Win the Antler Growth Lottery With Help of Whitetail Institute Mineral and Nutritional Supplements

By Jon Cooner

I’m not a betting man, at least as far as lotteries go. The reason is simple: Lottery odds are ridiculously long, and it makes little sense to risk my hard-earned money in a system that’s set up so I have almost no chance to win. In the same way, antler size is also largely a gamble if left entirely to Mother Nature, because most areas don’t offer enough high nutrition food for bucks to grow the biggest antlers they can. The antler-growth game, though, is one I play, because I can stack the odds in my favor. And the way I do it is with the help of Whitetail Institute mineral and nutritional supplements.

It’s no secret that protein is important during spring and summer, not only for antler growth but also for doe pregnancy, lactation and overall herd health. Even so, we commonly refer to spring and summer as the “antler-growing season.” Generally, bucks need about 16 to 18 percent protein in their diets to grow the biggest racks they can. Protein is most important for antler growth during the first part of spring and summer, when bucks are growing velvet antlers, the underlying framework of the hardened antlers they’ll carry in fall. Generally, a buck’s velvet antler is about 80 percent protein. As summer progresses, bucks harden their antlers by depositing minerals on the velvet matrix until the antlers are solid bone that’s about 55 percent minerals. Mother Nature provides enough protein and minerals for deer to grow antlers but rarely, if ever, enough to reach their genetic potential. That’s why hunters who want to maximize antler growth provide deer with mineral and nutritional supplements. Now don’t get me wrong. I mean no disrespect to Mother Nature or the nutrition she offers, which is usually enough for bucks to grow antlers. Rather, I’m acknowledging and thanking her for her investment, and then investing a little on my own to help improve antler growth, doe lactation and overall herd health.

What is a Mineral or Nutritional Supplement? You might think the answer is obvious. When you dig deeper, though, you’ll find that marketing and cost sometimes play heavy roles, as sellers push the limits of what they can get away with. In the most general sense, a mineral or nutritional supplement is anything that provides additional nutrition. That’s a pretty broad definition, considering that a product that provides any nutritional benefit, even comparatively little, meets that definition. Consider cattle minerals, for example. They can be of some nutritional benefit to deer. Even so, they’re made for an animal that doesn’t have to grow new antlers every year. Another example is products marketed as nutritional supplements for deer that are really just glorified bags of salt. Sure, salt can be attractive to deer during spring and summer. They’ll often dig holes in the ground to get it, but don’t equate holes in the ground with bigger antlers, because there’s little correlation. You can see that when you consider that a hardened antler is less than one percent salt. That’s why you shouldn’t rely on a product’s name to tell you whether it’s a nutritional supplement built for deer. It pays to do some research before buying. The Whitetail Institute’s definition of a nutritional supplement is much more conservative: A nutritional supplement is anything that provides additional nutrition and that is scientifically formulated for the unique nutrient and dietary needs of a specific type of animal. Whoa, the definition just got harder to meet — a lot harder. But if met, it means the nutritional supplement can fully benefit the animal for which it is designed. And that’s why Whitetail Institute mineral and nutritional supplements are so painstakingly researched and developed specifically for deer.

Ingredient Labels: What They Can Tell You: The good news is that any product sold in the United States as a nutritional supplement for deer must carry an ingredient label on the package that tells you what nutrients are in the product. That’s a great way to spot products sold as deer nutritional supplements that are mostly salt. Even in the best mineral supplements, you’ll find some salt, because the nutrients that actually benefit deer aren’t all tasty, and salt is a common taste enhancer that can help attract deer.

And What They Can’t: Beyond that, though, the ingredient label won’t tell you much of what you need to know to be sure a supplement will do what you want. For example, as important as it is to have the right nutritional components in a supplement, it’s equally important to make sure the components are in the optimum forms and ratios for the animals. The label won’t tell you much about component forms. That’s why the safest bet in the supplement game is to buy from a company with a proven track record, such as the Whitetail Institute.

