The Southeast Deer Study Group, a subcommittee of The Wildlife Society (an association of professional wildlife biologists), has been gathering for 35 years to discuss the most current whitetail deer research. Researchers from all over North America contribute. Here are some snippets from some the group’s most recent get-togethers:
907 Acres: The average fall home range size of mature bucks in a University of Georgia GPS-collar study in unfragmented hardwood forest in northern Pennsylvania. The average core area size, or the area where a buck spends at least half of its time, was only 142 acres.
55 Yards: Increase in the average distance adult bucks traveled away from hunting stand sites from the beginning of hunting season until the end. Auburn University researcher Clint McCoy based this finding on GPS location data from 37 bucks across three hunting seasons in South Carolina.
84 Percent: The percentage of the total population of coyotes identified by DNA markers from thousands of scats collected in Virginia that only appeared once in the collection. Dana Morin of Virginia Polytechnic and State University said this supports other evidence that coyote populations in Virginia include a high percentage of widely traveling individuals and experience high turnover rates — both of which suggest that shooting coyotes does little to control populations.
81 Percent: Average percentage of “hiding cover” at bedding sites chosen by Texas fawns 14 days old or younger. Random sites in the same areas averaged only 65 percent hiding cover, suggesting fawns actively select heavier cover. Asa Wilson of Texas A&M-Kingsville presented the results.
Cotton Rats And Persimmons: The two most common food items found in 353 coyote scats collected on two public hunting areas in Georgia. Despite the diversity of food items found, scats indicated that coyotes on one of the WMAs switched almost exclusively to eating fawns during the fawning season (study conducted by the University of Georgia and Georgia DNR).
12 Hours: The duration of a rendezvous between a buck and doe that were both wearing GPS collars and being tracked by University of Tennessee researcher Seth Basinger on the 39,000-acre Arnold Air Force Base. Interestingly, both deer were on excursions outside their normal home ranges when they hooked up, and they returned to their respective home ranges afterward.
7.8 to 9.4: Increase in average crude protein levels in natural forage species from 2011, a drought year, to the following year when rainfall was normal. University of Georgia researcher Levi Horrell found, at one site, that protein in American beautyberry jumped from 9 to 14 percent corresponding to increased rainfall. This illustrates how drought can reduce carrying capacity and deer health factors, like fawn recruitment and antler growth.
6.75: The number of hours per day a healthy buck can switch over from foraging to finding does during the rut, if he enters the rut in good condition. “Good condition” can mean 25 percent body fat, which is 44 pounds of fat on a 175-pound buck. Dr. Dave Hewitt of Texas A&M-Kingsville predicts bucks that acquire large fat reserves before the rut are more likely to breed successfully because they can afford to spend more time getting the job done.
0 Percent: Increase in deer detection rates at trail-camera bait sites after feral hogs were trapped and lethally removed from the surrounding area, in a study by Chad Newbolt of Auburn University that took place on Fort Benning in Georgia. The study results strongly suggest that deer actively avoid hogs, so hogs can essentially exclude deer from food sources with their presence.
June 22 to April 18: Range from the earliest date a doe was bred by a buck (June 22) to the latest date (April 18) in a study of more than 300 hunter-harvested does examined by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. The rut peak varies from July in south Florida to late February in northwest Florida, which is likely the widest variation in the timing of the rut peak found in a single state.
30 Percent: Proportion of 487 antler sheds studied by Auburn University that were broken in some way. The main beam and G-2 were the least likely to break among antlers in the collection.