John's Journal...


Identifying A Buck's Core Area

Editor’s Note: If you can find the core of a buck's home range, you'll enjoy much-better odds of taking him, since he'll spend most of his time in daylight hours there. But what does the core of a buck's home range look like, what ingredients must that core area have to hold a buck and how can you find or create a core area to take more big bucks each season? To learn the answers to these questions and others, we've interviewed some of the nation's leading biologists and deer hunters.

"A deer must have three elements in its core area: food, water and cover, with cover being the most important," Dr. Grant Woods, wildlife biologist and avid deer hunter from Missouri, says. Woods believes many hunters have an incorrect perception of Click to enlargecover. "Most hunters believe cover is thick, dense underbrush, a 4- or a 5-year-old clear cut, a cane thicket or any place where you can barely see more than 8 to 10 yards in front of you. But, I define cover as a place where a deer feels very secure and can avoid predation. I define predation not as a saber-tooth tiger that's going to eat that buck, or a hunter that will shoot him. I define predation as any type of disturbance that disrupts a buck by making him uneasy or raising his metabolic rate -- like dogs running through a region, hunters walking in an area, or anything that a deer views as a predator and thinks may harm him.” We've all seen big bucks in state parks that human presence and yapping dogs don't seem to affect. But Woods says that deer in these places don't perceive dogs or humans as threats. However, where a deer perceives a human or a dog as a threat, the deer will seek to avoid human or dog contact.

Click to enlargeBesides these must-have elements in a core area, constant wind direction also influences the site a buck chooses for his core area. Deer use their noses more than their eyes to protect them from danger. “When we've put GPS collars on deer, especially big bucks, we've noticed that in hilly or mountainous country, the biggest bucks generally will bed just over the top of a hill or mountain, usually on the east side," Woods reports, "probably because most of the time the wind currents come from the west. If a west wind hits the mountain, goes up and over the top of the mountain and swirls like a whirlpool, it will create an air cone that picks up and carries scent from all directions." For example, if you've ever seen water flowing through a stream, you'll notice that when the water hits a boulder in the stream and goes over or around the boulder, it creates an eddy just behind the boulder. That eddy pulls water toward the boulder from downstream as well as upstream. That's why if a trophy buck sets up its core area just over a lip of a hill or a mountain on the east-facing side of that hill, he can smell everything moving toward him from each direction.

Click to enlarge"I'm not going to bow hunt in an eddy-like air-current situation, because I know that the deer will smell me," Woods advises. "The only way to take a buck bedding like this is to take a stand site where you can see him before he reaches this core area or when he's going away from it." Although most hunters consider the deer's nose its most-critical defense mechanism, Woods differs with this opinion. "I believe that the number-one defense mechanism of a deer is its rumen. Because the deer has a big belly, he can consume a lot of food in a short time. Then, he can go back to his core area, regurgitate that food, chew it and digest it. So, a trophy buck doesn't have to leave his core area or his bedding site for very long. A buck's core area is usually an impenetrable fortress. The more time the buck can spend there, and the less time he has to spend searching for food, the better his chances for survival."


Check back each day this week for more about A BUCK PICKS HIS CORE AREA...

Day 1 - Identifying A Buck's Core Area
Day 2 - Determining If The Core Area Has Moved and Finding the Northern Core Area
Day 3 - Locating the Core Area of Northwestern and Southern Bucks
Day 4 - Discovering the Core Areas of Southwestern Deer
Day 5 - Discovering the Core Areas of Southwestern Deer


Entry 266, Day 1