PSU Deer Study

If you are a regular blog reader, you know that the rut occurs pretty much the same time every year (How to predict the rut, Frosty Pumpkins). That’s because photoperiod (day length) is the cue for females to come into estrus – not weather or the moon. However, there is a lot of variability about when individual deer breed, which can explain the different experiences of hunters every year.

The ladies rule the roost during breeding season.  All those crazy buck movements are in response to the breeding condition of females in their area. A given female is only receptive for about 24 hours, so males are running all over looking for females and that special opportunity.

After studying the films, let’s see how you did!

Buck 12775 (click the link to read the post with movie)

Fifty-three people took the time to watch the movie and enter their guess on the website. Not a huge turnout, but hey, it was deer season.  We get it.

Here is the distribution of dates where you thought the buck began his rut movements.

The consensus appears to be the 1st or 2nd of November.

Deer-Forest Study

Rather than watch a movie, let’s look at his movements another way. I summed up the total distance traveled each day. I’m not sure it helps, but 1 Nov seems reasonable. Notice around the 11th of November he traveled about 5500 meters – about 3.5 miles.  Hmmmm…

Deer-Forest Study

Buck 12785 (click the link to read the post with movie)

One hundred and twenty-one readers entered their dates for this buck (much better turn out BEFORE deer season – go figure). There seemed to be more consensus on this one, but a clear split between the 3rd week in October and the end of the month.

Deer-Forest Study

Here’s the graph of his daily movements.  His daily travels really changed at the end of October and he trekked over 4.5 miles on the 18th of November!

Deer-Forest Study

Buck 12786 (click the link to read the post with movie)

Most readers selected October 23rd as the start of the rut for this buck, and that corresponds pretty well with the increase in his daily distance traveled. Note that on the 9th of November he traveled over five and a half miles!

Deer-Forest Study

Deer-Forest Study

Buck 12792 (click the link to read the post with movie)

This buck was interesting because most readers picked the 17th of October for the start of the rut, but the distances he traveled didn’t increase until about the 25th of that month.

Deer-Forest Study

Deer-Forest Study

When did the rut end?

It looks like all 4 of these deer were moving around quite a bit right up until bear season. And that’s what most readers indicated for their ending date.

What does it all mean?

Actually, not a whole lot –

But it is always fun to watch these bucks travel across the landscape!

What we really want to know is the who, when, and where. But we never have all males and females radio-collared in an area. ☹

We are lucky and do have a few males and females collared in the same area.

Check out the movements of this pair. Notice how the doe stays in a relatively small area, whereas the buck is moving all over. This strategy maximizes the chance that both will encounter each other – the doe wants to be found (don’t move, if you’re lost and want to be found) and the buck wants to find her (if you are looking for someone, cover as much area as possible).  Seems to be working just fine for this species.

You can see their lunch date started about noon on 15 November when he brought her flowers! But lasted less than 24 hours.  Love’em and leave’em as they say.

Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out a way to determine when a buck is paired with a doe (when all we have is a radio-collar on a buck), but maybe someday that technology will be available. It will probably involve something related to measuring heart rate, blood pressure, and those ever important hormones!

-Duane Diefenbach

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