Here in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil (a famous groundhog weatherman, for those not from PA) predicted an early spring. It’s hard to believe spring may be just around the corner, considering the recent 8 degree temperatures. Regardless of how soon or late spring may arrive, it’s never too early to start putting out mineral stations.
Hunters and land managers use minerals stations and attractants for many reasons. As most know, the majority of mineral and attractants contain salt, which is highly attractive to deer. This makes mineral stations a great place to hang game cameras to help inventory your deer herd. Camera surveys are also a great way to determine your buck to doe ratio, fawn recruitment and overall herd health. Mineral for many is an important part of the QDM (Quality Deer Management) plan, as a way to support the overall health of the deer herd—particularly in the harsh winter months. I can’t say whether mineral stations help increase antler size, however it would stand to reason that healthy deer/bucks would at minimum have a better opportunity to reach their full potential.
Creating Mineral Station
Fortunately, creating and maintaining a few mineral stations is relatively easy work and is one of the more wallet-friendly projects to undertake. There are many companies making quality mineral blends. I’ve personally found success with Whitetail Institute and Ani-logic mineral. Or you can head to your local feed and farm supply store, or co-op, and create your own mix. This year I’ve decided to make my own whitetail mineral blend to get more bang for my buck (Whitetail Mineral Recipe). With this recipe, I can make 6 times as much of my own blend for the cost of brand mineral. Either way, once you’ve selected a mineral, you’re own your way to promoting herd health and filling camera cards.
First, you’ll need to select a location. Your mineral station location should be strategically located. Just like hanging a tree stand, you’ll want to place your mineral station in heavily traveled areas, near bedding, in thick brush where deer will feel safe, and near food plots and water sources. These are surefire areas to get quality game camera pictures and insure heavy usage of the mineral station.
Now that you’ve selected your location, it’s time to break ground through a simple process. Using a shovel, you’ll want to dig a hole no more than a few inches deep and about 6-12 inches in diameter. To make it even easier, you can take a rake and just loosen the topsoil. Once you’ve broken ground, apply your mineral (I’ll usually use about 10-20 lbs. per station). You can add extra attractants if you’d like, but I find it’s not necessary. Once you have the mineral on the ground, dump a little water from a water bottle onto the mineral. It’s not necessary, but it will help the mineral begin to leech into the ground, expediting the establishment of the station.
This time of year is a great time to begin your mineral stations, as whitetail food is often scarce during the winter months. This can have a great impact on the health of your deer herd and is also a great way to attract neighboring deer, giving them a reason call your property home if they’re finding the nutrition and safety they seek while visiting.
Here’s a video showing how to quickly you can make an effective mineral station.
Mineral Station Maintenance
Now that you’ve established your mineral stations, you should begin to see deer activity pretty quickly. If you’ve selected the right location you could see activity within the first 24 hours. This quick effectiveness is great, but you’ll need to follow a few steps to keep the attraction high and hopefully peak the interest of the mature bucks on your property.
For starters, you’ll need to keep the site fresh. Letting the mineral station sit too long without replenishing the mineral will decrease attraction. Some of the mineral and salt will leach into the ground and deer will paw at the dirt, but for full whitetail allure, you’ll want to perform regular site maintenance. I typically try to freshen my sites once every month. To freshen the site, follow the same basic steps outlined above for creating the site; dump the mineral in the existing site and rake it in with the soil.
When checking and maintaining mineral stations, be sure to follow the same low impact and scent control tactics you employ during hunting season. There is nothing worse than educating whitetail of your presence in areas they deem safe. This may be of less consequence now during the winter months with hunting many months away, however, I suggest visiting your mineral stations at midday to avoid unwanted human/whitetail contact. Wear rubber boots and scent controlled clothing and spray down with the scent eliminator of your choice.
With your mineral stations firmly established in great locations, you’ll be able to gather an abundance of camera information about the whitetail herd using your property. This information is helpful for hunters who take an active role in stewarding their land and enhancing the health of their deer herd. Not to mention, you should find your camera cards filled with velvet bucks come summer.