Deer Research: How Bucks Travel

buck compressed

Ran across a fascinating whitetail study conducted in Oklahoma.

Researchers fitted bucks with GPS collars and monitored their movements using a technique called “fractal dimension,” which describes the complexity (crisscross paths) and linearity (more straight lines) of the travels used by deer at various times of the season.

OK rut moves

The scientists found that in early fall (and again later in the post-rut), bucks stick to relatively small core areas and have complex, localized mazes of movement, which are the result of many short-distance trips during which the deer frequently circle, backtrack and change directions as they move from feed to bed (above left).

But come the seeking days of the rut–beginning in late October and running through mid-November–many of those same bucks show less confined, longer and more linear movements (above right). The researchers surmised that by traveling longer distances in straighter lines during the rut, bucks maximize their chances of coming into contact with estrous does.

So what does this mean for the hunter? Here’s how I interpret it.

During early bow season, when bucks move less in more confined habitats, scout for rubs and the most heavily used trails on a ridge or in a creek/river bottom. Based on the fresh sign you find, hang a few stands and hunt high-interaction spots that bucks seem to frequent most.

Around Halloween, as begin to lengthen their daily movements and roam more in daylight hours, expand your hunt area, too. Spread out, scout and hang some more stands in likely ambush spots back in the woods. Then sit in those stands every day for a week or longer. You’ll see deer big and small, including some bucks you’ve never seen or gotten pictures of before.

Hunt all day, or as many hours as you can hack it in a tree stand. You never know what time a shooter will show. It couldn’t hurt to lay a doe scent trail into your post; a buck moving on a long, linear travel pattern might cut it and come in. Also, grunt and/or rattle periodically throughout the day in hopes of contacting one of those vagabond bucks and reeling him your way.

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