Can a Whitetail Buck Have Two Home Ranges?

sioux falls south dakota buckNinety-nine percent of bucks have a home range of a mile or so where they spend 95% of their time year-round. The boys venture out of their core areas once in a while, especially during the November rut, when they often leave for days or weeks on doe excursions. But they eventually come back home where they feel safe and comfortable.

Of course there is the rogue buck.

Researchers with Pennsylvania’s Deer-Forest Study monitored GPS-collared Buck 12783, which had 2 distinct home ranges.

buck home ranges

Source:Penn State College Agricultural Sciences

In the image above, his main home range is the eastern (right side) mass of blue. To the west is a “vacation home” that he used for 2 years.

The researchers believe that in June 2014, the buck took off on a 1.5-mile trek and found the western core range, which for whatever reason looked and felt good to him. He went back home (“to think about it” say the researchers) for a while. Then on October 22, he traveled back west to core area #2, where he stayed put for more than 3 months.

On February 1, 2015, Buck 12783 left his temporary pad and returned to his main home back east. In March he ventured back over to area #2 and looked around, but decided to go back home for the summer. The buck then returned to his vacation home on November 3, where he stayed until the first of December.

Throughout summer and fall 2016, Buck 12783 (now 4 years old) stayed home, perhaps for good. “I think he’s getting older and maybe outgrown the follies of his youth,” say the researchers.

How unusual was this buck’s behavior? Very. “It’s the only time we have ever seen a buck exhibit (more than one) home range,” the researchers said. “Typically bucks have a core home range that simply expands during the rut. Add Buck 12783 to the list of 1 Percenters– those rare adult deer that exhibit 2 distinct home range areas.

My theory: Had Buck 12783 figured out that core range #2 was a better place to find does to breed? The first year he moved over there on October 22 and the second year on November 3, just before most does would come into estrus. Did he find #2 a better sanctuary for eluding Pennsylvania’s army of hunters? Was is it a combination of doe availability and hiding? I think that’s quite possible.

We can never learn too much about the fascinating whitetail.


You Can Shoot a 20-Year-Old Whitetail Doe

matt ross old doeMost of us who shoot a 5- or 6-year-old doe with bow and arrow think we’ve done something, and we have. A doe that lives that long in the wild is crafty, one of the smartest deer in the woods.

Imagine a doe that lives 10 or 15 years longer yet!

This Instagram post from wildlife biologist @MattRossqdma caught my eye:

Camel Doe…throwback to the absolute oldest deer I will ever kill. September 18, 2002. She was easily in her late teens, if not older…my friends said she looked just like a camel. She tasted fine to me!

Matt went on to say that he based the New York doe’s age on his experience of having aged thousands of jawbones from the Northeast over the past 15 years, “including many that I have also gotten cementum annuli analysis on.”

“Plus, the overall appearance of the doe was pretty rough,” he noted. “Cataracts, both ears missing significant portions of the tips, etc.” She was skinny and boney, hence the camel look.

This begs the question: What is the lifespan of a whitetail doe? In captivity does have been documented to live 18 to 25 years (14 years for a buck).

What about the wild whitetails you hunt? Recent data from Pennsylvania confirms 3 does to have lived at least 13 years, maybe longer.

While I wouldn’t hold my breath, you could conceivably see an old, skinny doe that resembles a camel sneaking toward your stand this fall. That would be pretty cool.

Weird Whitetail: Deer with White Eyes

canadian white eye deer

A few years ago a Canadian hunter sent me this…

Mike: I thought this would be right up your alley since you like cool and unusual deer stuff. That is what makes your web page so great.

I harvested this buck outside of Dryden, Ontario. He had white eyes! His eyes where not fogged over with cataracts or anything, and I can assure you he was not blind. They were just white, devoid of color. His hide was not piebald, although it was a little lighter than some. But except for the eyes, the deer was normal looking and acted normal.

