Collared buck 12786 looking at trail camera at night

Most people are average. It’s the very essence of the word. A value that represents many; common. That’s not to say we can’t have extraordinary experiences. But if you consider our lives overall, they are pretty much the same. 

The same holds true for most species. And deer are no exception. Sure, there is the occasional freak of nature that grows 200 inches of bone on his head but as Jeannine says they can’t all be Chris Evans

When the blog was in its infancy, we shared the story of Buck 12786 who later became known as Average Joe. Average Joe died in a most unusual way – An antler to the heart. Proving that even the most average of lives can experience extraordinary events.

Because we followed Average Joe from his capture on February 13, 2013 (when he was at least just over 1.5 years old) to his death, we know he was at least 4.5 years old when he died on January 13, 2016. Average Joe got his name when Jeannine wrote about his antlers being average for that age after several blog readers criticized this lackluster head gear. His antlers had a 17-inch spread, 1-inch beam diameter, and 8 points.

Joe may have been average, but he was special. A well-placed trail camera captured him and his antlers in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Given that we followed Joe for 3 years and his demise was not at the hands of a hunters (highly unusual for a deer in Pennsylvania), we decided to revisit our exceptional and average friend. We will start with a simple map of locations for each year that we followed him with a GPS collar. The locations are color-coded by month.

Here were all his locations collected in 2013.

Of course, the first thing you notice about his movements is that sometime during the year he made a long distance movement to the southwest where he spent some time on a steep, south-facing slope. Was it during the rut? The rifle season? Winter? Summer?

Here’s what 2014 looks like. Eerily similar.

Again, 2015 is nearly identical. 

Notice that the colors at the bottom right are all similar among the 3 years (yellow = February; black = March; orange = April). It turns out that Average Joe spent every winter on that south-facing slope: 

  • 2/16 – 4/5 in 2013
  • 2/24 – 3/29 in 2014
  • 2/11 – 4/3 in 2015

Interestingly, there is some evidence that we captured Average Joe on the way to his winter hideout. In this close-up image of 2013 the yellow dot that begins the blue path represents the first location obtained from his GPS collar as he traveled back to his core home range. 

The only other time we observed Average Joe in this area was in 2014 when he was traveling to his winter area.

Of course, I already told you he died on January 13, 2016 before he had a chance to make another trip down south.

We don’t know when he dropped his antlers every year but given that he died in the middle of January with a complete set, odds are he likely left them at his winter get-away. 

Average Joe may not be so average after all. Proving that average lives are as unique as the individuals that live them.

Next time, we’ll dive even deeper into the travels of “Average” Joe.

Duane Diefenbach

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