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Buck/doe home range

Old 11-07-2002, 03:24 AM
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Default Buck/doe home range

How big is the average home range of a deer? I know that during the rut, a buck may travel many miles/day. Have there been any studies that have monitored the size of a buck's territory?
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Old 11-07-2002, 04:33 AM
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Default RE: Buck/doe home range

You're going to make me look this up in my book, aren't you?

The annual home range of a whitetail consists of the area used by the individual throughout the year. Non-migratory deer may spend both the summer and winter on the same home range. However, migratory deer in the northern states or mountainous regions may have two or more widely separated home ranges used during different times of the year. Marchinton, Miller and other researchers have found that home ranges of whitetails are generally elongated in nature; from two to four times longer than they are wide. However, deer in open coniferous or agricultural habitat may have irregular or circular home ranges.

In general, one end of the home range consists of the “core area” and daytime bedding sites, often in a wooded area, where the deer spend most of the day. Again, in general, the other end of the home range consists of a feeding area, where the deer spend most of the night, and where they may bed at night. Buck home ranges may be from two to five times the size of doe ranges during the rut, but bucks often restrict their movements to a small core area during the winter, spring and summer.

Climate directly affects the length and use of deer home ranges. Deer in mild mid-west or southern climates may have home ranges no longer than two miles and they often have traditional core areas. Deer in colder northern open prairie or foothill habitat may have larger home ranges (up to 120+ miles in South Dakota) and are less likely to have traditional core areas. The size of the home range of a whitetail is dependent on the type and amount of food and cover, and the population density of the deer. Deer in prime mixed habitats with abundant food sources, and where there a numerous deer per square mile, generally have smaller home ranges (from 60-1000+ acres) than deer in open coniferous forest where food sources are low and widely scattered (up to 20+ square miles).

The home ranges of white-tailed deer are generally restricted in size by geography and by cover. Mountains, ridges, bluffs, rivers and ravines limit deer movement. The lack of cover in open prairies or agricultural areas restricts daytime deer movement and therefore usage by the deer. As a result of this whitetail home ranges are often restricted to preferred habitat in valleys or river drainage’s and the surrounding hills and woods, and in areas where the habitat is limited the home ranges of several deer often overlap. Both bucks and does may make excursions outside their home ranges, but they usually do so only to find a new home range, during the rut or to avoid predators and hunting pressure.

The deer herds in these preferred habitats are usually made up of a doe and her female offspring, and their female offspring, etc. As long as there is available habitat, and competition for home ranges is not intense, the young females usually remain in the area where they were born. With death from natural causes and hunting, there are often available home ranges for the young does to occupy. Young bucks, on the other hand, are often driven out of the area by their mothers during their first year. However, some bucks may stay on their mother's home range until their second year when they leave to find their own home range. These bucks usually end up with home ranges in less preferred habitat.

The type of habitat, the climate and the population density all affect the size of buck home ranges, especially during the rut. Buck home ranges are generally larger than doe home ranges, often two or more times the size of the local doe ranges, and the buck’s use of their home ranges varies by season. Bucks in mixed woodland/agricultural habitat in the mid-west may use home ranges from less than a thousand acres, to five or more square miles in size. During the summer adult bucks may use only a small portion of their home range. But, during the rut, adult buck home ranges often expand to include portions of several nearby doe and other buck home ranges.

Core Areas
Within the deer's home range is the core area, where the deer spends much of its time during the day. Because the core area is used during the day it generally provides security to the deer by being in heavy cover; by being in an inaccessible area such as a swamp or on steep hillside; by being in a remote location. The core area generally provides protection from the elements by being in heavy cover; by being on the downwind side of hills or woods. The core area often contains readily available food.

This is from my 1998 newsletter.

The researchers found that there were differences in the size of the home ranges of bucks and does (something most of us who hunt already know). The average home range of a buck was 1,576 acres, about three times the size of the doe ranges which averaged 502 acres. A closing statement of Brian Root, who was a student at the time of the study says, "Don't worry about deer moving into areas closed to hunting. Most deer will stay right where they've been all along." (This is exactly the kind of statement I am referring to. And what about those bucks [in an earlier part of the article] that shifted to the refuge?)

