John's Journal...


The Lie About Does

Editor’s Note: Hunters always have believed that they can find the most and the biggest bucks during the rut. However, can they locate rutting bucks easily? Where's the most-likely place to discover bucks during the rut? We've talked with some of the nation's most well-known deer hunters who hunt as many if not more days during deer season in several states than any other hunters I know. They particularly enjoy hunting during the rut. The information gathered from each of these master deer hunters will help you better determine where to pinpoint bucks during the rut on the lands you hunt this season.

Dr. Grant Wood of Reeds Spring, Missouri, a well-known wildlife biologist and one of the creators of Mossy Oak's BioLogic, loves to study and hunt deer. Here, in his own words, Dr. Wood explains where deer go during the rut. Hunters often have the misconception about not harvesting does that, 'If my neighbor has a lot of does on his property, and I keep my number of does small on the property that I hunt, then when the bucks go in the rut, they'll all go to his property,'" Dr. Wood says. "However, the studies done that have followed bucks wearing GPS collars show the inaccuracy of this idea of bucks leaving their home ranges with low doe numbers and moving to another property with Hunting in the rut can help you get big buckshigh doe numbers. Deer tend not to want to leave their homes and search for new ones. Deer are very loyal to their home range. Evidence indicates that once a deer sets up his home range, he really doesn't know or care what's outside that home range. The deer's world isn't like our world. His world consists of his home range, and then within his home range is his core area -- the place where he feels very secure and has plenty of food and water. He interacts socially with other deer in his expanded home range that's still within his home range.

"For instance to relate this idea to humans, your core area may be your home and your neighborhood, but within your home range you'll also have the grocery store, the doctor, your church, the mall, the pizza parlor and other places that you often frequent. Deer and people are different because humans go outside their home ranges for vacations, to visit relatives who move out of state, to go to war and for many other reasons. Deer don't go on vacations, and if they do go to war with other deer, they do that within their home ranges. I define the home range of a deer as, 'everywhere a deer goes within a year's time.' Early studies done years ago about a deer's home range were only conducted during a two- or a three-month time frame. That's the basis for some of the misconceptions of the size of a deer's home range today. If we define a human's home range as only the places a human goes during the six weeks of winter, a human also will have a small home range.

Two bucks battle it out"When you're talking about a deer's home range, I think two terms have been confused. There's:
* "the core area where a deer beds, feeds and waters throughout most of the year, except during the rut, and
* "the home range, which is everywhere a deer goes throughout the year, including during the rut.
"A buck may move out of his core area during the rut, but numbers of studies show that rarely will a buck leave his home range during the rut, even if the area is clear-cut."

The Bully Cometh:
According to Wood, "A buck may move out of his home range during the rut if a lot of older-age-class bucks live on the same range. When an older-age-class buck consistently clashes with a subordinate buck, the subordinate buck knows that the only way he'll get to breed an estrous doe is to leave his home range or leave that older buck's core area. That's when you may spot some really-big bucks in sections of land where you've never seen them before. However, if that buck is outside his core range, he's there because a bigger buck has forced him to leave home. Competitions with bigger bucks are much more of a reason for bucks to leave an area and move to another one rather than one place having more does than another."

A trophy buckAnother Lie About The Rut:
For many years, hunters have believed that bucks mark their territory using scrapes and rubs. But Wood explains that, "Scrapes and rubs in deer country are like public phone booths in that they are the places where individuals go to communicate. Rubs and scrapes have nothing to do with a deer's territory. They are just signposts where different deer leave messages for other deer. Bucks don't protect their scrapes and rubs or fight at them unless they find an estrous doe there. The only territory a buck will defend during the rut is about 20 yards around an estrous doe. One time I spent three years videoing wild, free-roaming deer and never once saw bucks fight around scrapes, unless a doe that I perceived to be estrous was near that scrape at the same time both bucks were there. The best place to find a buck during the rut is where the does are feeding, because the bucks are going where the does are."

Dr. Wood Doesn't Hunt The Rut:
Dr. Wood considers the rut the worst time of the year to bag a big buck. "If someone tells me, 'I'll give you $1 million if you can take a big buck within a two-week period of time,' I still won't hunt the rut. People will harvest big bucks during the rut for only two reasons: they know where the food source is located that the bucks are coming to, and/or they're lucky. During the rut, you can't predict where the buck will be. When you discover the big buck you want to take, you need to learn where he lives and go there. That's why I say that your opportunity to take a big buck is best during the first three or four days of deer season before the bucks have moved their core areas and have encountered so much hunting pressure. During the rut, you can't even guess where a big buck will be because that buck does not even know where or when he'll be there. A big buck that finds a doe in estrus will allow her to dictate his entire movement pattern."


Check back each day this week for more about WHERE BUCKS GO DURING THE RUT...

Day 1 - The Lie About Does
Day 2 - Apples For A Secret Rendezvous
Day 3 - The Importance Of Thick Cover
Day 4 - Southern Deer Doctor
Day 5 - Cameras Don't Lie


Entry 281, Day 1