Whitetail Hunting photo

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?