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Data Double-checks

Posted: November 19, 2015

State Farm may have the market on discounts but good science is always double-checking the facts.

In 2013, we showed how deer home ranges change from September-December.

Let’s check again for 2014.

One of the reasons science is so cool is that it continually tests ideas and findings. The backbone of the process is to repeat an experiment or observation to see if you get the same result.

For example, when a researcher claims to discover the secret to nuclear fusion at room temperature, other scientists aren’t just going to stand around without doing it themselves. If they can’t duplicate it, well, there’s a problem.

That’s what we’re going to do today. We told you the story using 2013 data of how home ranges of male and female deer changed during September-December, including the rifle season.  

A new year and new data, do we see the same pattern and similar home range sizes?

As a refresher, here’s the graph from 2013.
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(Drum roll please) And the results for 2014 are…

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So what are the differences?

  • Female home ranges dipped to about 200 acres during Oct-Nov in 2013 but were about 300 acres in 2014
  • Male home ranges during the rut peaked at about 3 square miles in 2013 but were only about 2 square miles in 2014
  • The males we followed in 2014 also had much larger home ranges in October – essentially the same size as November.

What stayed the same?

  • Home ranges were smallest during the rifle season (~100 acres in 2013 and 130-170 acres in 2014).
  • Female home ranges declined during the rut while male home ranges were the largest. We recently wrote about this behavior.
  • Males and females had similar home ranges in September.

Overall, however, the differences aren’t that great. The overall pattern remained pretty much the same.

Sample size is always a consideration when differences are observed. So could sample size differences explain the variation between 2013 and 2014? Probably not. Seven males and 22 females collared in 2013. In 2014, there were 9 males and 22 females. Some of those animals were even monitored both years, but not all.

So does this support an early start to the rut in 2014 (October as opposed to November)? Doubtful. Of the hundreds of thousands of males and females out there, I wouldn’t hang my hat on the movements of 7-9 males per year.

Remember, there is an individuality factor for all studies. It’s called variability. With more data, you can better understand the effect of this individuality.

But individuality is what is fascinating (and the biggest challenge for hunters).

-Duane Diefenbach and Jeannine Fleegle

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