white-tailed doe with GPS collar standing in forest

It was 11 °F when I got up this morning – not much motivation to go for a run even though the holiday cookies probably mean I should be running more. As Jeannine mentioned in the last post, deer are now in energy conservation mode.

To answer the question posed by the title of my last post – yes, there are deer in Pennsylvania during the gun season! But they are burning less gas and we can see that as we continue to follow their daily distance traveled.

During the firearms season, males show a steep decline in their movement. At the peak of the rut, they were averaging over 2 miles per day, and now 2 months later it’s less than half that.

The distance females travel has not changed much since November. The graph might suggest a slight increase in late November followed by a slight decline, but statistically we cannot say much except that distance traveled does not show much of a trend. Note that females now average a greater daily distance traveled than males.

For males, energy expenditure is at rock bottom. No need to look for females, no antlers to grow – just hang out and wait for the warblers to return. Female energy needs, on the other hand, are starting to increase as they start the 200-day gestation period for the newly implanted fetuses they now carry. The hard work for females begins as they conserve energy to survive AND get ready to give birth next spring.

For those of you that doubt the emphatic “Yes!” answer to my question regarding the presence of deer in Pennsylvania during the firearms season, 8 collared deer expired from October to December – 2 were from unknown causes; the other 6 (4 males, 2 females) were harvested during the archery season. Which means none of our collared deer were harvested during gun season. We started the season with 26 active collars. 

But we only collar a small proportion of deer. The rest get reward tags. There were 40 tagged deer harvested from October to December. Most of which (32) were taken during the firearms season. Yes, there are deer in the woods during those 2-weeks of the year. 

-Duane Diefenbach

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