The second article refers to a study by Kurt VerCauteren on the Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska to determine the size of their home range. In this study the deer ranges averaged 400 acres, although they varied greatly in size. The article goes on to states that most transient deer tended to be yearlings that traveled 12-15 miles off their former home range. Some subadult does traveled 40-50 miles. It then states that old deer become almost invisible because they live in prime ranges where they don't have to move much to find what the need. (Sounds right to me.) Next the article says that, "VerCauteren verified what most hunters know, that whitetails respond to hunting pressure." (Hey, the other guy said they would stay right where they were.)

The Desoto Refuge is near the Missouri River, which separates Nebraska and Iowa. VerCauteren noted that when the hunting season opened in Nebraska some deer swam to Iowa; and when the Iowa season opened some deer swam to Nebraska. (In other words they left the area to avoid hunting pressure.) Once the hunting pressure let up most of the deer returned within two weeks. Those that stayed at home changed their habits too. Eight deer moved to a strip of posted land 60x100 yards and remained there until the season closed. (In other words they headed for a refuge.) The article then refers to Dr. Harry Jacobson who calculated that in the hardwood forests of Mississippi the average annual range of does was 1,820 acres, bucks 3,773 acres, with the largest at 5,500 acres. In the same article Dr. James Kroll is reported to have said that bucks in Alberta may occupy a 3,000 acre core area and travel circuits of 20-25 miles during the rut. (Hey, the other guy said bucks travel less during the rut, about 4 miles.)

The article goes on to say that a study by Thomas Baumeister found that in Idaho's Clearwater River drainage, whitetail deer (including bucks) had small summer ranges of 190 acres in the drainage's upper range. But, in October and November the deer migrated an average of 24 miles to their winter ranges. (He is not saying the deer moved in response to hunting pressure. Presumably the movement was in response to less forage, cold weather or deep snow. But it did happen during the hunting season.) Some of the deer stopped along the way while others traveled straight through. I guess this proves my point. 1. The results of one study in one area don't necessarily hold true for any other area. 2. Not all deer in the same area react the same. Males, especially older ones, are more wary than all other deer and will do almost anything to avoid Predatory Behavior, especially hunting.

These studies show that deer, especially older bucks (what most of us are looking for), will seek unhunted areas or refuges to avoid hunting pressure. If you've seen a big buck in the area but can't find him during the season he might have moved out or he may have become nocturnal. You have to try to figure out where he is or where he went, even though you know he is probably traveling at night. First you need to find the buck's bedding area. If he is coming out only at night you can either stalk him in the bedding area during the day (if you are good enough) or you can try to find his travel route as he leaves to feed or look for does. Then you can setup along the route to ambush him when he moves. You can also wait for the does to come into estrus and hope to see him acting stupid during the rut. For this to work you should know where the doe bedding, feeding and travel areas are. This is where the bucks will be looking for does once the rut is in full swing.

I hope that helps.

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Old 11-07-2002, 05:29 AM
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Default RE: Buck/doe home range

Thanks T.R. BTW, does you know how many acres a square mile is? I've been wondering this for some time...
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Old 11-07-2002, 06:07 AM
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Default RE: Buck/doe home range

1 mile = 640 acres.
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Old 11-07-2002, 09:42 AM
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Default RE: Buck/doe home range

I kept seeing a odd buck several years ago. at night mostly. someone killed him about 6 miles away as the crow flys. how many sq miles that is i don't know but it was a long haul IMO.i have always believed and found that they will roam along way.
tr you must be one of them there biologists?<img src=icon_smile_big.gif border=0 align=middle>

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Old 11-09-2002, 07:27 PM
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Default RE: Buck/doe home range

I don't have a degree, but I do a lot of research, both in-the-field and reading the papers of game biologists. To see graphs of my personal deer studies go to www.thehunterseye.com/trmichels and click on deer activity charts. I think you'll find the charts informative.

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