March Deer Management

   

T.R. Michels

For both the deer and the deer manager, March is a time of transition. Winter is giving way to spring, and the deer are loosing weight because many of the food sources are depleted. As a result of this they may begin moving from their winter range to their summer range during late March.

To abate their hunger the deer begin looking for new green growth. For the deer manager, now is the time to prepare for spring planting; get planting equipment ready and order seed and mineral.

Minerals    

With the coming of spring, minerals are needed by both the bucks and does, as the bucks develop new racks and the does continue fetus growth. To adequately provide mineral for all the deer you should have one mineral lick for each forty acres of land.

The licks should be placed in high use areas with adequate cover so that the animals readily find and use them. Minerals are most easily utilized by deer in granular form; they should be supplied on the ground in a sheltered area where they won’t be washed away, or in a covered bin. You can still scout and look for shed antlers.

Home Range

Before we can discuss feeding programs it’s necessary to understand how deer use the habitat and how their use of the habitat changes throughout the year. There has been a lot written and said about whitetail home ranges; most of it based on the knowledge of deer in particular areas, or in particular types of habitat. However, whitetails inhabit many different types of habitats: dense hardwood forests, mixed woodland and agricultural, prairie, southern swamp, northern tamarack bogs, open or dense coniferous forests, open agricultural, semi-open river bottoms, and various mountain types. Because of this wide range of habitats the daily habits of whitetails, their home ranges, core areas, and the use of bedding sites varies.

The deer herds in each area are usually made up of a doe and her female offspring, and their female offspring, etc. As long as there is available habitat, and there is not a lot of competition for home ranges, the young females usually remain in the area where they were born. With death from natural causes and hunting there are often available home ranges for the young deer to occupy. Both bucks and does may make excursions outside their home ranges, but they usually do so only to find a new home range, or during the rut.

Young bucks are generally driven off the home range by their mothers when they are a year and a half old, usually before the rut. However, some young bucks may stay on their mothers home range until their second year, when they leave to find their own home range. These one and a half and two and a half year old bucks often end up on home ranges in less preferred habitat.

The geography of the area and the type of habitat often restrict the size of the home range; mountains, ridges, bluffs, rivers, ravines, wooded areas and open areas limit deer movement. The lack of cover in open prairies or agricultural areas restricts deer movement, particularly during the day. Because of this, deer home ranges are often confined to preferred habitat in valleys or river drainage’s and the surrounding hills and woods. Because of the limited size of the habitat, the home ranges of several deer often overlap.

The type and amount of food and cover determine how many deer the habitat can hold; and the number of deer in the habitat affects the size of the home range of the deer. Deer in prime mixed habitats, with abundant food sources, generally have smaller home ranges (from 60-1000+ acres) than deer in open coniferous forests, where food sources are low and widely scattered (up to 20+ square miles).

Climate directly affects the time of year, the length of the home range, and the use of the home range by the deer. In mild mid-west or southern climates whitetails may have home ranges no longer than two miles, and they often have traditional core areas. Deer in colder northern open prairie or foothill habitat may have larger home ranges (up to 120+ miles in South Dakota), and are less likely to have traditional core areas.

The climate and the number of bucks and does in the area affect the size of the home ranges of the buck, especially during the rut. Buck home ranges are generally larger than doe home ranges; often two or more times the size of local doe ranges; and the bucks use of their home ranges varies by the season. Bucks in mixed woodland/agricultural habitat in the mid-west may have home ranges of less than a thousand acres, to five or more square miles in size. During the summer adult bucks may use only a small portion of their home range. But, during the rut, adult buck home ranges often expand to include portions of several nearby doe and other buck home ranges.

Annual Home Range Of Deer

The annual home range of each deer consists of the area used by the individual throughout the year. Non-migratory deer may spend both the summer and winter on the same home range. However, migratory deer in the northern states or mountainous regions may have two or more widely separated home ranges used during different times of the year. Dr.’s Larry Marchinton, Karl Miller and other researchers have found that the home ranges of whitetails are generally elongated, from two to four times longer than they are wide. However, deer in open coniferous or agricultural habitat may have irregular or circular home ranges.

If you are interested in more whitetail management tips, or more biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T.R.’s Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.’s Tips message board. To find out when the rut begins, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

This article is adapted from T.R. Michels’ Deer Managers Manual ($9.95), and from the Deer Addict’s Manual, Volume 1 ($9.95). If you are interested in more whitetail hunting tips, or more whitetail biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T.R.’s Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T.R.’s Tips message board. To find out when the rut starts, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, outdoor writer and speaker. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk, Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict’s Manuals. His latest products are Hunting the Whitetail Rut Phases, the Complete Whitetail Addict’s Manual, the 2007 Revised Edition of the Elk Addict’s Manual; and the 2007 Revised Edition of the Duck & Goose Addict’s Manual. For a catalog of books and other hunting products contact: T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com, Web Site: www.TRMichels.com