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Have you ever wondered why it’s nothing to see 5-7 whitetail bucks hanging out together all summer only for the velvet to come off and it seems like they all disappear? Or why you are getting trail camera pictures of a buck all season long but when the rut is over and the weather turns cold he turns into a ghost and is nowhere to be found? This blog post aims to answer these questions by explaining the factors that cause the whitetail deer home range to shift throughout the season.
Whitetail Deer Home Range: What is it?
The home range of a whitetail deer is the area that a deer will spend most of the time in throughout the year. During some parts of the year, a deer may venture outside of this core area, but typically only for a short period of time before returning.
Reasons for Seasonal Changes in a Whitetails Range
There are several factors that can cause shifts in a whitetails range throughout the season, with the most notable being changing food sources, time of year, and human / hunting pressure.
Food sources and the availability of food plays a large role in the home range and seasonal movements of whitetail deer. During the spring and summer months, food sources for whitetails are typically abundant. We often find deer hanging in and around agricultural fields and pastures with clover. Due to the abundance of food during this time of year whitetails typically don’t have to travel far which results in a smaller range.
On the other hand, during the late winter months, when the rut is over, the abundance of food sources decreases. By this time of year, the majority of the crops have been harvested and the vegetation on the ground starts to dwindle from the cold temperatures. This is often why the buck you have been chasing all season vanishes. During the winter part of the season deer will relocate to areas with the most amount of food.
Time of Year
The time of year also plays a role in the seasonal movements of whitetails. During the summer months, you will often find bucks in groups or “bachelor groups”. During this period of the year bucks seem to not mind each other and will spend the majority of the summer together on their bed to feed patterns.
In early September, when the bucks start to shed their velvet, they start gearing up for the breeding season. This causes the bachelor groups of bucks to bust up with each buck moving to its fall range. This fall range is often where they will spend the majority of their time during the fall unless they are ran off by a more dominant buck.
Once the rut gets into full swing, a whitetail buck can often travel several miles while cruising for a hot doe. In my experience, everything you think you know about a whitetail buck’s home range goes out the window due to the constant traveling of a buck on the hunt for a doe.
After the rut and the temperatures start getting cold, a bucks range will move back to the area that provides the best food sources.
Human / Hunting Pressure
Human pressure or hunting pressure can also drastically affect a whitetails home range, especially on public land that has high hunting pressure. Deer will relocate to areas where they feel the safest. For example, let’s say you are seeing a good buck on a piece of public ground consistently before the season opens but once season starts you don’t see him anymore. More than likely the increase in human intrusion has caused the buck to relocate to an area where people are not or an area that he feels safe in.
By understanding the factors that can affect the whitetails home range and variables that can cause movements throughout the range you can better prepare and plan for the hunting season. Just keep in mind what deer are typically doing during a specific time of year and the factors that influence deer behavior to increase your chances of success on your next hunt.