September 13, 2013
New Research on Deer Movement - 2
by The Editors
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) convention never fails to provide attendees—and the whitetail-hunting world—with cutting-edge research information on America’s No. 1 game animal. This past June’s gathering did not fail to deliver.
One especially intriguing seminar was delivered by the QDMA’s Matt Ross and entitled “Mature Buck Movements: Groundbreaking Research.” In it, Ross compiled all the GPS-based whitetail research from the past 15 years to draw conclusions on home ranges and daily movements of bucks between the ages of 2.5 and 7.5 years old. Here’s some of what we found to be the most fascinating:
1. Bucks Are Individuals
Every buck is different. Numerous studies have shown that a buck’s home range size is highly variable and is not strongly correlated to age, daily movements or any number of other factors. Mature bucks are not clones of one another, and many display more individualistic behavior than what was previously thought. We can no longer say, “The older a buck gets the bigger his home range.” That is simply not true. In fact, if anything their home range shrinks as they age. Like people, it appears that some bucks tend to be homebodies and have relatively small home ranges, and some bucks are travelers with expansive home ranges. Some are on their feet and move a lot during a 24-hour period, and some don’t. These traits are found in all age classes and are maintained by the individual buck throughout his life.
2. Deer Move Most at Dawn and Dusk—End of Story
Like taxes and death, you can count on two things when talking about mature bucks: they move most at dawn and dusk, and during the rut. Deer are crepuscular. It’s built into their DNA. It doesn’t matter what month of the year you are talking about, pretty much every study out there shows that the time of day bucks are most active is at sunrise and sunset. Can you kill a mature buck during the middle of the day? Sure. But if you want to hedge your bet, be in a stand during those magic hours. And the time of year they are most active is...? You guessed it, the breeding season. Keep these things in mind when trying to predict when that buck you’re after will be on his feet.
3. Home Range Can Shift and grow Seasonally with Outside Influences
Even though a mature buck lives within what biologists call a “home range,” where he is located 90 to 95 percent of the time during the calendar year, researchers have found that a variety of factors (food, cover, etc.) can greatly influence where that buck may be within that home range during different seasons, and his home range likely expands during the rut. They also found that the intensity of use of that home range increases from summer into fall, and apparently it is not random. Research from Texas recently showed that mature bucks only used 30 percent of their home range during the rut, had two or more points of activity that they focused on, and they re-visited these locations roughly every 20 to 28 hours. What’s more, these same sites were targeted by numerous other collared bucks, possibly supporting the theory that bucks space their visits to doe groups to continually assess female receptiveness.