Pack on Antler Mass With Mineral/Vitamin Supplements

By Jon Cooner

There’s no question that when it comes to improving the quality of the deer we hunt, high-quality, high-protein food plots are among the most important nutritional tools. If you want to ensure that your deer have all the nutrition they need to maximize health and antler size, though, be sure you don’t overlook mineral/vitamin supplementation.

The benefits that Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein and Cutting Edge offer can be huge. Bucks, does and fawns need a host of macro and trace minerals in varying amounts throughout the year. Mineral/vitamin requirements are at their highest during spring and summer, when bucks are regrowing and does are in the later stages of pregnancy and, later, supplying milk to their newborn fawns. High levels of specific minerals in specific ratios are critical to these processes. Here, though, I’m going to discuss mineral/vitamin supplementation in the context of antler growth.


Antler size is determined by three things: genetics, age and nutrition. Genetics is basically the buck’s antler blueprint. The buck’s genes set the maximum size of the antlers he is capable of producing. If a buck’s antlers are not as large as they could be (as large as the buck’s genetic blueprint will allow), then the problem is not genetic.

Instead, it's a shortfall in either or both of the other two factors: age and/or nutrition. The age factor is pretty much fixed. A buck simply will not grow the biggest set of antlers his genetic blueprint will allow until he is about 5.5 to 6.5 years old. And because that rule is fixed, the way to maximize the benefit of the age factor is also straightforward: Try not to harvest bucks until they are mature.

When it comes to deer, nutrition is something that we can improve over what is usually available in the wild. The biggest nutritional players during spring and summer are protein, minerals and vitamins. Let’s look at minerals in the context of antler growth.


Antler growth is referred to as a secondary sex characteristic. That means that a buck will use available nutrition after winter to get his body back in shape before he devotes substantial nutritional resources to antler growth. When a buck starts regrowing his antlers in late winter or early spring, he starts by building the velvet antler, about 80 percent of which is protein.

When the hardening process starts later in the antler growing season, the buck begins to deposit minerals on the collagen matrix of the velvet antler, a process called mineralization. A fully mineralized (hardened) antler is about 45 percent protein and 55 percent minerals, so you can see how important minerals are. In most parts of North America, though, mineral availability is sufficient to keep a buck alive and for him to grow antlers, but rarely is it anywhere near the levels needed to grow the biggest antlers his genes will allow.

The entire antler-growing process takes place within approximately a 200-day period during spring and summer. The first time I stopped and really considered that — and that mineralization happens only during the final part of those 200 days — it made me wonder: Where does a buck get such a fast-flowing river of minerals? The answer to this question is crucial to understanding why supplementing mineral and vitamin availability during spring and summer can be so critical to boosting rack size. Bucks get the minerals they use to harden their antlers from two sources; not just directly from what they eat and by drawing them out of their own skeletal systems. And that means that if a buck is to devote all the minerals and vitamins he can to antler growth, he must ingest enough minerals not only to send them directly to his antlers but also to replenish those he draws from his skeleton.

In my case, understanding that specific point was perhaps the biggest key in unlocking my understanding of the full potential weight of the benefits Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein and Cutting Edge can offer to antler growth.


As I mentioned earlier, a fully mineralized antler is about 55 percent minerals. If you were to assay any hardened antler, no matter where in North America it came from, you’d find that it contains the same minerals in the same amounts and in the same ratios. For example, a hardened antler is comprised of about 22 percent calcium and about 11 percent phosphorous, a ratio of 2 to 1. And again, those percentages and that ratio will be consistent from one hardened antler to the next. The other 22% of minerals in the hardened antler consist of a lot of complex percentages of micro and macro minerals.


One mineral of which there is very little in a hardened antler is sodium, or salt. If you were to assay a hardened antler, you’d find that it contains less than one percent salt. In fact, salt does virtually nothing to promote antler size. Salt can be attractive to deer, though, and it is not uncommon to find holes that deer have dug in areas where salt, sodium or products with a high salt content, such as cattle blocks, have been put out.

The illusion is in assuming (incorrectly) that big holes in the ground also mean big antlers on a buck’s head. It doesn’t, if what the deer are seeking is all or mostly salt or sodium. A little salt is fine, though, as a flavoring agent for minerals that actually provide nutritional benefit, because some of them aren’t very tasty. That’s why Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein and Cutting Edge contain small amounts of salt as an attractant, as well as other scent and taste enhancers, including Devour, a proprietary attractant that can be addictive to deer. The key, though, is that these attractants are present in Whitetail Institute supplements only in sufficient amounts to get deer to take the nutritional minerals. That’s quite different from a product that is all or mostly salt or sodium, which the Institute believes is more of an attractant than a beneficial nutritional supplement.


The good news for consumers is that it’s very easy to be sure you are purchasing a true mineral/vitamin supplement for deer, and not just a glorified bag of salt with the picture of a big deer on the front. One way is to check the ingredient label on the package. The mineral/vitamin industry is highly regulated, and you can check the ingredients in any product sold as “deer mineral” by looking at the required ingredient tag on the back of the bag. Don’t try to duplicate the ingredient label on your own, though. Although the ingredient label will tell you what minerals and vitamins are in the product, it’s perhaps not the best way to ensure that you are buying a truly scientifically formulated product designed for the unique dietary and nutritional requirements of deer. Ingredient labels might tell you very little about source and quality of each ingredient, the exact make up of certain compounds in the product and other important things. And in extreme cases, improperly formulated mixes can even be toxic to deer.

You can see how important it is to use a scientifically formulated supplement such as Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein or Cutting Edge when you consider all the points we’ve discussed:

(a) Deer antlers are among the fastest growing animal tissues.

(b) A growing antler is comprised of 20 percent minerals and vitamins.

(c) A hardened antler is comprised of 55 percent minerals.

(d) During the antler-growing season, a buck must ingest enough of minerals not only to deposit directly onto his velvet antler but also to replenish what he has drawn from his own skeletal system.

(e) During the antler-growing season, the minerals a buck needs are very specific as to type, quality, form and ratios to one another, so any supplement should be scientifically formulated to meet the unique requirements of deer.


The easiest (and most foolproof) way to be sure the supplement you’re getting is truly scientifically formulated to deliver the results you’re looking for is to just stick with the most respected products available: Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein, and Cutting Edge.

The Whitetail Institute has done all the hard work for you. Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein and Cutting Edge supplements are truly scientifically formulated to meet the specific requirements deer. They contain the specific nutritional minerals and vitamins deer need to maximize health and rack size, and in the forms and component qualities that will best serve those needs. They are also heavily researched and tested to ensure high quality and exceptional attractiveness to deer.

Even if you have high-quality, high-protein Whitetail Institute food plots on your property, don’t overlook the importance of supplying your deer with Imperial 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein, and/or Cutting Edge if you really want to give your deer even more nutrition that can help them maximize their genetic potential. If you have any questions about 30-06, 30-06 Plus Protein, Cutting Edge, or any other Whitetail Institute product, call our in-house consultants toll-free from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday, at (800) 688-3030, ext. 2.