PSU Deer Study

Several years ago we wrote a series of posts about male and female dispersal. The first article in the series can be found here.

Dispersal is a major life event. For males that turn 1 year of age, it can occur in the spring or fall. In Pennsylvania, about 75% of yearling males eventually disperse. Some of it occurs in the spring when mom is about to give birth to another litter. The remainder occurs in the fall and is tied to competition for mates.

When antler point restrictions were implemented, the proportion of yearling males that dispersed in the fall went from 50% to 70%. With more, older males in the population, there was more male-male competition for mating. There were more big fish in the pond making it harder for those little fish to find a date. This “new” reality would encourage more yearling males to disperse in the fall to seek out areas with less competition from other males (i.e. other ponds with fewer big fish to contend with).

I was reminded of the plight of the yearling buck when I saw a video my neighbor captured of two males interacting. One is clearly a yearling 3-pt buck and the other is probably 2.5-year-old 8-pt buck. Watch their behavior.

The larger male is standing still daring the younger buck to do something. But the younger buck is smart. He’s not aggressive, avoids eye contact, and tentatively engages.

But he’s no competition for the larger-racked deer and quickly retreats. Live to fight another day as the saying goes. 

The best thing this yearling could do is disperse. My neighbor’s property has at least 3 other bucks as big as the 8-pt. His pond is full!

-Duane Diefenbach

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