Technology doesn’t always work as planned. There is not a person on the planet that hasn’t cursed their phone at some point. Sometimes it’s user error but sometimes it’s not. 

Buck 20429 is an example of the semi-failed technology. We captured him on March 10, 2022 and followed him through December 30th for 2,097 locations before he disappeared. The locations in yellow are daytime and black nighttime.

What first struck me is the hard northern boundary of locations along what looks to be a drainage. Hard to tell from a satellite image.

When you overlay the roads you can see fewer daytime locations near a road! Smart guy.

But what about that hard line that he doesn’t seem to cross? The terrain map provides more insight into his movements.

That “hard line”? It’s the ridge top! He spends a lot of his daylight hours on the side of the ridge. In fact, it’s a 30% slope, which means for every 2 feet you travel horizontal you go up 1 foot. 

So let’s follow him around through time. We’ll start with March through May. We captured him on the eastern edge of his home range. By the end of March, he pretty much left the area where he was captured and by mid-April, he’s settled in to the steep slope area.

The summer months are easy living. Hang out on the steep side slope during the day and move down at night. Makes sense given that just below the steep slope are some crop fields!

With breeding season right around the corner, we start to see some interesting movements. Plus on October 1, we switched from getting a location every 7 hours to every hour.

We see that he returns to the area where we captured him for the first time in several months. I also find it fascinating that after climbing to the top of the ridge, he may walk along it but never goes further north, which is relatively flat. Finally, for the first time he moved south across the road and made a rather long excursion. The season of love must be starting.

Now we are into November and the breeding season is in full swing. He spends almost as much time south as north of the road, but the steep slope still seems to be his go-to daytime spot. This video takes you right up to opening day of rifle season.

His movements during the rifle season are unusual in that he shows up in areas we have never seen him use before. Most of our deer don’t do that, but we don’t know where he was hanging out last rifle season either.

Buck 20429 survived the rifle season, but the collar started to fail in the middle of it. The string of hourly locations stopped on December 6th, then we obtained a location on December 13th, and two locations on December 20th and a single, final location on December 30th. The field crew searched for a signal in the area and inspected the last location and found nothing.

Buck 20429 was one of those unsolved mysteries until a year later when we received a message from the collar that it was in mortality mode and the field techs were able to retrieve it. Some of you asked for more information about this buck and now you have the rest of the story. Sometimes the collar will collect location data even though it won’t transmit to the satellite – if so, and we are able to download more data from the collar, we’ll let you know!

Duane Diefenbach

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