You’ll Often Bag Little Bucks at Green Fields
Researching How and Why Deer Move
Editor’s Note: If you saw your cousin, your brother, your sister, your uncle and your aunt get run over by an 18-wheeler every time one of them tried to cross a six-lane interstate, then you probably wouldn’t attempt to cross that interstate yourself. Just like you would learn not to play in traffic from observing what happened to your family on the interstate, older bucks with large racks and heavy body weights learned at an early age that if they went into a green field during hunting season in the daytime, more than likely they never would leave the green field. But most hunters plant green fields to grow bigger bucks and think they’ll bag them at the green fields. Here’s the reality – the mature bucks will become nocturnal first. Because younger bucks haven’t learned the danger that awaits them in the green fields, hunters who sit in shooting houses over green fields have noticed they generally take smaller, younger bucks than hunters do in stands 50- to 200-yards away from those green fields. Now scientific evidence proves the truth of this assumption.
Dr. Grant Woods of Reedsville, Missouri, one of the nation’s leading deer researchers, has studied the effects of hunting pressure on green fields. “We put GPS collars on bucks, does and fawns before the season started one year to study their movements on a 2,000-acre tract of land located in northeastern Alabama that homed better-than-average food plots,” Dr. Woods explains. “Family members and their friends had heavily hunted this land to try and remove a large segment of the unantlered deer population, but the land never had been commercially hunted.” The collars reported that the deer stayed on the food plots for quite some time, both during the day and at night, before hunting season began. As Dr. Woods recalls, “When we started putting hunting pressure on the green fields, we noticed that most of the deer, and especially the older bucks, totally avoided the fields during daylight hours. However, after dark, the deer would spend 50-plus percent of their time in the fields.”
From the observation of the lack of movement of the deer on the green fields at night, the scientists determined many of the deer actually bedded-down in the green fields after dark. To learn where the green field bucks went during daylight hours, Woods and his team used a Graphic Information System (GIS) to analyze the spatial data. This system drew concentric circles every 10-yards away from the green field into the woods. “We got a location every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day from each deer that was collared,” Woods reports. “Then, we looked at each of the rings to try and determine where the deer were spending most of their time during the daylight hours.” Researchers learned that on every food plot on the property, the deer spent most of their daylight hours 200 to 210 yards or more away from the green fields. Besides hunting pressure, Woods suggested that habitat also could play a key role in how far the deer stayed away from the green fields in the daytime.
Tomorrow: How Humans Affect Deer Movement