove the stump and remaining mineral once you’re ready to hunt. Another method you can use is placing the mineral into some type of shallow container to prevent the leaching. Avoid using any type of deep bucket, especially a bucket with a handle as a deer will likely get tangled up and walk away with the bucket over its head. Make sure the container is wide enough to withstand a heavy rainfall without overflowing. You can also place a piece of plywood under your removable stump or container and the plywood will further help prevent any leaching.
Photo Description: There are a number of ways you can prevent mineral and sodium leaching in mineral sites. Utilizing one of these tips can allow you to hunt an area without concern of baiting and still get plenty of summer trail camera data from a site.
Some states don’t allow the use of mineral sites because it causes an artificial congregation of deer in a small area. This can be disastrous for spreading diseases, particularly diseases like Bovine Tuberculosis or Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). For most diseases, spreading occurs when animals are swapping bodily fluids like saliva, feces, and urine with one another while at these sites. But diseases like CWD present new challenges. Recent research out of Wisconsin found the prions that cause CWD to be present at nine out of the eleven sites they sampled and once these prions are found in the soil, they can remain infectious for up to five years. Essentially, if you’re not careful then supplemental mineral sites can serve as disease transmission hot spots!
Although there are some negative consequences to establishing supplemental mineral sites, there are still several benefits. Mineral sites for deer can help you discover patterns and behaviors that can be used in hunting strategies come fall. Not to mention, their use can help serious deer managers obtain important information to monitor their deer herd.
The first step to fully utilizing your mineral sites, trail camera data, and hunting strategy together is mapping them out. Download the HuntStand hunting map app today and start forming your strategy!