Salt Licks for Deer

From Dean: Many people are putting out salt blocks, or in some cases water softener salt, for deer (for bucks growing antlers and does getting ready to lactate). I've always been taught that too much sodium can harm the digestive process of deer and at the very least can cause them to drink so much water that it can replace nutrients. Any way you can hit up one of your biologist colleagues to get a straight answer?

Dr. Grant Woods is a friend who produces a fantastic web video series on managing whitetails at He responds: 
I never worry about deer consuming too much salt.  Most critters, including deer, need a lot of salt for their bodies to function properly. I’m not aware of any cases of free-ranging deer consuming too much salt. That would be hard to monitor, but with all the salt available from cattle licks, gas and oil drilling, etc., there are gads of salt available in many areas, yet no reports of deer suffering from ingesting too much of it.  

I am concerned about some sources of salt that folks make available to deer. Salt marketed for different purposes often has additives to make it flow better, bleached to make it a certain color, etc. It is certainly possible that these additives could be detrimental to deer and other wildlife. Therefore, I only use feed-grade salt. I personally use Trophy Rock, which has 60+ trace minerals.

Deer only need small quantities of trace minerals to express their full fawn and antler growth potential, but without some minerals included in their diet, they simply can’t express their full genetic potential. When supplying salt to deer, use a product that is food grade quality and has as many different trace minerals as practical. Growing Deer together, Grant

Great info. Any of you put out salt/minerals? comment


David in NC's Gravatar I don't worry about deer getting too much of anything. Physiologically, if their body needs it, they will crave it and seek it out. If they don't, they will stop eating it. Deer don't eat too much corn or too much beans in farm country. Even though they could, they usually supplement their diet with the needed amount of browse and forage.

Salt/minerals is a delicate balancing act. I have tried at least a dozen different types/varieties including mixing my own, but on our property the deer just don't hit it very hard. Most of the time it dissolves by rain action and works into the soil with only minor use by the deer. Too much minerals and it will be bitter and they won't eat it, too much salt, and you aren't getting the benefit of the minerals. Add to that the multiple controlled studies that show that deer don't grow bigger antlers when given minerals. All you really can accomplish is to give deer a little bit of salt and trace minerals to round out their needs and benefit fawn production. But, you know on years when I didn't put anything out, the deer did just fine :)
# Posted By David in NC | 3/24/11 10:20 AM
java's Gravatar is it legal to put out these licks in every state? what about when hunting season comes, are
they illegal then? this has always confused me
# Posted By java | 3/24/11 10:46 AM
Rodger's Gravatar Never had deer use it to any extent. It usually just melts away. Unlike humans, when deer eat something they eat just enough of what they need and don't over indulge.
# Posted By Rodger | 3/24/11 11:00 AM
Tom's Gravatar We use a mix of agiculture salt and trace minerals that seems to do a good job. Its a nice way to get a idea of the number of deer (game cameras) that are hanging around your hunting area. Seems to work best for us in spring and early summer and then deer seem to lose interest in late summer and fall. Just curious if anyone has a mixture that has worked well for them. Always interested in trying something new.
Tom in Wisconsin
# Posted By Tom | 3/24/11 11:05 AM
Matt's Gravatar In a high traffic part of a field edge, I put out 2 parts salt/1 part trace mineral salt/1 part di-calcium phosphate...or a salt block will last longer, but doesn't have the nutrients. That mix contains everything that goes into the pricier, pre-mixed blends marketed to deer hunters. They say it's most critical to put it out in march or april for optimum fawn/antler development. I like putting it out then to get them used to the spot. Then, come early july, camera use will capture every deer using your property. They don't really hit the salt too much once the shed their velvet, but it's really a useful tool from July through early September.

I still can't get over the fact that the deer eat the dirt. I know they say it's harmless and actually good for them, but I still feel a little guilty playing a part in causing deer to eat dirt.
# Posted By Matt | 3/24/11 11:41 AM
Scott from MI's Gravatar Been using Trophy Rocks & Lucky Buck for years. Have seen some improvement in rack size too.
# Posted By Scott from MI | 3/24/11 11:55 AM
Hanback's Gravatar fantastic info coming in here on this topic as usual,thanks guys
# Posted By Hanback | 3/24/11 12:05 PM
Dean Weimer's Gravatar Just got in from ocean fishing today. We caught a bunch of sea trout and drank plenty of beer. I do know this...You CAN get too much salt and sun at the same time. It leads to burned skin and stinging skin. I did also catch one legal king mackeral as well. Havin' a ball down here in the sunshine state.

As far as salt and deer? It seems there are two (at least) schools of thought on the subject. I've heard it both ways. Some biologist seem to agree that too much can harm the digestive process, but others (Dr. Woods and others) disagree. I guess I will still continue to use minerals with a low sodium content. Thanks Mike and Dr. Woods.
# Posted By Dean Weimer | 3/24/11 6:22 PM
Jeff B's Gravatar I have used many salt/mineral products. I have really seen no evidence that it increases rack size. That being said, it really works well for getting trail cam pictures. For that purpose, trophy rocks work very well for us.
# Posted By Jeff B | 3/24/11 11:30 PM
Hanback's Gravatar I think that's right, the mission with salt/minerals should be to put some out not for bigger
racks per se, but so it makes the deer (doe, fawn, buck) overall a little healtheir
# Posted By Hanback | 3/25/11 9:25 AM
mdt's Gravatar How much sodium is in a bucks antlers?
# Posted By mdt | 3/26/11 11:58 PM
Deer Stalker's Gravatar I use them regularly and see all deer use them and wild boar as well. Trophies and average weight also improved.
# Posted By Deer Stalker | 7/30/12 9:05 AM
Janet's Gravatar My husband put out a salt lick at the edge of our property, hoping to see the deer use it, but they have hardly touched it. Is there something else we should be doing? We see the deer and they walk by the salt, I have only seen a deer lick it once.
# Posted By Janet | 2/24/13 10:52 AM