How Far will A Buck Really Travel?

By Alex Comstock

What's the furthest distance you've ever documented a buck travel? People always like to throw numbers out there on how far a buck will travel, whether that being during the rut, when they change home ranges from summer to fall, or from fall to winter. Truth be told though, it can be hard to actually know how far a buck moves. The odds of getting trail camera pictures or seeing a deer miles away from each other is a difficult feat. 

This season, my buddy Joey Hayes had the rare chance to document exactly how far a buck traveled from his fall range to his winter feeding area. Why was it so rare you ask? Well the buck traveled over ten miles. In case you didn't get that, 10 miles! When he told me about this, it absolutely blew my mind. I've heard of bucks going a mile, maybe even two, three, four, or even five miles. Five seems to be the most I've ever heard of. But 10? That makes me think differently about how much we truly know about whitetails. 

*Here is the story of the buck, told by Joey. "I found this buck I called "The Split 4" the second weekend of August with two other nice bucks. One of those bucks, Will Dirks ended up harvesting (You can read about Will's hunt here). Me and my buddy Mike had our eyes set on the other two bucks, knowing both were somewhere in the 160's, but as luck would have it, we had them patterned up until the day of bow opener, and the two bigger bucks completely changed their pattern. The one Mike was after stayed in the area, but The Split 4 completely vanished. I thought he might have died, but one night in late December, me and Mike caught a glimpse of him in my headlights...1 mile from my house. We watched where he ran, and hung a camera in there, and the next day we had pictures of him. He started out 12 miles from my house during the summer while in velvet, and ended up practically in my backyard. I was lucky enough to find one of his sheds, which scored 83", and another guy found the other side, which was 80". He was a lot bigger than I thought! I sure hope he keeps the same routine for next season, and I can get a crack at him." 

The Split Four in August.  Photo courtesy of Joey Hayes. 

The Split Four in August. Photo courtesy of Joey Hayes. 

A trail camera picture of the Split Four over ten miles away from the picture above.  Photo courtesy of Joey Hayes. 

A trail camera picture of the Split Four over ten miles away from the picture above. Photo courtesy of Joey Hayes. 

What Does This Mean? What this has taught me, is to never assume. Don't assume a deer is going to stay in a given area. I would still feel comfortable saying that once a buck calls an area home, he is going to stay in the general area for that given time of the year he calls it home. For example, I wouldn't expect a buck to drastically change home ranges during the middle of the summer. But with that said, it is already known that bucks commonly change their home range from summer to fall, and from fall to winter. 

How Far will They Go? There are a lot of circumstances that plays into how far a buck will travel when he changes home ranges. From summer to fall, a buck might be traveling due to crop harvest, changes in bedding, or hard mast. When it comes to a buck changing home ranges from fall to winter, a lot hinges on food. In Joey's case, there was a good enough food source to pull a buck ten miles. I can't imagine a buck going much further than that, but who knows, I would have never thought a deer would move ten miles in the first place. 

Conclusion: The whitetail deer is an animal we continue to learn about. There is something that comes up year after year that is fascinating and opens our eyes to more about them. In this case, Joey was at the forefront of learning how a deer might travel from one season of the year to the next. It's going to be very interesting to see if this buck ends up in the same area this coming summer as the last one, and travels those ten miles again!