The Difference Between a Buck’s Core Area and Home Range

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Knowing the Difference Can Mean Success Rather Than Failure

Core areas range from 25 to 75 acres and deer will spend 70 to 80 percent of their time within that location. Find that area, learn how a buck uses it and you're well on your way to killing it. (Shutterstock / Tom Reichner / Tony Campbell photo)

Mature white-tailed bucks are like cantankerous old men — loyal to their surroundings, stuck in their ways and want nothing more than a full belly. They’re incredibly simple yet oftentimes complex to figure out. And getting close to them — well, it ain’t happening unless you're doe-eyed or packing a plate full of chow.

You’ve been catching that big buck on camera for several seasons now. You already know where its home range is, or you wouldn’t have seen it (most likely — but more on that later). Now you just have to determine where its core area is. How is that done? Time and extensive amounts of effort. But let’s back up and look at the big picture before we home in on the core of this concept.

A home range is the entire area that a deer lives in. On average, these are generally 600 to 700 acres. Some bucks will have a different spring, summer, fall and/or winter range. Even more, some bucks change home ranges from year to year. Others spend all of their time in the same location for the majority of their lives.

We often think of home ranges as a big, square block. That’s not true of whitetail home ranges. Most home ranges will be an irregular, organic shape. A deer establishes its home range based on its needs and where it can find them. It’s just as likely to look like a piece of spaghetti thrown on the wall as anything else. It’s all dependent on available food, water and cover. These are the three basic needs of a deer and each greatly influence the size, shape and location of the home range.

Each deer has its own personality. This means each deer will have different food preferences, bedding habits, travel routines, etc. This means no two bucks’ home ranges and/or core areas will look or be the same. Some bucks are simply more daylight active than others. One buck might have a large home range but rarely moves in daylight, while another might have a small core area and move a lot during the day.

It is possible for deer to occasionally travel outside of their home range. Bucks tend to go on excursions. While spring and summer excursions still haven’t been fully explained, fall and winter excursions are believed to be dictated mostly by breeding, food availability and hunting pressure. It’s actually quite common and numerous studies have documented this behavior. It might explain (at least some of) the cases when random deer show up for a day or two and then suddenly vanish never to be seen again. So, if you only see a buck once — don’t get hung up on it.

As for the core area, it ranges from 25 to 75 acres and deer will spend 70 to 80 percent of their time within that location. That means you’ll have to get in tight to kill a buck that doesn’t venture far from its bed during daylight. Core areas typically range from 5 to 25 percent of their total home range.

Find a buck’s home range and you haven’t done much. Find a buck’s core area and you have a fighting chance of killing it. Don’t overhunt a specific stand location, though. Most deer react negatively to pressure. Some bucks rarely react at all. Every deer has more or less toleration to human intrusion. Nonetheless, don’t rush in. Stay off their radar regardless of their personality. Wait for high-odds days such as weather events, temperature drops, etc.

You know you’re inside a buck’s core area when you get numerous daylight trail camera photos, or you see the deer on the hoof while hunting. Once this happens, you’ve got as good a chance as ever to tag that buck. Pull together your best game plan and bring home the backstrap.

Don’t Miss: The Science of Killing Big Bucks

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