Have you or any of the blog readers ever seen this type of eye coloring on a deer? Thanks, Bryan

I’ve never seen a deer with white eyes, but I did a little research and here’s what I found out.

white eyed deer

The white-eyed deer was most likely suffering from what is known as “ocular albinism,” a melanin-related deficiency that affects some humans and animals. Melanin in the eyes is the agent that is responsible for most human and animal eyes being brown. A lack of melanin in the eyes, which this buck likely had, results in ocular albinism and the white eyes.

white eye deer mount use

Do Deer Feed On Dead Human Bodies?

deer eatingSuppose a hiker or a hunter gets lost in the woods, dies and is not found for months. Or some thug murders a guy and dumps the body in a remote area.

Sure, a fox, coyote, bear or vulture or other scavenger would pick the body. But would a deer eat the decaying remains too?

Sounds absurd, but…

From an Abstract published in the Journal of Forensic Science:

Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet.

Popular Science reports that in July 2014 scientists placed a human body in the woods of the 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in Texas and set up wildlife cameras near it. (One of the most intriguing things I learned from the POPSCI story is that there are facilities in the U.S. dedicated to studying the decay of donated human remains, and sometimes their work involves leaving corpses outside to rot in order to better understand what happens during and after decomposition.)

On 2 different days in January 2015 they got 2 different pictures of a young deer standing near the carcass with a rib bone “sticking out of its mouth like a cigar.” They can’t say for sure if it’s the same deer, but studying the cam images it looks like it to me.)

The images are the first documented evidence of a deer scavenging human bones, likely to get a taste of phosphorus, salt, and calcium.

The treasure trove of whitetail data that we continue to amass here on BIG DEER is amazing!

(Deer photo credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Georgia: 2 Big-Nose Bullwinkle Bucks

Here at Big Deer Blog we’ve become fascinated by whitetails with unusually big noses, and we’ve committed to building the biggest database of these unusual deer that have been shot across North America.

“Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered around 2005.  The few scientists who have examined deer with swollen snouts say the condition results from chronic inflammation of tissue in the nose, mouth and upper lip. All the cases studied by researchers have shown similar colonies of bacteria in the inflamed tissues.

How deer acquire Bullwinkle syndrome is unknown. The affliction doesn’t appear to be fatal to the deer, but there are many unknowns.

Bullwinkle syndrome is very rare.

We’ve documented big-nose bucks from Michigan to Minnesota to Alabama and other states. These are the first ones we’ve reported on from Georgia.

georgia big nose ty 2015

Via Twitter Ty Dickey sent me the info on this Bullwinkle he shot in Washington County, Georgia during the 2015 season:

We had pictures of him from ’13 and ’14. Bullwinkle’s snout was very pronounced originally, but once he got healthier (we started an intensive management program on the land) it wasn’t as noticeable. I started updating Lindsay Thomas at QDMA and Charlie Killmaster at Georgia DNR, and they asked if we’d allow the DNR to have the deer if harvested. We did so and it’s my understanding they determined there were no health issues with the deer except the snout.

Bullwinkle weighed 240 lbs. when harvested, and that was way down from pre-rut pics that year. He was aged at 5.5. He was the dominant buck on the property and visited every feeder regularly. We’ve seen no other issues with any other deer and the herd is extremely healthy.

Health-wise this is typical with the other big-nose deer we’ve reported on. Still, while the deer may act and look fine, except for the engorged snout, you should not eat the meat until more is known about this syndrome.

Come to find out, Ty’s buck was the second-known Bullwinkle ever shot in Georgia.  Luther Covington killed the third-known one in Irwin County, also in 2015.

georgia big nose luther

DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster saw this buck too and said, “This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease. It’s exceedingly rare.”

A necropsy was performed on Luther’s deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.

Like Ty’s deer, Luther’s buck was big-bodied and weighed more than 200 pounds.

Biologists know that Ty’s and Luther’s Bullwinkles were bucks, but it’s unclear what the sex of Georgia’s first big-nose deer was. Thus, it’s unclear if the disease will affect does as it does bucks.

The fact that scientists were able to examine both these big-nose Georgia bucks is excellent! On the off-chance you shoot one a doe or buck with a swollen snout, contact your state DNR immediately. Save the head for a biologist to examine so we can learn more about these rare and interesting deer.

If you or any one you know has shot a big-nose deer, or maybe has a trail-cam picture of one, let me know so I can add it to the database.