Imperial 30-06 Antler Up D3 Science Improves an Already Legendary Product

 By Matt Harper

For those who have read any of my articles, you may know I am not inclined to clichés or over-used euphemisms. But there are a few undeniable truths that have stood the test of time. One such example is the old adage, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have used this tidbit of wisdom on many occasions, in particular with my wife. In our longstanding battle of her trying to “fix” me, I argue that I am not broken, so why fix me. Her reply: “Even if we say you’re not broken, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make you better.”

We all have our favorite products that we have patronized for years, and because we are happy with them, we like them just the way they are. Hunters and outdoorsman probably are more loyal to particular products than most demographics. A shotgun or rifle you have had for years remains your go-to weapon even though you have plenty to choose from in the gun safe. A knife that your uncle gave you when you were 15 never leaves your pack even though you’re now 45. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Call it nostalgic, superstitious, or old fashioned, but hunters tend to stick with what works for them. Sure, we may be tempted by the newest, sexiest broadhead on the market, but most gravitate back to what has worked for them year in and year out. The worst thing about this tendency is what do we do when our favorite product is changed? Stroll through any sporting goods store and when you get to the section that houses the deer mineral products you will find no shortage of choices. It seems like there is no end to the parade of new products that boast incredible claims and try to outdo each other with shiny graphic designs on the bags. But as you sift through all the clutter, you will likely find a bag and a name that has not changed for many years.

While the litany of new products comes and goes, the familiar blue-and-white and red-and-white bags are there year in and year out. Why has this product line not been swept aside by the avalanche of newcomers? Well, it’s simply because Imperial Whitetail 30-06 Mineral/Vitamin Supplement and 30-06 Plus Protein work and have outperformed their competition for more than 25 years. 30-06 Mineral was first introduced to the market more than 25 years ago, and like other Whitetail Institute products, was the first in its category. It was developed by nutritionists to meet the specific nutritional needs of whitetail deer, as opposed to other products that were designed for cattle or were glorified salt licks. So why would competition not follow Whitetail’s lead, especially since it has been proven that the mineral needs for cattle and deer differ drastically and that salt (in itself) does little to nothing for antler growth? The simple answer is that it was and is easier and cheaper to not do the research and just put their money into marketing to convince customers that their products are “special.” Even today, this is the approach most so called “deer mineral” products take. Some boast about the dozens of various minerals in their product, but if you look at the guaranteed analysis on the bag, you will see that many of them are 70 percent salt and some are more than 90 percent salt.

But, as with Imperial Whitetail Clover, the folks at Whitetail Institute put their money and effort into research and testing to develop a product that truly worked, and indeed, results have proven that it does work and works incredibly well. Over the last 25 years, millions of pounds of 30-06 Mineral has been used by hundreds of thousands of deer hunters and managers. The consistent results these customers have found are bigger-bodied deer, increased fawn growth and, yes, heavier and bigger antlers. This should not be surprising if you consider that 30-06 Mineral contains the needed minerals and vitamins that affect these growth characteristics. But it is not simply the fact that these nutrients are present in the product. The science runs much deeper. The sources where the nutrients are derived, the ratios of each nutrient in the formulation and total amounts of each nutrient all play critical roles in the success of 30-06 Mineral. But unlike other companies that will just tell you their product works, the Whitetail Institute lets its customers do the talking, backing up the claims with thousands of field trials and testimonials from customers across deer country.

More than 20 years ago, a sister product was introduced: 30-06 Plus Protein. At its core, 30-06 Plus Protein had the same mineral and vitamin formulation. The difference was that a 10 percent protein component was added, but the main purpose of the product remained to provide needed minerals and vitamins to the deer herd. Research showed that depending on factors such as a property’s soil type, nutritional availability, etc. that deer would gravitate to 30-06 Mineral or 30-06 Plus Protein with one or the other having a higher intake. Regardless of which product the deer preferred on a particular property, they were still receiving the vital minerals and vitamins needed for optimal growth and overall deer herd performance. Many users of 30-06 Mineral and 30-06 Plus Protein use them because they are outstanding nutritional products and others use them because they are incredible for attracting deer. Over the years, the 30-06 Mineral formulation has been updated to use new research finds, but in general, the highly successful product has remained primarily unchanged from its original design. But this year, 30-06 Mineral and Imperial 30-06 Plus Protein is unveiling its biggest formulation change since the original product introduction, and it’s called Antler Up D3.
Catchy name, but what does that really mean? First, the mineral formulation is not changing. It is the vitamin portion of the mix that is being changed, specifically, doubling the vitamin D3. You may be saying, “Vitamin D, why is that so important? All I ever read about is minerals.” It is true that the vitamin portion of a deer mineral is rarely mentioned with most of the press being given to minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. Indeed, minerals are extremely important, but so are vitamins, and properly formulated deer mineral/vitamin products such as 30-06 Mineral and 30-06 Plus Protein need appropriate levels of minerals and vitamins for maximum digestibility and functionality.

