Posts

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.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 1): Shifts in Buck Home Range Areas

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!