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The Whitetail's Home Range

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"Could my ground blind have scared my bucks away?

QUESTION: Bob, I live and hunt in southern Mississippi and have a small food plot with rye grass and a corn feeder in a natural opening that is about 20 yards long and 10 yards wide.

The Whitetail’s Home Range

In early September, I captured three bucks on trail camera: two small 8-pointers and one bigger eight. But they disappeared when I set up a ground blind about a month before our bow season opened. 

Soon, these same deer started showing up on my uncle’s trail camera by his house, about 300 yards away.

We also have a food plot with lots of scrapes about a mile away and possibly from these bucks. 

All this leads to my questions: How large is the home range for most deer? And is it possible my ground blind scared them off? - Duon L.

ANSWER: I’m not sure where it originated, but there’s a long standing notion that the average home range for a white-tailed deer is one square mile. 

That might be fairly accurate, but it’s important to understand this is an average.

Home range sizes can vary considerably outside of the mean (average), and for every range that’s smaller, there’s another that’s larger, so the range can be considerable.

Home range size is influenced by several variables, not the least of which is available food. 

The more nutritious and available the food, the smaller the deer’s home range.

Range size might also be tied to population size, as well as age and sex ratios. Bucks that have to travel farther to find does will naturally have larger home ranges.

Also, bear in mind, annual home range size often varies throughout the year, and even from year to year. 

From late spring through late summer, when food is abundant and before the breeding season, both bucks and does might spend most of their time in small core areas. 

As food becomes less plentiful and calories more important, both sexes will travel more.

And as the rut kicks in, bucks begin moving farther and more often from their core areas.

It’s quite possible you set your blind near the core area for several bucks traveling together in a bachelor group at that time of year. 

It’s also possible the bachelor group’s core area included territory near your uncle’s house. As the season progressed, the deer would likely spend less time in either location and less time together. 

So, it’s also very possible your blind disturbed them. In either case, the odds are fairly good they will eventually return to your area at some point, especially if there are does present.

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