Question of the day comes from a Facebook friend who has been tracking a big whitetail for several seasons. He asked that I not use his name, to protect his deer hunting honey hole.
"Dan, just how big is a buck’s core area? Do I stand a reasonable chance of arrowing a deer I just caught on camera during the rut?"
This is a question I get asked a lot. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but there is a general rule of thumb that will suffice for most deer hunting areas in North America.
My initial answer is a qualified, "yes." There is a chance. It all depends, however, on a few other criteria: hunting pressure, available food sources and the buck-to-doe ratio of that area. Hunting pressure won’t change a core area, but it will change how they use it and when they use it. The more pressure that is out there, the more nocturnal a buck will become.
The important point to remember is this: When you’re chasing a mature buck, you need to understand that his home range is going to be about 640 acres (a square mile) during all times outside the rut. During the rut, he could be roaming as much as 5,000 acres. His core area is going to be his safety zone. That could be 40 acres, or 200 acres … it all depends on the food, water and protective cover. That’s the important point. Now, here is the crucial point: when thinking in terms of a home range or core area, you need to get out of the trap of thinking in contiguous blocks of land. Just because you own a nice, neat 400-acre rectangle doesn’t mean a buck is going to call that his home range. It could be part of his home range. The same thing goes for a core area. It has to be the best of the best. So, his living quarter could look like a long skinny finger, a triangle, links of a chain, or even a combination of all the above, and then some.
The best way to identify a buck’s core area is through good, old-fashioned scouting and careful study of a topo map. Do this, and the light bulb will eventually pop on and stay on … and you will eventually start filling more tags.
Want to learn better ways to map trophy bucks? Check out this great resource from Deer & Deer Hunting.