Adult Buck Movement Study | Shifting Buck Home Ranges
By: MSU™ Deer Lab
Most serious buck hunters have located a nice buck prior to or early in the hunting season and invested time and effort trying to bring him home. Many of these same hunters have experienced the frustration of never seeing him again in the original area and wondered why. Did he move because of your scouting and hunting efforts or was the shift in the buck’s home range part of normal buck behavior? Well, the MSU Deer Lab’s ongoing adult buck movement project is generating buck location estimates across a large landscape. Graduate students Ashley Jones and Colby Henderson are just getting started with their analyses, but our preliminary results show the cause of your frustration when it comes to shifting buck home ranges.
Look at the movements of a 3-year old buck (Orange 92) during the 2017-18 hunting season and you’ll notice a distinct shift in areas of concentrated activity across the hunting season. Each dot is a location estimate sampled at three-hour intervals and color-coded by month to illustrate changes in home range use across the hunting season.
Orange 92’s October locations (red dots) have nothing in common with his January locations (blue dots). Examining the November (orange dots) and December (green dots) locations shows that his home range shift was a graduate transition that took place over two months. This pattern is present in many of our collared adult bucks. A closer look also shows two important and common movement behaviors associated with the rut, which peaks during late December and early January on this study area. First, are the excursions or short-term movements outside of his normal home range during November, as he likely seeks out an opportunity to breed an estrus doe. Second, note the greatly expanded movements during December and January as he moves more widely and regularly in search of does in estrus and expands his home range to double that of pre-rut. He evens takes a short return trip down into the lower portion that he used extensively during October.
Adult bucks are creatures of habit but thank goodness for our sport, predicting their locations with accuracy is difficult. Future updates will expand on our new knowledge of how buck movements can actually be classified into personality traits!