FREE-RANGE DEER NUTRITION
We have all seen the overwhelming amount of marketing attempts by mineral and bait companies.... The truth is... most of it is all garbage. It's like marketing the McChicken as a healthy supplement. As much as I appreciate a solid entree from McDonalds, I know it's not the best for me. Deer don't use logic and knowledge like humans, so what do they do? They tend to go for a mix of what tastes good and what their body craves or needs. Yet, hundreds, if not thousands, of bait/mineral/feed mixes have been designed and marketed to you, pulling at your desire to help your deer and increase your herd's genetic potential... I'm sorry to burst that bubble if it hasn't been burst already... it's just not the case.
Free-range whitetails browse for their food. Here in Iowa, the deer have countless sources of nutritional food from corn to soybeans to grasses and pasture plants. That's excluding the browse that they love as well. High-fence/farm-raised deer don't have that usually. What do they have? A supplemental feeding routine setup by their owner/farmer/manager/vet. To make a deer's rack grow larger than it's naturally suppose to, you'd have to provide a strict and consistent diet of certain minerals and vitamins on a daily if not multi-daily schedule. Can you do that with a whitetail in the wild with a trophy rock type supplement or a pile of salt and minerals? No... They'll hit it a 2-3 times per week in brief and continue on their browsing routine.
I will tell you that all quality mineral that you can get your deer to take in is valuable. Consider it a daily vitamin for the deer. You'll never be able to truly influence the growth of his rack though with your mineral/supp/feed. Do you think Arnold did what he did on just a daily vitamin? No, but would it be helpful nonetheless? Sure, most definitely. So what should you do for your deer if you are in the Midwest where there's already good soil, no baiting in season, yet mineral/bait is allowed out-of-season? Run mineral in the spring/summer and feed in the late winter.
I am going to try and get a guy that I know with a huge background in biology and chemistry get on here and do a post regarding this topic. He actually produced a lineup of feed, supplements, and mineral, and it is the only stuff I'll ever put out for my deer. I actually buy it... no special partnership deals or anything. I believe in the product, the science behind it, and the results that I've seen in southern Iowa are truly remarkable.
RACKOLOGY, LLC - A small-business out of Nebraska formed by an agronomist and a scientist that is not designed to do anything but make the deer healthier. The attraction that does come, comes because of the richness quality and not fillers and salt. I use their mineral concentrate when I can and their Brassica Blend food plots. Here's a big buck on Rackology mineral. This buck was featured in a section of North American Whitetail talking about summer trail cameras.
If you put the mineral out too early, your deer will create a crater in the earth that will be impossible to remove and difficult to cover. I recommend putting it out in April or May, and then cameras out in June or July. Mineral will not be touch by deer after late August, but you should still remove it or cover it if you're in Iowa (to be safe and be acceptable to the DNR's standards). From then on, once the mineral is not touched by the deer anymore as their food sources start changing as we approach the fall months, food plots need to be the key... and that's where Rackology's Brassica Blend come into play. I do not fence them off, but that means I need to plant enough to feed the deer into late October and early November, a task much easier said than done. I will never fence off a plot if I don't absolutely have to.
So, whether it be mineral, supplements, feed, bait, or food plots, don't listen to the plays by brands saying theirs is the best with making antlers bigger or that their's is the best. Get the stuff that your deer NEED. That's what we do. It works moderately well. That's my two cents on this topic.
P.S. - I knew a guy who mixed in CreteMix into molasses and protein pellets.... I don't know if it negatively affected the deer, but it was the strangest thing I've ever seen. I don't recommend such. FYI