Whitetail Institute Mineral and Nutritional Supplements The Whitetail Institute offers a broad range of mineral and nutritional supplements for deer. They have certain things in common. First, they’re scientifically formulated for the unique nutritional and dietary needs of deer. They’re also extremely attractive because of components such as scent and taste enhancers, including Whitetail Institute Devour, which can be addictive to deer. In fact, Whitetail Institute mineral and nutritional supplements are so attractive to deer that some states consider them bait, so consult your local game laws before hunting on or near any Whitetail Institute supplement site. Beyond that, Whitetail Institute supplements can be generally divided into groups by the time of year for which each is targeted (spring, summer, fall, winter) and your intended delivery system (trough feeders, gravity feeders, or granular or block for ground sites).

Spring and Summer 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein Mineral/Vitamin Supplements: 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein Mineral/Vitamin Supplements are professionally formulated, high-quality mineral and vitamin supplements that deliver essential macro and trace minerals, as well as vitamins A, D and E for a healthy herd and to help bucks reach more of their genetic antler growth potential. 30-06 Plus Protein also contains a 10 percent protein boost. 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein are granular supplements best suited to ground-based lick sites, and they’re easy to use. Just rake or shovel an area two to three feet in diameter, and mix with the soil. 30-06 is also available in block form. The 30-06 Mineral Block weighs 25 pounds and comes pre-scored so you can use it in one spot or easily break it into four 6.25-pound blocks for use at multiple sites.

Cutting Edge Optimize: Cutting Edge is a year-round full nutritional supplement system that consists of three products, each for a specific part of the year. Cutting Edge Optimize is formulated for the needs of deer during spring and summer and should be used from about mid-April through August. Optimize contains minerals, vitamins and a 16 percent protein boost to help improve antler growth, boost milk production, and benefit doe pregnancy and fawn development. Optimize can be delivered in covered trough feeders or directly on the ground, straight or mixed with soybeans or corn.

Fall Cutting Edge Sustain: Sustain is the next product in the Cutting Edge line, and it’s designed for the changing needs of deer and the stress fall and winter brings. It should be used from about September through December. The rut, cold weather and scarcity of food combine to make fall and winter tough on deer. Bucks can lose up to 25- 30 percent of their body weight, and pregnant does can also be negatively affected by the scarcity of food. Sustain is formulated to provide deer with a concentrated source of energy to help build fat reserves, as well as protein, vitamins and minerals to help them stay healthy during fall and winter and help reduce winter weight loss. Sustain can be delivered in covered trough feeders or directly on the ground, straight or mixed with soybeans or corn. Sustain also contains a buffering agent so it can be mixed with corn without the negative acidic effects of corn on deer digestion.

Late Winter to Early Spring Cutting Edge Initiate: In late winter to early spring, bucks are beginning to re-grow their antlers, and does are entering the third trimester of pregnancy. Both require lots of protein and energy during this period, but vegetation hasn’t begun to produce lush new growth yet in most parts of North America. Cutting Edge Initiate is designed with protein, energy, minerals and vitamins deer need from late winter through spring green-up to help bucks recover some of their winter weight losses and let them direct more nutrients toward antler development earlier. Approximate dates to use Initiate are January through mid-April. Initiate can be delivered in covered trough feeders or directly on the ground, straight or mixed with soybeans or corn. Initiate contains a buffering agent so it can be mixed with corn without the negative acidic effects of corn on deer digestion.

Which One to Choose?

September through December: Cutting Edge Sustain.

January through Mid-April: Cutting Edge Initiate.

Mid-April through August: 30-06, 30-06 Block, 30-06 Plus Protein, and/or Cutting Edge Optimize. They differ to varying degrees in taste, scent and texture. That makes it a safe bet that your deer will prefer at least one, if not all. But how do you know which one? The Whitetail Institute has made that decision easy: All you have to do is let your deer tell you. The Whitetail Institute offers supplement sampler packs that let you try a little of each. The most effective way to use the sampler is to locate a spot along a trail between a bedding area and feeding area, clear off a site for each sample a few yards apart and then put them out side-by-side. Then, check the site periodically, and you’ll likely be able to tell quickly if they have a preference. For more information about Whitetail Institute supplements and sampler packs, visit, or call the Whitetail Institute at (800) 688-3030.