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Buck Behavior: Finally, A Definition for 'Core Area'...Kinda

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August 27, 2012

Buck Behavior: Finally, A Definition for 'Core Area'...Kinda

By Dave Hurteau

If you don’t know precisely what a “core area” is, it’s probably because until very recently nobody else did either. Biologists never seemed to use the term, but in the popular literature you’d often read a sentence like this: “First, find the buck’s core area…” with no further explanation.

This drove Bestul and me nuts. So, for a 2006 Field & Stream article, we tried to give “core area” a working definition and came up with: “A small area within a buck’s home range, where it spends the large majority of its time bedding and feeding from summer through early winter when not seeking mates.” We knew it wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.

Then in 2008, a real scientist nailed it down a little more firmly. In a study that marked the movements of 40 adult, GPS-collared bucks every 20 minutes from August through December, Chesapeake Farms researcher Mark Conner defined “core area” as the place within a buck’s home range (which averaged about 600 acres in his study) where the deer spent at least 50% of his time. “Most core areas represented about 15% of the total home range, or about 90 acres,” he said. So now we have a definition.

Which is great—except that it’s still a little confusing because I’ve heard many hunters, including very knowledgeable hunters, use “core area” to describe a much smaller area. In a 2006 article that Bestul wrote, Don Kisky describes a core area as being just 10 or 20 acres in size. If, for example, a September buck beds on a ridge end and walks 300 yards to an alfalfa field or maybe another 200 to an adjacent bean field more or less every night for two weeks, I suspect many hunters would call that the buck’s core area.

But Connor would not, and I think he’s right. Because a week after that, the same buck might suddenly start regularly hitting an oak flat a half mile away in the opposite direction. He might even start bedding closer to the nuts. I don’t think it makes sense to say the buck has a new core area, but rather that he has a new favored bed-to-feed pattern within his core area.

And we could call it just that: the “pattern” within his core area. But that describes more of a behavior than a place. Plus it’s no fun. What we really need is a new snazzy term for these small, temporarily favored bed-to-feed locations, and to end all confusion, one that does not include the word “core” or “area.” The BFZ (bed-to-feed zone)? The Chow Line? Suggestions?

Comments (12)

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from steve182 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As seasonal food sources change, maybe the "core area" does not. An area in which a buck spends a lot of time consistently throughout the year, year after year, would be his "core area" ...if such a place exists. I would consider his bedding area his core, if it's consistent.

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from mrhansen9 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I like the gps information, but instead of just August-December one year, I think a multi-year data feed would return more exacting results...thus finding the true "core area". Of course, you would have to find mature bucks with the least amount of external variables to make this work. But, then you could say we don't hunt in research properties, so the data would be useless to the average hunter anyways...

Maybe it'll never be exact.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Bioguy01 emailed me some very interesting items concerning this topic. But it's best to let him explain it. The boy know's his stuff.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

"Daily Pattern", sounds good to me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RipperIII wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

having only hunted for 5 years, my experience is limited, but I have been observant and spent a goo bit of time traipsing through the woods.
Last turkey season, I jumped a buck bedded on a gently sloping pine ridge. I went to where he was bedded and found a large rub on a 5" diameter cedar tree.
the previous deer season i had found several good rubs and a significant scrape line about 150-200 yds down hill from this spot.
So, last deer season I set up my tree stand to best cover his predicted travel route taking into consideration prevailing wind direction.
this stand is in a HDW draw with a good line of white oaks leading to a 3/4 acre food plot.
Sure enough this buck shows up, slipping in on me from the exact direction i anticipated, he moved in to with in 10 yds of me as i glanced in the opposite direction for just the briefest of moments.
He looked to be in the high 130" range,...and he busted me,...I could have taken the shot twice but in early Oct. down here in the south, there is still just too much foliage for a marginal shot.
Heard this same buck fight the next day in the same area.
But as the rut kicked in, this guy was gone.
I observed this same hot activity the season before, and the same absence of activity as this guy moved on.
I believe his "core" area is less than 90 acres, he has food, water, shelter and does in this area,...but I do believe he ranges far and wide during peak rut.

I have another area with two smaller bucks, patterned the last two years, they aren't shooters just yet, but they hold their area much longer than the big guy does.

I'd call the area the buck's Mansion, he slips from room to room according to food and water requirements,...then during the rut he vacations to where the girls are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnystate wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

How bout "Snack & Nap or Shack & Nap

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

"Stand location", duh:)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Good one, jbird.
I'm going with that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I'll second that vote for jbird, Dave!

