The use of mineral licks on deer hunting properties has skyrocketed in recent years. Although some hunters place licks for the benefit of their herd, many use them solely as a means for acquiring trail camera photos in summer. Do mineral licks benefit the deer herd? Yes, but probably not to the extent that most hunters believe.
Two scientific studies on free-ranging whitetails shed some interesting light on this topic. The first study, conducted in Georgia, indicated that 85 percent of hunters believed the mineral licks they created on their properties helped increase the antler development and body sizes on deer on their land. They further believed that mineral licks were more important to the overall health of their herds than food plots and doe management.
The second study, conducted a year later, indicated that mineral licks did not appreciably increase the body weights or antler development of whitetails.
"This does not mean that mineral licks are not useful," said D&DH Field Editor Bob Zaiglin, a longtime certified wildlife biologist from Texas. "What it indicates is that mineral licks need to be used in conjunction with sound deer management practices that work in concert with each other."
Mineral supplementation, native habitat management, feeding through the use of food plots, maintaining adequate doe harvest efforts, and attempts to minimize the harvest of young bucks are all pieces of the overall puzzle. Quality deer management takes some pre-planning and hard work, but when done correctly it can reap huge rewards — as in larger bucks for you to hunt.