You’ll see this buck all the time when he’s two and three years old. By the time he’s fully mature, sightings will be few and far between, and his trail cam photos will all be night shots. He’s still in the area. You just never see him at your regular stand sites.
As bucks get older, their home range and core areas (the spots within their home range where they spend at least 50 percent of their time) tend to shrink. A study done by Dr. Mickey Hellickson, the chief wildlife biologist at the King Ranch in Texas, found that the home range of bucks shrunk from 2,278 acres at two and a half years old to 1,055 acres at seven and a half. Also, the bucks’ core areas fell from 356 acres to 151 for these same age classes. The number of acres isn’t as important as this: Over the years, a buck finds out where he is safe in daylight.
“If you’re outside a buck’s core by even a little bit, your chances of seeing him are greatly reduced,” says QDMA’S Murphy. “In one instance, I moved a stand just 50 yards— after trail cameras showed what a buck was doing—and then killed him.”
Oftentimes, these homebody bucks are nocturnal. Here, Murphy recounts a ghosthunting story: “We had one buck that almost never left a 200-acre section in daylight. He had a small home range and moved very little during daylight. Every year our cameras would get him after dark, but we’d never see him in the field. We finally hung two stands right in his core area. It took us two seasons, but we got him. According to the best tooth-aging lab in the U.S., that buck was 15½ years old.”
So besides pure luck, how do you kill a nocturnal homebody buck?
Miller might have the answer. He says some studies indicate that different bucks have different breeding strategies. Gps-collar research has shown that certain bucks continually check on specific doe groups in a small area instead of ranging far and wide to find a doe in heat. So when does in that homebody buck’s area go into estrus, you just might be able to catch a him out in the daylight hours.
To make things even more complicated, many Gps-collar studies have shown that bucks don’t have home ranges shaped in neat circles, like you might expect. Most have ranges that branch off in aberrant arms and legs.
For a hunter, this means it’s critical to continue gathering clues about a homebody buck all season long. Keep moving trail cameras and stand locations to zero in on his core area. Then, when the wind is right, sneak in and make your shot count.
A buck hides out on the edge of heavy cover.