Do Deer Need Minerals During Winter?
January 31, 2022
Whitetail deer need a mineral supplement in winter to thrive. Learn why and which minerals deer should be supplemented with.
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 bucks or sitting in a stand in January, and herds 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 whitetails during winter months. So when is the best time to put out deer minerals? What are the advantages of refreshing sites early? Do deer need and eat minerals in the winter? Let’s explore what deer experience post hunting season and why supplementing in winter is great for herds 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. 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 whitetails—a time when they need more food resources to overcome physical losses, and the time of year with the fewest available.
How Do Deer Survive the Winter?
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 they combat winter’s scant forage and frigid conditions by:
- Growing a thicker winter coat 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 lessens the effects of winter stress and gives them a jumpstart on spring growth. Let's drill down on why.
Importance of Minerals for Deer
Whitetail 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 access to minerals can also benefit hunters.
This Texas Parks and Wildlife Department article explains that 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 existing habitat or through supplementing—is undisputed. And while spring green-up is when deer really amp up use of minerals, providing them in winter is also most definitely worthwhile. Here are some research-backed reasons why.
Deer Diet in Winter
It’s helpful to understand what’s going on physiologically with deer to understand why winter supplementing is 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 nutrients 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—particularly in calcium and phosphorus—it can delay antler growth. Let's explore why.
Early antler growth originates from nutrients received during the previous fall and winter. In fact, nearly 90 percent of calcium and phosphorus 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 “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 block in winter 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 offering balanced minerals during winter. It supports antler growth in bucks, fetal growth in does, and helps grow a healthier herd overall.
If you already have an established mineral site, pick up some supplements and hit refresh! If you’re new to mineral sites, check out this article for tips on how and where to set one up.
Best Minerals for Deer in Winter
Need balanced, quality minerals to recharge your site? We’ve got you covered. Redmond has three supplements to suit your herd's needs: solid Trophy Rock, crushed Four65, and Cherry/Apple Bomb attractant. Here’s how we recommend using the products:
- Stock Bomb from late summer to late December. It has palatable protein ingredients and nutrients that attract deer in the winter 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.
Redmond supplements are proven effective, mined in the USA, and contain 60+ natural trace minerals your herd needs for optimal growth and year-round health. Click below to visit our online store and pick up your deer minerals today!
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