Master of Deception

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

from these radio-collared animals was essential to the study.

Deer 4149 probably was born quite a distance from where he was captured. Our study shows more than 77 percent of male deer captured as fawns dispersed from the area where they were born. The average distance moved by these buck fawns was over nine miles. After these dispersal movements the deer usually established a more permanent home area.

Radio telemetry and visual observations showed that 4149 spent most of the 1991 summer in open areas, bedding and feeding in idle crop fields. We determined his home range or area of use that summer was at least 667 acres (Figure 1). Most of this area was open ground.

His home range expanded to over 1,100 acres that fall. We speculate this was due to the breeding season, when bucks move widely in search of does. As a mature 2.5-year-old, he was likely a big participant in the rut and may have bred several does. Despite spending over half his time on public land, 4149 escaped hunters his second fall.

During 1993, 4149 returned to his traditional summer range, except that he shifted a few hundred yards farther to the east and spent even more time in open areas (Figure 2). Throughout the summer and early fall he bedded in or near a small patch of brush almost daily. Movements were minimal most of the summer.

He began to make some longer range movements in early September. In late September and throughout October and November we intensified tracking efforts and noticed him moving west toward big patches of timber that were home to several doe/fawn family groups. By mid October, 4149's summer bedding area was seldom used and he spent most of his time on public land a mile to the west.

His sequential movements from late October to late November (Figure 3) show he was making long movements daily until October 28th, when he was found with a radio-collared doe. For the next six days the two deer remained together in a small peninsula of woods. We suspect he was waiting to breed with her.

This would be an early breeding. Most adult does in Missouri are bred the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November. For the next several days 4149 moved constantly, even during daylight hours. He did stay in one spot for two days but then was off again. On the opening morning of firearms deer season he was bedded in the woods on public land. The next day he moved over a mile to bed near his summer bedding area, where he remained for two days.

On Monday, a group of hunters walked the field that 4149 was bedded in, but either did not see him or failed to flush him from his lair. The next day he began moving again and continued to move during daylight and nighttime hours. We stopped the intensive tracking in late November 1993 when the project ended, but he survived that and the 1994 deer season. At the time of this writing 4149 is a 5-year-old buck.

Some would contend that 4149 was able to outsmart hunters and lived to maturity by avoiding them. While no one knows for sure, we believe that 4149, like most adult males that live to maturity, had a refuge from hunters.

In his case he had the odd habit of bedding in open fields and spending time in impenetrable cover when he was in the woods. As a mature deer, he had "been around the block" and likely didn't hang around when he encountered humans.

He was a typical buck, however, in that he moved extensively in search of does during the breeding season and was vulnerable to hunters during daytime movements. Like some hunters who successfully connect with a big buck, luck may have played some role in his survival. So next time you are frustrated because you haven't been seeing deer and opening weekend has passed, don't give up - the big guy may be headed your way.

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