Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on February 6, 2018

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February Column

 

Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future “Ask The Deer Tracker” posts can e-mail it to, rgbernier@gmail.com

 

Q. – I have hunted a specific mature buck for two-years now without success. I see him regularly during the summer and early fall, but once November arrives he is nowhere to be found. Despite not putting my eyes on him during hunting season, I still see his track in various locations within my hunting grounds. My question to you is, how big a range do bucks 4-1/2 years of age and older have?
P. W. – Green Bay, WI

A. – You, as well as many of the readers, may be quite surprised by the answer to this question. The area is not nearly as large as you may think. It has long been thought that mature, dominant bucks increase their range significantly during the autumn season; and the older the buck, the more territory he covers. The good news is that in most cases that is not the case. The older a buck gets, the more sedentary he becomes and every move he makes is deliberate. It stands to reason that like us humans who tend to slow down as we age, the animal kingdom is no different.

 

 

In a recent study conducted in Texas using 125 radio-collared bucks revealed some very interesting facts as well as abolished long-held myths regarding how big a buck’s home range is. Rather than the older age class of bucks increasing their range as they age, the opposite happens. While they actually reduce the size of the space they utilize, the opposite is true for the younger 1 ½ to 2 ½ year-old males, which had the largest annual home range. However, home range should not be confused with the actual wandering that a mature buck will do leading up to and through the actual breeding phase of the rut. A 5 ½ to 6 ½ year-old buck can and does gobble up terrain in search of estrous does, especially if they are not at the top of the heap within their home range. It has been my experience that a mature buck will not go looking for love elsewhere if what he is searching for lives within his range. If and when he does, he will return to his stomping grounds within 1 to 3 days of his departure.

 

Q. – Having obtained a couple of your books and looking at photographs of you in your hunting attire it was noticeable that you pretty much wear green & black plaid wool I am assuming. Is your wardrobe choice based upon preference, or an attempt to fool a whitetail’s eyes? With so many choices in patterns for hunting wear I was wondering why you have not opted for something more modern? L. W. – Marion, GA

A. – First off, you are correct in the assumption that my hunting togs are indeed made of wool. In my opinion, wool is the ideal choice for warmth, comfort and silence considering that I hunt primarily in the cold climates of the Northeast and Canada. The checked green & black pattern is specifically chosen to blend in with my surroundings. A lot of the territory I hunt consists primarily of conifers (black growth). Green is seen as gray to deer and does not stand out to them. Whitetails see color in the blue/yellow spectrum. In fact, reds and oranges are also colors that do not register when it comes to their color perception.

 

 

When it comes to a deer’s visual acuity, there are some deficiencies as well that prompt me in selecting the pattern and colors I wear. A whitetail is farsighted and thus has difficulty picking out specific features. Precipitation, blowing leaves and branches also further hinder a deer’s ability to see. Have you ever witnessed a deer stomping and bobbing its head at you? This maneuver is an attempt to get what they think is danger to ultimately move, confirming their suspicion. A deer can see in a 300-degree circumference, in focus, but due to their 20/40 vision, they only have depth perception for the 60-degree area directly in front of both eyes. Despite being adept at picking up the slightest movement, they are incapable of focusing in three dimensions unless their nose is pointed directly at what they are viewing. Based upon these facts, and my many years of experience, I feel that what may seem outdated in hunting apparel aids me nicely in fooling a whitetail’s eyes.

 

Q. – I am a routine reader of your articles and blogs and have noticed that you never talk about using any kind of scent, be it cover or attractant. What is your position on scents and do you use them?
B. F. – Schroon Lake, NY

 

 

A.– Over the course of my deer hunting/photographing career I have experimented with several different scents to try and establish how effective they might be. Without mentioning brands or manufacturers, I have found that some worked to a certain degree while others were a total waste of money. The very best advice I can give is to always insure that the wind is in your favor. Because I have yet to find a product that can completely disguise my scent, or an attractant that will guarantee luring in a deer, I typically use what is natural within my hunting area. For instance; I know that whitetails, especially bucks, like the smell of dirt. When I find a scrape on bare ground, I will rub some of that dirt which is mixed with deer urine onto my trousers. On snow, once I find where a buck has relieved himself; I will pick up the yellow snow cone and rub that onto my pants as well. The way I figure it, it sure can’t hurt to smell like a deer; and best of all, it’s free.

 

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