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Improve your hunting by understanding whitetail home ranges

Posted on February 12, 2013

Tony PetersonRecently released results from an ongoing whitetail study in Washington State have shown that certain deer seem to travel much farther than most hunters would suspect. The long-distance champion thus far amongst the transmitter-fitted whitetails is a doe that traveled over 20 miles to reach her wintering ground.

Studies on deer home ranges are fascinating. Depending upon geographic location and what seems to be simple deer preference, some whitetails willingly travel over 20 miles to reach winter or summer ranges.I’m fascinated by studies on whitetail home ranges and while it’s hard to draw too many comparisons between Washington State deer and those found in the Midwest and East, it’s still an eye-opener to see scientific proof of deer behavior.

I have to imagine that, even though the bulk of similar midwestern research points to home ranges of at most a few thousand acres, that these transitions between seasonal ranges explains some of the mysteries surrounding deer hunting. Think about how often you’ve watched a buck all summer only to have him completely disappear during the fall hunting season? He might have laid low and avoided detection, or he simply might have caught a whiff of impending fall on a cool late-summer evening and decided it was time to relocate to his fall range.

Ditto for the buck that shows up in late-December and drops an unfamiliar set of antlers in your food plots. It’s common to think he must have been there all fall, but perhaps not. Even a few thousand acres covers several sections, and for most of us a deer that moves even half of a mile is largely out of play as far as hunting is concerned. Although that may sound discouraging, keep your fingers crossed that the empty spot created from a mature buck vacating the area will quickly be filled by a new deer. Perhaps, a bigger one...