Yearling-Buck Dispersal: How Far, How Fast, How Many?

Each fall, many yearling bucks will strike out from the range where they were born, mostly in a straight line, onto ground they have never seen before. Mama is not coming with them, and they will in all likelihood never see her again or any other familiar or closely related deer. They don’t know where they’re going, but for reasons we don’t yet understand they seem to know when they have arrived. That destination is their permanent adult home range. This one-way, burn-the-bridge movement from birth ground to adult range is called “dispersal,” and it is done primarily by bucks and almost always at age 1½. Older bucks make round-trip “excursions” outside their home ranges, but dispersal typically happens only once in a lifetime.

This behavior is a critical function in whitetail ecology. It means the mature buck you are after this season probably wasn’t born where you are hunting him. It explains why a yearling buck is one of the easiest deer in the woods to see and kill. He’s not just inexperienced – he ain’t even from around here.

In the October/November 2017 issue of Quality Whitetails, I compiled what we know about yearling-buck dispersal from the numerous scientific studies that have examined this behavior, including those tracking GPS-collared bucks. How many yearling bucks disperse from their birth range? How far do they travel? How fast? Below is an infographic that captures some of the highlights from my article. To be sure you always get the full stories on whitetail knowledge like this, and get it first, become a member of QDMA today.

Dispersal 72 dpi 846 px wide

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About Lindsay Thomas Jr.

Lindsay Thomas Jr. is the editor of Quality Whitetails magazine, the journal of QDMA, and he is QDMA's Director of Communications. He has been a member of the QDMA staff since 2003. Prior to joining the staff of QDMA, Lindsay was an editor at a Georgia hunting and fishing news magazine for nine years. Throughout his career as an editor, he has written and published numerous articles on deer management and hunting. He earned his journalism degree at the University of Georgia.