Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 2): Buck Movements Tied to Personality

Buck Movement Patterns Linked to Personality

By: MSU™ Deer Lab

Most serious buck hunters have taken the effort to pattern a nice buck, only to be frustrated when they never saw him again in the original area. In Part 1 of Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, we explained that many adult bucks shift their area of use during the hunting season in response to several needs related to food and reproduction.  Here we take learning to an entire new level as we describe personality differences that explain some of the most bazar behaviors you may have experienced on your hunting grounds.

The MSU Deer Lab’s ongoing movement project is generating location estimates every three hours for up to 50 adult bucks each year across a large landscape dominated by forests and agriculture.  Graduate students Ashley Jones and Colby Henderson are just getting started with their analyses, but our preliminary results prove that you should NEVER say “always” and ALWAYS say “maybe” when it comes to predicting buck behavior.  However, there appears to be two general types of adult buck personalities that we can tie to general patterns of movement. About 60% of our adult bucks live in one general area or home range, and we call these “Sedentary Bucks.”  The other 40% of our adult bucks split their time between two or more areas or home ranges, and we call these “Mobile Bucks.”

Orange 300 and Orange 92 are both 3-year old bucks that exemplify the relatively sedentary movement pattern present in 60% of our collared bucks.  They live in a single general area, although they shift their movements across their hunting season home range in response to food resources and potential breeding opportunity. They also make short excursions outside of their normal home range, likely to evaluate potential new opportunities. Don’t take the term “sedentary” to suggest that they don’t move much – looking at the scale in this figure shows that each of these bucks’ hunting season home ranges cover a range of 3-4 miles!

Orange 100 and Orange 297 are three-year-old bucks that also shifted concentration areas within their hunting season home ranges, but the extent of their shift differentiates them from the Sedentary Buck Personality.  These two examples of the Mobile Buck Personality made significant movements between two home range areas separated by up to 7 miles.  Some Mobile Personalities make a single movement between their two home ranges while others make regular visits back and forth.

These extreme shifts in home range location explain why bucks patterned on one property may end up being harvested many miles away on another property.  Stay tuned for more valuable buck behavior insights as we continue to analyze data from this monumental adult buck movement project.

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