How to Pattern Buck Movement in the Rut

Posted: 10/21/2012 in Archery, Gable Sporting Goods, Hunting, Tips and Tricks, Whitetail Deer
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From Petersen’s Bowhunting

by Bob Humphrey • October 18, 2012

The rut. Mere mention of the term stirs the blood of any die-hard whitetail hunter. It’s a dynamic period when the woods come alive and even the cagiest mature bucks are out and about during daylight hours. The down side, we’ve all been told, is that predictability goes right out the window. Those local bucks you’ve been after all fall fan out across the landscape and it becomes more a matter of chance than preparation or scouting; or does it? Recent studies suggest that might not necessarily be the case.

Last October in this column, I discussed two different strategies bucks can employ to locate a mate. Levy walks or excursions are what we typically think of when we envision the rut. Bucks leave their core areas, traveling far and wide in search of a hot doe. And it’s an effective practice when estrous does are scarce. But how often is that actually the case?

Research indicates most states have a rut that is quite regular, occurring at roughly the same time every year. And considerable research shows it is fairly synchronous, with most does coming into estrus within a fairly narrow window of time. This is especially true of populations that are well balanced in terms of sex and age. So, in areas with moderate or high deer populations, finding a hot doe during the peak of the rut shouldn’t be all that difficult. In such cases, an alternate strategy called a Brownian walk, which involves revisiting the same areas frequently, should be more efficient.

The Latest Findings
Researchers at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in South Texas tested this hypothesis by capturing 106 adult bucks, fitting them with GPS collars and tracking their movements over a four-year period, recording locations every 15-20 minutes from late October through mid-February. They found that bucks did not wander widely during the peak of the rut. In fact, on average the bucks used only 30 percent of their home range.

Even more interesting, most bucks had two or more focal points – between 60 and 140 acres in size – within their home ranges that they re-visited frequently, about every 20-28 hours. Researchers also found the focal points of several individual bucks overlapped during the peak of the rut. Because does come into estrus for about 24 hours, researchers speculated bucks might be spacing their visits to assess female receptiveness.

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