Now is time to build new mineral sites (or start recharging old ones) on your hunting land.
“Licks” are easy and relatively inexpensive to build and maintain, and they serve 2 purposes: 1) provide trace minerals and vitamins for all deer, from bucks growing new antlers to does getting ready to drop fawns; and 2) they are top spots for you set trail cameras and monitor growing antlers all summer as you prepare your 2018 game plan.
Scientists note that whitetails use mineral sites most heavily from late summer until the first frost next fall. From personal experience and observation here in Virginia, bucks start hitting minerals whenever we set them out in early spring through the first 2 weeks of August, when our camera images of mature bucks at licks begin to taper off.
How many mineral sites do you need? Research shows that one site for every 50 to 100 acres of hunting land is about right. We maintain 8 to 10 licks an 800-acre Virginia farm every year.
Locate mineral sites strategically across your property. Twenty to 30 yards back in the woods from the corners and edges of crop fields and food plots are good spots. Most of our licks are located close to main deer trails, where bucks can veer over to check them with minimal effort. Two of our best sites are near creek crossings back in the woods.
To build a site, clear a spot 4 to 6 feet in diameter (or larger if you like) and rake away the leaves and grass down to bare soil. It helps to break up and loosen the dirt with a shovel.
There are dozens of minerals formulated to attract deer and to provide vitamins for better deer health. We began using Imperial Whitetail .30-06 from Whitetail Institute last year with great success, and now use them exclusively.
Dump and scatter minerals into a lick. Whitetail Institute recommends you use at least 5 pounds in a new site.
We use 10 pounds to an entire 20-pound bag the first time we re-start an established mineral site in the spring, and then use half a bag in each lick after that. We refresh our sites every 3 weeks to a month throughout the summer.
Look for a good tree for a trail camera within 10 feet or so of every mineral site you create. Start running your cameras in June and watch the bucks’ antlers grow. By August you’ll have thousands of images of deer at licks, and a good inventory of the size and age class of bucks on your land.
Side note: It’s fun to watch how the most active mineral sites grow. As deer dig for minerals in the same sites year after year, the holes get bigger and deeper. I’ve seen licks deep enough to hide half a buck!
I end with this important note. Here in Virginia, using minerals is legal during spring and summer, but not permitted from September 1 through the end of hunting season. State laws vary, so check your game regulations.