The next few paragraphs will delve a little deeper into the science of Vitamin D, and then I’ll write more in laymen’s terms. Since vitamin D is not very well known, we should begin by getting a bit more familiar with this nutrient. First, there is sometimes confusion with the often interchanged names of vitamin D and vitamin D3. The two common forms of vitamin D used in animal feeds are vitamin D2 (ergosterol or calciferol) and vitamin D3 (7-dehyrodrocholesterol). Vitamin D2 is not utilizable by all animal species. However, D3 is utilizable to all animal species so D3 is essentially the exclusive source of vitamin D found in almost all animal feeds and supplements. So when generally stated as vitamin D, the reality is that likely it is specifically vitamin D3. Vitamin D belongs to the fat-soluble vitamin family, meaning it is soluble in oils and fats but not in water like B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, thiamin etc.) which are classified as water soluble. The two most significant characteristics of the fat-soluble family is that fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body, and in the case of vitamin D, specifically the kidney. Second, water-soluble vitamins are produced by rumen micro-organisms, where fat-soluble vitamins are not, which is why fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E) should be supplemented to deer via deer mineral/vitamin products. Vitamin D is also an antioxidant, which means that it helps prevent oxidation and the subsequent creation of free radicals, which if not kept in check, can cause health issues. Therefore, vitamin D creates a positive immune response and helps maintain overall health. But none of these functions were the primary reason why the Whitetail Institute R&D department decided to double the vitamin D content in 30-06 Mineral and 30-06 Plus Protein. The change was made because vitamin D is critical for proper utilization of calcium and phosphorus. When vitamin D is ingested, it is converted in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, which is the main circulating form of vitamin D. This compound is then converted in the kidney to 1,25- (OH)2D3, which, in this active form, is involved with calcium and phosphorus functions.

Vitamin D functions to increase calcium and phosphorus plasma levels and specifically functions in the transport of calcium to target tissues. What does all of this mean? You have probably heard of the importance of calcium in terms of antler growth, doe lactation, fawn development and overall body growth. Calcium is the most prominent mineral found in antlers, and deficiencies have shown a result in low density (weak) antlers, less mass and less overall antler size. A doe’s milk is high in calcium and therefore requires high amounts of available calcium for optimal lactation. Calcium is critical for skeletal development and necessary for fawns to achieve maximum growth. In general, the higher amounts of calcium plasma levels mean more availability for this mineral to go toward antler growth, lactation and increased production rates. Vitamin D functions as a key calcium transporter and delivers this needed element to target tissues such as growing bone and antler. Theoretically, the higher the vitamin D in the deer’s system, the higher the calcium plasma level and transport capacity, which results in greater performance. But it is not just theory. Countless studies involving ruminant and non-ruminant animals have shown higher production results with higher Vitamin D levels in the diet including increased lactation, skeletal growth and overall body weight increases. In short, higher vitamin D levels means increased antler growth and improved overall deer herd growth and production. In other words, no matter the calcium level in the diet, without vitamin D, the benefit of the calcium cannot be realized. While it doesn’t make sense to fix something that isn’t broken, it does make sense to utilize research to make a great product even better.

That is exactly what the R&D department at the Whitetail Institute has done with Antler Up D3. Undoubtedly, Whitetail Institute could have left the product as it was and continued to produce great results. But that is not how the folks at the Whitetail Institute operate. And if Whitetail Institute researchers find a way to help deer hunters and managers improve their deer herd, they will unhesitatingly do so, which is evidenced by 30-06 Mineral and 30-06 Plus Protein with the new Antler Up D3. The science is unquestionable and the results will speak for themselves.