For his graduate research project at Auburn, deer researcher Clint McCoy tracked the movements of 37 GPS-collared bucks on a 6,400-acre hunting site with excellent habitat in South Carolina. Read the full story at QDMA.com; here are a few highlights with my observations:
Clint found average fall home range size for a buck was 350 acres. A buck’s age did not seem to play a role in how far he moved. “Our two smallest home ranges were yearling bucks at 60 and 90 acres. Our two largest home ranges of 754 and 640 acres were also yearling bucks.”
This seems to contradict some earlier studies which found that older bucks have the smallest home ranges of all bucks. But this finding in Clint’s study might be an anomaly. To me, it’s quite possible that the yearling bucks he tracked for 600-700 acres were going through the “drifter stage,” when juvenile bucks travel far and wide in search of a comfortable place they will call home for the rest of their lives. Several earlier deer studies have suggested young deer do that.
Clint found that more than age, a buck’s individual personality drives his movements. Some bucks tend to cover large acreage while others are content to stay closer to a home base. Clint points to two 4½-year-old bucks in his study: one had a home range of 521 acres, and the other only 108 acres.
This is a finding that confirms something I have been writing about for years—and something that many hunters fail to understand. Like people, all big bucks have different personalities. Some are bold and aggressive, and these are the ones that travel the farthest and show up the most times on trail cams. Other deer are more passive and secretive; they probably travel the least and are seen infrequently.
The more you understand the personality of the buck you are hunting, the more you can get in his head and try to predict how much and when he’ll move…and the better chance you’ll get him.
To me, the determining factor here is the high-quality habitat of the South Carolina study area, which is actively managed for wildlife and timber production. Some 300 acres of food plots are planted on the property each year. On an area like this, bucks don’t need to move far to find food, cover and does in the rut, hence the average home range size of only 300 acres.
If you did a similar study on 6,000 acres of wild, rough habitat with little or no agriculture or food plots, the home range size of all bucks would likely be larger, but probably still under 800 acres, as other studies have found.