Ah spring! With longer and warm days, it’s time to get out and enjoy it.

Bucks are on board with this train of thought. May is a time to stretch your legs. Find some buds. Relax and breathe a sigh of relief. They have successfully navigated another hunting season and made it through the hardest time of year. 

Deer are experiencing a long awaited and deserved vacation but not all deer. There is no time for rest if you’re a doe. Seriously, when was the last time you saw your mother with a free minute?

Does are staying put. No spring fling for them. They need to get ready for fawning. Like bucks, they made it through another hunting season and the leanest time of year all while growing a set of twins. 

Looking at the home ranges of our collared deer, you can see the differences between the sexes. As doe ranges dip to their lowest, bucks see a bit of a spike in May. And why not, they don’t have a care in the world. But does have the social constraints of fawn rearing limiting their movements. 

It’s no secret that does shrink their home range post-partum. And while bucks are reconnecting with the guys forming bachelor groups to hang out all summer, does cancel all social engagements. The life of a dedicated (or trapped?) mother. 

There have been many studies done to track deer movements and home ranges. Duane says, “Maybe too many?” Whereas it may be logical and intuitive that females with fawns shrink home range size in the summer, there are studies out there that found no difference or the opposite to be true. Some studies found that age plays a role in home range size as well. Home ranges of female roe deer decreased with increasing age. The same was documented for male white-tailed deer

Looking at the range sizes of our collared deer we can’t really make too many generalizations. Like everything else, it’s not that simple and there are many factors at play. Individual factors like body size, sex, age, reproductive status. Habitat factors like forage availability, water, fragmentation. Environmental factors like season and weather. And even population factors like density – all play a role in how a deer “buys” his or her home. 

Is it a quiet ½ acre lot in a subdivision or an estate in the countryside?   

Are does nesting as we head into peak fawning season? Or are they following the buck’s lead? 

The answer, like always, is “It depends.”

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
Deer and Elk Section, Game Commission

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