A reader recently asked me about buck movements in early autumn. He was interested in figuring out when and where bucks bed down during the day and how much they move.

While the amazing powers of our satellite GPS collars can tell us where the deer is located, they cannot tell us what it is doing. However, with a little creative thinking and some assumptions, we can infer some behavior by looking at the speed and distance it traveled since the previous location. Sometimes we even have locations of multiple deer in the same area. Was there a fight? Or maybe some romance

In 2018, we had deer with GPS collars collecting locations every hour beginning 1 October. Using these data, we can calculate the distance moved from the previous hour. Because there is some error in the GPS location, I arbitrarily decided that if a movement was <5 meters from the previous hour the deer was resting.

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to take a close look at the movements of bucks from October 1st through November 15th. This covers the pre-rut (Oct 1-15), early rut (Oct 15-31) and the rut (Nov 1-15). By the end of October about a third of adult females have been bred. By the middle of November half of all adult females have been bred.

Our first test case is Buck 11993 on the Susquehannock State Forest. He was captured in 2016 and was at least 4.5 years old in 2018.

In the movie below, the yellow dots represent locations where the deer moved <5 meters in the previous hour. Can you see a pattern? The yellow dots seem to occur at higher elevation sites, but other than that…

Overall, in early October he doesn’t move very much or very fast. Maybe catching some zzz’s while he still can. 

By mid-October, things are starting to change. In the movie below you can see that there are fewer resting sites, and they’re not in the same location!

And finally, there is no rest for the wicked as the peak of the rut approaches!

You might go mad trying to find a pattern. But if you do, write a comment below.  Perhaps we can test whether the pattern holds with other bucks. That’s what hunting is all about, isn’t it!

-Duane Diefenbach

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