Research Breaks Down Deer Hunting

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You waited all year for this day, spent countless hours scouting and looking at maps, refined your gear, made sure you were in your spot well before daylight and checked your wind directions.

Everything is perfect and this is definitely the year for a big buck. Then it happens . . . Larry, Curly and Moe come stomping through the woods, completely oblivious to everything. In the distance, you hear the stomping of hooves as the deer retreat to safer ground and your morning hunt is over.

Two studies, however, might help you avoid this common catastrophe. By tracking the habits of both hunters and the hunted, researchers say it’s best to get as far from a nearby road as possible. The studies looked at two important aspects of hunting that, if considered and utilized, could make a big difference in the quality of your next hunt.

Penn State Study

During this 2004 study by Penn State University researchers, hunters were asked to wear GPS units during their hunts to monitor activity and movement. Most studied were random participants and “typical” hunters. After all the data was collected, the researchers determined that over 87% of hunters hunted within 0.3 miles from the nearest road. That’s almost 9 out of 10 hunters! Now, interestingly enough, when asked how far they thought they were from the nearest road, the majority thought they were at least two miles away. It’s been my experience that most guys don’t want to pack a deer any considerable distance and I do see many hunters near roads (some guys don’t even get out of the truck). A quality UTV for getting to the hunt in those situations can make a world of difference.

QDMA Study

This study by the non-profit Quality Deer Management Association was the opposite. The GPS units were attached to the deer and the results were not surprising. The mortality rates greatly declined the farther away they were from roads. This may seem like a no-brainer but, there is a pearl of wisdom in this study. Researchers determined that during the pressure of deer season, the deer located areas of refuge to retreat to and obviously they were far away from nearby roads. Another interesting fact in the QDMA study referred to slope. They estimated that for every 5 degree increase in slope, the area was one and a half times less likely to be hunted. And, not surprisingly, most hunters were found on flat slopes.


If you seriously want to increase your odds of getting that trophy buck, you gotta work for it. Let’s face it, nobody wants to drag a 150 pound animal farther than they have to. If you have an UTV, you have a bit more leeway but you still need a road, or at least a wide enough trail. I prefer to tread lightly with my ATV and hope you do the same. But considering the statistics, you don’t have to go that much farther to greatly increase your odds. And think of what you might gain if you find a “refuge” area. Lastly, don’t forget slope. I have jumped huge bucks on really steep hills. It’s my experience that they like the steeps for cover and also so they can spot a threat. Start scouting early and make a plan to get a little further into the wild this year. It could pay off big!

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons