Buck Food Plot Use During the Hunting Season

BenAllgood

Well-Known Member
The MSU Deer Lab has a movement ecologist who has joined the team. She is analyzing some of the data collected. They are excited to bring new information as they come out with it.


Here's some brief takeaways, but I'd encourage people to watch this episode. They do note that, while the data is preliminary, they have lots more questions they will explore.

Study Area/Info:
-NW of Jackson, MS
-50k acres
-60 gps collared bucks
-positions taken every 15 minutes during hunting season (over a million locations)
-468 food plots
-89 feeders
-915 stands
-knowns= when stands were hunted, weather, wind speed and direction, bedding site

Screenshot 2024-06-24 140818.png


Bucks visited food plots more frequently during the rut and late season than they did earlier, but durations of the visits were longer before and after the rut.


Screenshot 2024-06-24 141743.png

Median acreage size of plots was 1.7 acres, but most of the visits, by far, were in food plots of about 4 acres

Screenshot 2024-06-24 142549.png


After the opening of season, buck visits during legal shooting light, decreased dramatically
There was a spike in activity around noon

Screenshot 2024-06-24 144623.png


Bucks seemed to prefer bedding between 100-200 yards away from the first food plot they visited.

Screenshot 2024-06-24 150609.png


They are currently working on wind analysis in relation to movement and bedding.

Screenshot 2024-06-24 152115.png
 
I finally found time to watch the entire podcast! Fascinating! Great Post Ben! It is an hour well spent for anyone interested in deer hunting. I'm looking forward to their next report!
 
I need to watch that, studies on collared deer are very interesting and educational. Some of what you posted I already knew from personal experience, for example the frequency of visits during the rut, and the visits during the middle of the day. 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM is a great time to see a buck in my hunting area and I seldom get out of the stand before noon. Sometimes, especially during the rut, I sit all day. It’s a long day, but sometimes it’s worth it.
 
I need to watch that, studies on collared deer are very interesting and educational. Some of what you posted I already knew from personal experience, for example the frequency of visits during the rut, and the visits during the middle of the day. 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM is a great time to see a buck in my hunting area and I seldom get out of the stand before noon. Sometimes, especially during the rut, I sit all day. It’s a long day, but sometimes it’s worth it.
While the results so far are interesting, you are right that most of it is a confirmation of what we already believe from common sense with hard data. There were a few nuggets in there I found useful. What really impressed me was the dataset. They have an unbelievable data set and they have just begun to slice it. The food plot size was a new nugget for me. I would have assumed bucks would visit smaller more secluded plots more frequently, but my belief there was debunked by the data. They also dropped a nugget that during the rut they don't just make two visits to food plots on average, but two different plots.

The biggest eyeopener was just how close, on average, bucks bed to food plots. While we have always know our approach to food plots was very important, I never realized they were bedded so close. It is tough to walk within 200 yards of a bedded buck without being detected.

The season shift from daytime to nighttime visits due to pressure confirms my camera data, but I only have number of visits. They also have duration data.

I'm really looking forward to more detailed analysis.
 
Thanks for the overview, I’ll add this to the watch list.

Sturgis said bucks won’t bed that close to food so it has to be false. 🤪
 
It would be interesting to know how close to food plots does bed.

Sent from my SM-S918U using Tapatalk
 
It would be interesting to know how close to food plots does bed.

Sent from my SM-S918U using Tapatalk
Yes it would. I can only venture a guess based on my personal anecdotal observations and game camera pictures over the years. When bucks are in bachelor groups and does are in family groups, who knows? However as we get into the pre-rut when bucks and does intermingle, I would guess they are probably bedding about the same distance as bucks.

I just finished watching several of the MSU videos. It seems to me that their data set is confirming my view that you really need to control significant acreage to truly do QDM where you are having a measurable impact on herd health as measured by body weights or antler size or similar metric.

For example, if you have 1,000 acres they are showing that only about 2/3 of the bucks fall into the "Sedentary" category that would spend their time in that typical average size home range. The rest are "Mobile" and would spend significant time on other lands. Then you add in the dispersal factor where young bucks are dispersing into and out of the property each year. Granted, doe home ranges are generally presumed smaller, but including does in the dataset would have also been enlightening.

None of this is to say that habit improvements are not a good thing or you can't increase the amount of deer use of a small property. I'm simply saying that with free ranging deer, there is so much that impacts a 600 acre property from outside that is out of the control of the manager, that having a measurable impact on overall heard health is probably not realistic.

Deer are fascinating animals and the more I learn, the more questions I have.
 
Yes it would. I can only venture a guess based on my personal anecdotal observations and game camera pictures over the years. When bucks are in bachelor groups and does are in family groups, who knows? However as we get into the pre-rut when bucks and does intermingle, I would guess they are probably bedding about the same distance as bucks.

I just finished watching several of the MSU videos. It seems to me that their data set is confirming my view that you really need to control significant acreage to truly do QDM where you are having a measurable impact on herd health as measured by body weights or antler size or similar metric.

For example, if you have 1,000 acres they are showing that only about 2/3 of the bucks fall into the "Sedentary" category that would spend their time in that typical average size home range. The rest are "Mobile" and would spend significant time on other lands. Then you add in the dispersal factor where young bucks are dispersing into and out of the property each year. Granted, doe home ranges are generally presumed smaller, but including does in the dataset would have also been enlightening.

None of this is to say that habit improvements are not a good thing or you can't increase the amount of deer use of a small property. I'm simply saying that with free ranging deer, there is so much that impacts a 600 acre property from outside that is out of the control of the manager, that having a measurable impact on overall heard health is probably not realistic.

Deer are fascinating animals and the more I learn, the more questions I have.
And this is the reason that I kill bucks that are 3.5 or older. It’s my self-imposed criteria because I don’t want to shoot younger bucks even if they are legal (13” inside spread). I can’t let many of them try to reach 5.5 or older because 90% of them will never be seen after they reach 3.5. I don’t hunt large acreage, 80 at home, 350 on one lease, and 117 on another. Oddly enough, the smallest lease has the biggest bucks, i.e., the oldest bucks, because it’s long and narrow, and butts up against a 900 acre place all along its eastern line. Hardly any hunting on the 900 and the bucks have age on them. They live over there, but they eat on us.
 
And this is the reason that I kill bucks that are 3.5 or older. It’s my self-imposed criteria because I don’t want to shoot younger bucks even if they are legal (13” inside spread). I can’t let many of them try to reach 5.5 or older because 90% of them will never be seen after they reach 3.5. I don’t hunt large acreage, 80 at home, 350 on one lease, and 117 on another. Oddly enough, the smallest lease has the biggest bucks, i.e., the oldest bucks, because it’s long and narrow, and butts up against a 900 acre place all along its eastern line. Hardly any hunting on the 900 and the bucks have age on them. They live over there, but they eat on us.

There is nothing wrong with personal limits. We each set them. Sometimes across the board like yours, or based on the circumstances. We can't delude ourselves that these personal limits improve the age class of bucks using a property. These studies showing buck movement illustrate the point that any harvest limits that would impact age class need to be implemented over a large area. Whether by regulation or culturally, if a harvest limit is not a general practice over a large area, it won't make a significant difference.

I think there are all kinds of things that increase an individuals chance of shooting a mature buck and a personal limit is one of them. Not shooting a young buck (or any deer for that matter) keeps you in the stand observing longer. It is not uncommon for the most mature bucks to expose themselves later outside the rut when all bets are off. Shooting that earlier buck typically ends the chance that hunt.

You are right there are some properties that can be small that can be honey holes for more mature bucks.

One more thought on harvest limits, personal or otherwise. There is a balance that we need to achieve between recreation and management for age class. Personally, I like the balance of the top 10%. In some locations, that top 10% may be 6 1/2 and older, but in other areas, it may be 3 1/2 and older. I think this is a good balance. In some areas, guys could hunt a lifetime and never see a 5 1/2 year old buck let along harvest one. In other locations, guys may pass 5 1/2 year old bucks.

My personal limit is circumstance specific. We have a reasonable sized farm with some cooperating adjoining properties. We are attempting to do QDM, but after 10 years, I'm skeptical if we have had much impact. After over 15 years of management, the biologist says he think he is seeing some signs of impact in the data. Personally, I'm not convinced what he is seeing is statistically significant. On that property we target the top 10% for experienced hunters and let novice hunters shoot any deer.

On the other hand, my retirement property is tiny, 16 acres. We have deer, but not a high density population there. I would rather shoot a 1 1/2 year old buck than a doe there. It is more meat for the same amount of work, and it helps increase the population. So for me, my personal limit depends on the situation and my objectives.
 
I know for a documented fact you can have a good population of bucks that survive to maturity and express antler growth unheard of in an area. The location I'm talking about is sub 1000 acres and surrounded by clubs. It takes decades of generations though.
 
There is nothing wrong with personal limits. We each set them. Sometimes across the board like yours, or based on the circumstances. We can't delude ourselves that these personal limits improve the age class of bucks using a property. These studies showing buck movement illustrate the point that any harvest limits that would impact age class need to be implemented over a large area. Whether by regulation or culturally, if a harvest limit is not a general practice over a large area, it won't make a significant difference.

I think there are all kinds of things that increase an individuals chance of shooting a mature buck and a personal limit is one of them. Not shooting a young buck (or any deer for that matter) keeps you in the stand observing longer. It is not uncommon for the most mature bucks to expose themselves later outside the rut when all bets are off. Shooting that earlier buck typically ends the chance that hunt.

You are right there are some properties that can be small that can be honey holes for more mature bucks.

One more thought on harvest limits, personal or otherwise. There is a balance that we need to achieve between recreation and management for age class. Personally, I like the balance of the top 10%. In some locations, that top 10% may be 6 1/2 and older, but in other areas, it may be 3 1/2 and older. I think this is a good balance. In some areas, guys could hunt a lifetime and never see a 5 1/2 year old buck let along harvest one. In other locations, guys may pass 5 1/2 year old bucks.

My personal limit is circumstance specific. We have a reasonable sized farm with some cooperating adjoining properties. We are attempting to do QDM, but after 10 years, I'm skeptical if we have had much impact. After over 15 years of management, the biologist says he think he is seeing some signs of impact in the data. Personally, I'm not convinced what he is seeing is statistically significant. On that property we target the top 10% for experienced hunters and let novice hunters shoot any deer.

On the other hand, my retirement property is tiny, 16 acres. We have deer, but not a high density population there. I would rather shoot a 1 1/2 year old buck than a doe there. It is more meat for the same amount of work, and it helps increase the population. So for me, my personal limit depends on the situation and my objectives.
I fully agree that “shooter buck” criteria is circumstance specific. I hunted a 16,000 acre place for four years by invitation where we were only supposed to shoot 5.5 year old bucks or older. I saw some decent bucks that I would have taken on the other places I hunted, bucks that may have been 4.5 or 5.5 but would score mid thirties or low forties. I determined when I started hunting there that I would not shoot unless it was a jaw dropper because I could get my groceries elsewhere. In those four years I saw maybe three bucks that fit that criteria and for one reason or another they never offered a decent shot. I stopped hunting there because it was a long drive and I had to stay in the house or drive two hours each way. I usually hunted Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning to avoid some of the other guys but that defeated the purpose of why I was invited to begin with, to have fellowship with a good friend who leased 2,500 acres of the property.

I miss hunting there, but he gave up the lease last year anyway as he is a little older than me and it became not fun anymore. Even though the only thing I ever killed there were does and pigs, I thoroughly enjoyed my hunts, as I generally packed a lunch and sat all day. I had a 3/4 acre plot in the middle of planted pines and creek bottom hardwoods, which made deer visit on and off all day long. I saw my biggest buck about 1:00 pm but could not get an ethical shot on him, although I tried. Typical of older bucks, he saw no does in that little plot, and he didn’t tarry long.
 
Back
Top