Age-specific physical characteristics, activity, and behavior patterns of male white-tailed deer in southern Texas
Hellickson, Mickey Wayne
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Knowledge of the age-specific physical characteristics, activity, and behavior patterns of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are required for making informed management decisions as the popularity of non-traditional management programs increase. Regression analyses indicated live mass of mature males can be predicted based on dressed mass. Live mass can be predicted for fawn and yearling females with models based on dressed mass, hoof length, shoulder height, and chest girth; whereas only dressed mass provided an accurate prediction for adult females. Akaike information criterion indicated age of males can be best estimated by gross Boone and Crockett Club (BCC) score, inside spread, and basal circumference. Best 2- and 3-variable models included gross BCC score and number of points; and gross BCC score, number of points, and stomach girth. Gross BCC score, inside antler spread, and stomach girth for males, and live mass and chest girth for females, are likely the most useful criteria for visually estimating age. Our data collection system accurately identified deer as active (90.2%) when relative pulse rates were >104% and as inactive (88.4%) when pulse rates were <104%. This same system was used to quantify relative activity rates of 35 males. Males were active an average of 42.6% (±2.1 SE) of the time monitored. Peak months were January and September-October, with lows during March and April-August. Males were most active during the evening crepuscular period except during rut when diurnal activity was highest. Highest seasonal activity occurred during prerut, with lowest activity during spring. Activity rates were highly variable, with some males >4 times as active as other males. Activity was highest for young and middle-aged males and lowest for mature and old males. Activity was unrelated to forage quantity and quality, precipitation, deer density, or antler and body size; but may be explained by social interactions, relative dominance and the varying ability among males to assimilate into bachelor groups. We observed 111 male white-tailed deer responses to 4 antler rattling sequences. Loud rattling attracted 3 times as many males as quiet rattling. Highest response occurred during rut with lowest during prerut. Young, middle-aged, and mature males responded at highest rates during prerut, rut, and postrut, respectively.