Do Deer Need Minerals During Winter?
Hunting season has wound down and winter is howling at the door. It’s time to put your gear away… then get back in the woods and start stocking your mineral sites. Why, you might ask? You’re not attracting deer or sitting in a stand at the end of December, and deer won’t hit minerals hard till spring.
Many hunters who wait for March to recharge sites don’t understand the benefits of keeping minerals in front of deer during winter months. So, what are the advantages of refreshing sites early? Do deer need minerals during winter? Let’s explore what deer experience post hunting season and why a winter mineral site is great for deer and hunters.
Winter Stress in Whitetails
Wintertime brings the highest rate of natural mortality in adult bucks. The woods are blanketed in snow, preferred food sources are buried or gone, and many deer are just trying to hang on till spring. January through March is especially hard on whitetails. Food scarcity and freezing temperatures following on the heels of the rut and months of hunting pressure create a powerful one-two punch of stress and deprivation. It’s a tough time for deer—a time when they need more resources to overcome physical losses, and the time of year with the fewest available.
How Do Deer Combat Winter Conditions?
While winter is the most difficult season for deer, they don’t battle the elements unarmed. They’re naturally equipped to weather the challenges hurled by Mother Nature. This Tufts University article notes deer combat winter’s scant forage and frigid conditions by:
- Growing a thicker undercoat and darker, longer guard hairs which absorb more sunlight and trap more body heat.
- Retaining more fat in layers, increasing protection from the cold.
- Hunkering down and moving less, helping them save energy and require less food.
- Seeking sheltered areas that provide wind resistance and cover to rest and eat.
- Foraging woody browse, stems, grasses, nuts, remnants from agricultural crops and food plots, and leftover fruits where available.
Hunters and conservationists also have the power to arm deer with another wintertime tool: a viable mineral site. Supplementing quality minerals lessens the effects of winter stress and gives deer a jumpstart on spring growth. Let’s drill down on why.
Importance of Deer Minerals
Deer need minerals for everything—digestion, reproduction, fetal growth, body and antler growth, and nearly every other physiological function. (Learn more about the importance of deer minerals here.) But providing deer access to minerals can also benefit hunters. This Texas Parks and Wildlife Department article explains that deer mineral supplementation:
- Promotes trophy-class animals at an earlier age.
- Lowers post-rut mortality in bucks.
- Enables deer to reach their genetic potential.
- Fosters more quality deer in a given area.
- And smooths out “boom or bust” population cycles.
The necessity of minerals—whether obtained through a deer’s existing habitat or through supplementation—is undisputed. And while spring green-up is when deer really amp up their use, maintaining a mineral site in winter is also most definitely worthwhile. Here are some research-backed reasons why.
Why a Winter Deer Mineral Site is a Good Idea
It’s helpful to understand what’s going on physiologically with deer to understand why winter mineral sites are important. Here are a few functions minerals assist does and bucks with during winter months.
Doe Winter Mineral Needs
Most does head into winter with a baby (or two) on the way. That means they require additional minerals to support gestation and, eventually, lactation. Keeping your does healthy and providing necessary minerals during pregnancy (late fall through spring) helps them sustain newly conceived fawns and helps you ultimately grow a healthier herd.
Buck Winter Mineral Needs
Bucks head into winter run down from the rut and depleted of energy, protein, and mineral reserves. If a buck enters early spring still low on minerals—particularly calcium and phosphorus—it can delay antler growth. Here’s why.
Early antler growth originates from nutrients received during the previous fall and winter. In fact, nearly 90 percent of calcium and phosphorous in a buck’s body is banked in the skeletal system. Around March their bodies then transfer those minerals from the bones to begin growing antlers. If a buck doesn’t have sufficient minerals stored, antler growth is stunted until he consumes enough minerals through diet.
This National Deer Association article noted, “Clearly minerals are important in antler development,” and “mineral supplementation prior to and during antler growth may be beneficial.”
The same article explains while calcium and phosphorus are the most plentiful minerals found in whitetails’ antlers, studies also found lesser amounts of potassium, barium, iron, aluminum, zinc, strontium and manganese.
So, putting out a wintertime block or natural Redmond Trophy Rock with a broad spectrum of balanced minerals is a great way to jumpstart antler growth and ensure bucks have the nutrients needed to grow a healthy rack come spring.
You now know the importance and benefits of maintaining a winter mineral site for deer. Supplying them with balanced minerals supports antler growth in bucks, fetal growth in does, and helps grow a healthier herd overall.
If you already have an established site, pick up some deer minerals and hit refresh! If you’re new to mineral sites, check out this article for tips on how and where to set one up.
Redmond Hunt Supplements
Need balanced, quality deer minerals to recharge your site? We’ve got you covered. Redmond has three supplements to suit your herd’s needs: solid Trophy Rock, Four65 crushed minerals, and Cherry/Apple Bomb attractant. Here’s how we recommend using the products at your winter mineral site:
- Stock Bomb from late summer to late December. It has palatable protein ingredients and natural minerals that attract deer and help them recover from the rut. Learn how to use Bomb in this blog.
- Switch to a solid Trophy Rock around January 1. Elevate your rock to keep it out of the snow and help it stay more accessible to deer. Find out here what to expect when using Trophy Rock.
Our deer mineral supplements are proven effective, mined in the USA, and contain 60+ natural trace minerals your herd needs for optimal growth and health year-round. Click below to visit our online store and pick up your winter minerals today!
- North American Whitetail: “What Deer Eat and When”
- National Deer Association: “Minerals for Whitetails”
- University of Missouri Extension: “Nutritional Requirements of White-Tailed Deer in Missouri”
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