QUESTION: On average, how many does can a buck breed in a season? And how far will bucks travel to breed? - James S. of Salyersville, Kentucky
ANSWER: It's difficult to provide a precise answer because there are so many variables.
Population size, age and sex ratio all influence breeding. Even location can be a factor.
Let's start with the does:
In a perfect world, a small percentage of does would come into estrus, and most of them would be bred roughly a month before peak rut.
Most, but not all, of the rest would come into estrus a month later and be bred.
Adult does that have not bred - and in some cases even doe fawns - might come into estrus roughly 28 days later; and again, most of those would end up pregnant.
Now for the bucks:
The more balanced the age and sex structure of the population, the more synchronous the rut.
With the majority of does coming into estrous at the same time, there's a relatively narrow window of opportunity, roughly 10 days. But remember, it is a continuum.
Some does will cycle early in that range, others later.
Once a buck locks down a doe, he will remain with her from 24 to 48 hours.
Doing a few quick, and rather unscientific calculations, we can suppose that a buck might breed one or two does in the early rut.
During peak rut, bucks might breed between five and 10 does, with the latter being unlikely.
Then they might pick up another one or two later. All that varies with things like the number of available does and the level of competition among bucks.
Much the same applies to how far a buck will travel. It can depend on how far he has to travel to find does. If they're close at hand, he might not go too far.
Recent research of GPS-collared bucks shows them making excursions - usually a mile or less - from their core areas during peak rut.
The jaunts last roughly 24 to 48 hours and it is presumed the bucks are either seeking does, or possibly being led by does to secluded areas.
In areas with low deer densities, bucks have to travel farther, and could go as far as five miles from their normal home range.
Bear in mind that deer, like humans, have individual personalities. Some might be homebodies while others prefer plenty of travel to procure partnership. Some might be more aggressive breeders than others. There seems to be an age correlation between aggressive breeding and older bucks.