Mineral Beds for the Health of Your Deer Herd
Minerals play an important part in deer antler production. A buck's antlers are about 50% organic matter, mostly proteins, but also contain abundant minerals, mostly calcium and phosphorus. If a buck's demands for these minerals are met on a daily basis, antler production can be significantly increased.
Three things affect antler size: age, genetics and nutrients. There is very little we can do about genetics. The age of a herd can be influenced by developing a QDM (quality deer management) program, but many hunters don’t have the patience it takes to see these through. So adding supplemental food and minerals is really all we have much control over as hunters. Deer hunting has become expensive and many hunters just want as much meat for their money as possible.
Minerals are just as important to a doe as to a buck. Does need the minerals to put back what is passed through their milk to their young. Through their milk they pass high amounts of calcium and phosphorus on to their young for bone development, through their milk. Phosphorus can’t be produced by a doe's body. Thus making these added minerals available is a great aid in the health of the deer herd. Bucks need minerals from May to September for antler growth, and does need minerals from Dec to July, for the development of their fawns.
Where to Put Mineral Beds and What to Put in Them
Good locations for mineral beds are near well traveled trails, near water or food sources, and even close to bedding areas. Make it easy for deer to locate the mineral beds.
We use a number of different recipes, trying to find what works best for deer in this area. We’ll put mineral beds in a few locations, dividing the property in sections. This is to give all the deer access to the mineral beds, because mature deer will keep other deer from their areas, forcing younger deer to look elsewhere.
Normally all beds we make are circles three to six feet across. We add minerals and mix them with the earth, then we water them, in soaking the entire bed.
One of our goals when providing these minerals is to find a balance between what’s best for the deer and what the deer are actually attracted to. For example deer crave salt (sodium), but it’s minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium that are better for health. What to look for is keeping salt/sodium in the 40-50% range, calcium in the 13-16% range, phosphorus 5-8%, and magnesium and potassium in the 0.5-1% range.
We use a variety of mixes in many places on the same property just to get a feel for which they prefer. If the deer won’t hit the mineral beds, it doesn’t matter how good the mix is for them.
Typical Mineral Bed
Mineral Bed Recipes
Here are some of the recipes we use.
Makes about 200lbs or enough for 5-8 beds(200-400acres)
- Ingredients: (available from local feed stores)
- 50 lbs Di-calcium phosphate: comes in 50lb bags, you need one
- 100 lbs trace mineral salt mix (loose kind, with no medications): comes in 50lb bags, you need 2
- Salt (ice cream salt, solar salt, rock salt: something that can be consumed by animals) - 50=lb bag, you need one
All together these should cost between $25-$35. Mix these as follows; one part Di-cal, two parts part Trace min, one part salt. You can mix them with coffee cans, buckets, or something else as long as you keep the parts equal. Make your beds as described in the above article and water them in.
Makes about 300lbs
- 50 lbs Di-calcium
- 50 lbs Hy Phos (green bag)
- 100 lbs trace mineral salt
- 50 lbs solar salt
- 50 lbs Stockade dried molasses (can be very hard to get, we’ve used liquid mixed with water before, when watering in the bed)
Use the same amounts and methods as the first recipe. Sometimes the molasses is needed to draw their attention.
Makes enough for one small mineral bed.
- 6 lbs salt
- 2 cups baking soda
- 11/2 cups baking powder
- 18 oz. molasses
- 20 500-mg potassium gluconate tablets
- 10 250-mg magnesium tablets
- 5 gallons boiling water
Mix together in the boiling water to dissolve the ingredients then make a mineral bed as you would with any other mix.
Labels From Mineral Mixes for Deer and Other Animals
Buying Minerals for Deer
We've found, from checking labels, that the general minerals you can buy for cattle, goats, sheep or other livestock have basically the same minerals as deer mixes except that cost is about half. The biggest difference is that salt content is higher in the general minerals. You can change this by adding a bucket of Di-calcium to a 50lb bag. If you use the general minerals there is a lot less mixing. Deer hunters are always looking for bigger racks and this is a great way to increase deer antler size and improve the overall health of your deer herd.
Bucks Quit Using Mineral Beds Once the Velvet Comes Off
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.