You’ve seen the ads: Take this vitamin-and-mineral supplement and you can jump higher, run faster, lift more weight and do all the things you could do 20 years ago. A lot of people believe the pitch, which helps to explain why the vitamin business is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Now the same sort of sales ploy is being applied to the antler-crazy world of deer hunting. A number of companies are selling mineral supplements in licking blocks or granular formulas advertised to aid antler development and help bucks achieve their maximum growth potential. The question is, do they work?
Although mineral marketers profess confidence in their products, wildlife biologists aren’t as positive when it comes to measuring the short-term benefits. Lee Stribling, associate professor of wildlife at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife, cautions hunters not to rely solely on minerals. “We know that a lot of people think mineral supplements are great,” says Stribling, who has specialized in deer management for more than 25 years. “So what we tell folks is that if they want to try them, go ahead, but only after doing the things that we know work.”
What Really Works
Allowing bucks to reach a mature age and providing them with protein during their formative years is the best way to ensure maximum antler development, Stribling believes. His experience has shown him that deer require an average daily intake of 17 to 20 percent crude protein year-round to reach optimum growth. If you live in an area where corn, soybeans, hay crops and grains flourish, chances are deer are getting an adequate supply of protein; otherwise, supplemental plantings of clover, field peas and the like are in order.
Because of genetic deficiencies, some bucks won’t grow a good rack at any point in their lives, even if they’re fed a steady diet of protein and minerals.
“But,” says Stribling, “relying on mineral blocks over protein to improve antler development is like buying the paint for a barn before you buy the building materials to make it. “