I've seen a lot of GPS data and read several peer-reviewed articles on the subject of deer home ranges. Based on my analysis, if you're searching for a deer's "core area," you're looking for it's daytime bedding area. Deer spend more time bedded during the day than at night, so logically, a majority of a deer's time is spent in an area where it feels most comfortable during the day, and that's usually in the thickest, nastiest cover within the immediate area.

That said, thick cover is probably THE MOST important thing you can have on your property to promote deer usage. Cover attracts the deer and holds them there. Even during the rut when the bucks are moving all over the place, the does will still be using the thick cover as bedding area and sanctuary to escape hunting pressure, which is exactly where you want them to be! The does will bring in the bucks from neighboring properties, and that's a good situation to be in.

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from Michael Henry wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Maybe "Frequented zones" might be more accurate. Like some humans they have a few homes they visit depending on the time of year, etc.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from omarfishesalot wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

my freezer

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

I'm not the only person who values cover. Grant Woods illustrates his preference for cover over any other resource in this episode of Growingdeer.tv (www.growingdeer.tv/?utm_source=GDTV+145&utm_campaign=GDTV+145&utm_medium...)

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from steve182 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As seasonal food sources change, maybe the "core area" does not. An area in which a buck spends a lot of time consistently throughout the year, year after year, would be his "core area" ...if such a place exists. I would consider his bedding area his core, if it's consistent.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mrhansen9 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I like the gps information, but instead of just August-December one year, I think a multi-year data feed would return more exacting results...thus finding the true "core area". Of course, you would have to find mature bucks with the least amount of external variables to make this work. But, then you could say we don't hunt in research properties, so the data would be useless to the average hunter anyways...

Maybe it'll never be exact.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Bioguy01 emailed me some very interesting items concerning this topic. But it's best to let him explain it. The boy know's his stuff.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

"Daily Pattern", sounds good to me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RipperIII wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

having only hunted for 5 years, my experience is limited, but I have been observant and spent a goo bit of time traipsing through the woods.
Last turkey season, I jumped a buck bedded on a gently sloping pine ridge. I went to where he was bedded and found a large rub on a 5" diameter cedar tree.
the previous deer season i had found several good rubs and a significant scrape line about 150-200 yds down hill from this spot.
So, last deer season I set up my tree stand to best cover his predicted travel route taking into consideration prevailing wind direction.
this stand is in a HDW draw with a good line of white oaks leading to a 3/4 acre food plot.
Sure enough this buck shows up, slipping in on me from the exact direction i anticipated, he moved in to with in 10 yds of me as i glanced in the opposite direction for just the briefest of moments.
He looked to be in the high 130" range,...and he busted me,...I could have taken the shot twice but in early Oct. down here in the south, there is still just too much foliage for a marginal shot.
Heard this same buck fight the next day in the same area.
But as the rut kicked in, this guy was gone.
I observed this same hot activity the season before, and the same absence of activity as this guy moved on.
I believe his "core" area is less than 90 acres, he has food, water, shelter and does in this area,...but I do believe he ranges far and wide during peak rut.

I have another area with two smaller bucks, patterned the last two years, they aren't shooters just yet, but they hold their area much longer than the big guy does.

I'd call the area the buck's Mansion, he slips from room to room according to food and water requirements,...then during the rut he vacations to where the girls are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnystate wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

How bout "Snack & Nap or Shack & Nap

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

"Stand location", duh:)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave Hurteau wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Good one, jbird.
I'm going with that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michael Henry wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Maybe "Frequented zones" might be more accurate. Like some humans they have a few homes they visit depending on the time of year, etc.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from omarfishesalot wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

my freezer

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

I'm not the only person who values cover. Grant Woods illustrates his preference for cover over any other resource in this episode of Growingdeer.tv (www.growingdeer.tv/?utm_source=GDTV+145&utm_campaign=GDTV+145&utm_medium...)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I'll second that vote for jbird, Dave!

I've seen a lot of GPS data and read several peer-reviewed articles on the subject of deer home ranges. Based on my analysis, if you're searching for a deer's "core area," you're looking for it's daytime bedding area. Deer spend more time bedded during the day than at night, so logically, a majority of a deer's time is spent in an area where it feels most comfortable during the day, and that's usually in the thickest, nastiest cover within the immediate area.

That said, thick cover is probably THE MOST important thing you can have on your property to promote deer usage. Cover attracts the deer and holds them there. Even during the rut when the bucks are moving all over the place, the does will still be using the thick cover as bedding area and sanctuary to escape hunting pressure, which is exactly where you want them to be! The does will bring in the bucks from neighboring properties, and that's a good situation to be in.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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