When I ask deer researchers what GPS-collar studies are telling them about mature-buck movement the first thing they all tell me is “mature bucks are individuals.” No deer hunter who has tried to pattern more than one mature buck would dispute that, but this answer bothers me, as it insinuates there are no concrete answers. So I push the deer biologists for more and they say things like: “Well, on deeper analysis we can fit many bucks into different personality profiles; when you know a buck’s personality type you can better predict its movement … .”
“Ahh,” I say and know right away I shouldn’t have. Deer biologists, you see, prefer to equivocate. If they suspect you’re boxing them into a conclusion they start hedging and mentioning exceptions as they squirm like politicians who don’t want to confirm or deny what they did with an intern. After a little more prodding, a few deer researchers explain that when they speak at hunting clubs and outdoor shows they find they must begin such discussions by first deflating popularly held buck myths. Before setting trail cameras and scouting later this summer and fall, they say deer hunters need an update on what we now know not to be true about mature buck behavior.
Myth No. 1: A Buck’s Home Range Grows with Dominance
Myth No. 2: The Moon is a Big Factor in Buck Movement
Also, sometimes the areas bucks use actually shrink during the rut. Ross notes that research from a Texas study recently showed that mature bucks used only 30 percent of their home range during the rut. The bucks “had two or more points of activity that they focused on and they re-visited these locations roughly every 20 to 28 hours,” said Ross. Bucks seem to be spacing their visits to doe groups as they periodically assess how close the does are to breeding.
Myth No. 3: Mature Bucks Disappear in The Fall Because They Go Nocturnal
Many studies indicate that bucks are less likely to leave or change their core areas as they get older. Ross says, “Every project I looked at that estimated a buck’s core area (where he spends at least 50 percent of his time) showed that mature bucks really only use 5 to 10 percent of their home range for core-area activities.” He also found that most of the buck’s core areas were between 60 and 85 acres. This is good news for people who hunt small properties, as they can create small sanctuaries that can hold a mature buck during daylight.
GPS-collar research has also shown that bucks go on excursions outside their home ranges. They’ll do this even when they live on properties with high-quality habitat. There is no way to predict when a buck will go on a walkabout, but they do so more often during the rut. This is another reason to hunt in natural bottlenecks bucks will use as they travel to check does in different areas of cover.
Myth No. 4: Weather is Paramount
Myth No. 5: Bucks Leave the Country When the Shooting Starts