The Summer Patterns of Whitetail Bucks
The word “pattern” suggests that a similar routine is followed day after day. Like as in I rise every morning at six, eat a bowl of Cheerios with my coffee, leave the house at seven to arrive at work just before eight. That, essentially, is a pattern. Believing a wild animal is that consistent with time is somewhat laughable. It could also lead you to hunting a deer stand for about three weeks in a row with the same empty-handed results. We’ve all been there.
We’re not setting out to debunk some great myth that a buck doesn’t visit the same food sources or stay true to a certain bedding area. He’ll do both for a little while, longer in the bedding area, before moving on for Lord knows why. We can’t tell you the countless times we’ve caught a fine buck on trail camera for as many as seven days in a row in the same food plot only to have him disappear on day eight. Then, a few days later, we’d spot him walking an adjoining property or feeding in the neighbor’s garden. But why?!
Don’t Overthink It
Deer are driven by just a few desires stemmed from the need to survive. They eat when they get hungry. They also change their diet due to what they feel like eating, ie. soy beans versus acorns. They drink when they’re thirsty. And when the testosterone and estrus levels rise during the rut, well, you know.
A deer’s innate will to simply survive focuses on the three main areas: eating, drinking and breeding. There is fight or flight which is more ancillary - they provide support to the primary activity (survival). A buck fights to breed and flees to stay alive.
Faithful to the Bedding Area
Whitetail bucks have been known to stay faithful to just a few bedding areas if they aren’t pressured too hard. The old guard don’t get that way by simply getting comfortable in any ol’ spot. Instead they choose areas where there is ample food, water and above all, protection. The latter could be considered by design: Let’s say a good bedding area provides protection from a prevailing wind. However, by catching a slight breeze off of that same consistent wind the buck now has an alarm system to the smells and sounds that signal danger. When he’s laying down, he’s facing the likely approach of any catalysts that might prove bad for his health. A wise buck “posts up” rather than beds down.
Not the Food Plots
Whereas a prefered food plot is going to change irregularly. Deer eat what they’re body needs. While a buck is growing his antlers, he’s probably not even thinking that he needs protein, it’s just what he naturally gravitates to. Just as a lactating doe will likely ingest more water and water-rich foods to keep from dehydrating. Deer don’t reason, they are instinctual.
Despite what may seem like a summer pattern, bucks will range freely during the warm months.
Acquiring Stand Sores
This point, which we alluded to earlier, suggests that no matter how many times we affirm that deer don’t maintain a steady course ever, we’re still going to sit a stand overlooking a bean field that was frequented by a high-horned buck throughout the summer. It’s human nature for us to do so just as the reason they don’t show up is whitetail nature. Try not to limit yourself to one buck in one location. “They’re many fish in the sea,” they say, though not necessarily pertaining to whitetail bucks. But you get the point.
In an article titled “10 Things We Know About Mature Buck Movements,” Matt Ross of the QDMA wrote, “Every buck is different. Numerous studies have shown that a buck’s home range size is highly variable and is not strongly correlated to age, daily movements or any number of other factors.”
Most of us are aware of a buck’s winter range, when the rut is in full swing. While they might not travel as widely during the summer and early fall, an old whitetail with a crown of horns will still walk miles in a day because he feels like eating, drinking or rubbing his velvety horns somewhere else.