Territorial or Traveller?

Buck master: Mark with a trophy buck

Mark Brackstone has a new theory about why the most impressive bucks seem to vanish so easily: a nomadic lifestyle

In my 30 years as a semi-professional stalker I have culled a large quantity of roe deer. Like many stalkers I spend a lot of time out recceing for bucks for my clients, who all want a gold medal roe buck of course. I am fortunate that my wife, Helen, can aid me in this department as she spends a lot of her day on horseback and, complete with binoculars and a telescope, locates a lot of bucks for me.

In my early days as a stalker I read every book about stalking I could get my hands on, especially about roe. I soaked up this information and later learned many tips first-hand from my mentor, the late Clive Wordley from Wiltshire, and have been a deer manager ever since. Over the years I’ve formed an opinion I’ve not yet seen in any books. I truly believe that a high percentage of the really big bucks don’t hold a territory in the same way as many a run-of-the-mill buck commonly does.

I think that many of these impressive bucks are almost transient, simply moving from one territory to the next, and it is my belief that this happens throughout the summer and not just in the spring when roe bucks are sorting out and defending territories.

Maybe it’s just my ground, which covers a big part of Wiltshire, but if you are an experienced deer manager, ask yourself how many times you have seen a huge buck once, or maybe a couple of times in an area, but then never again. I would suggest that this is a common occurrence.

I can only put forward my own experiences but I have at least enough evidence of my own to convince myself of the accuracy of this theory.

The reed call: Difficult to master but worth the effort

The trophy buck I’m pictured with overleaf came from a walled estate of 2,000 acres. It’s difficult for the resident deer to leave or for others to enter this estate but it’s not impossible, as events later proved. However, being almost walled-in makes particular bucks easier to locate, enabling one to keep tabs on them pretty well. I first saw this buck in early April. I marked him as a client buck and moved a high seat into his location. In the middle of April he was nowhere to be found, until he turned up in another area when I was recceing a mile or so away. I put this down to another one-off sighting of a transient buck. In June I once again caught up with the same buck a few miles further away from the walled estate. In the rut, by chance, I bumped in to him in a completely different area where my client shot him.

I believe that this buck came into the estate through one of the holes in the wall and used the whole estate as his territory, displacing the bucks that were usually territorial there. He must also have passed through many other mature bucks’ territory.

In my time as a professional deer manager I have probably seen eight or 10 exceptional bucks of immense proportions, only to never see them again. Is this just coincidence or are they exercising their right to roam in view of their impressive headgear, large bodies and their obvious dominance over lesser rivals? I personally believe that this last assumption is very much the case.

I stalk over some large tracts of down land, of many thousands of acres, and the topography means you get to know individual bucks and their particular territories very well. I saw the malformed buck pictured here in one

The Buttolo: Excellent for long-range calling

location in the middle of April. He spent a week there with a smaller buck and three does. By early May he had moved about two miles through two other bucks’ territories which were known to me, and had displaced another buck. But by late May he had moved another two and a half miles away and again displaced the resident buck. Unfortunately for him this is where he met his Waterloo.

Consider the two bucks above and then look over the CIC gold medal heads recorded annually in the sporting press, particularly referring to those bucks that have been found dead, presumably as a result of road casualties. I have noticed over the years that many of the deer that I have found killed by road traffic accidents have been very large bucks indeed. Are they knocked down when chasing inferior rival bucks or are they simply transient and more likely to meet their fate on the tarmac due to their nomadic lifestyle?

During the rut, we all know that a doe can draw or even bring a buck back into her area but when you know your own area well and know all of the resident bucks, you begin to wonder whether she really travels miles to find that impressive big buck that appeared from nowhere. I rather think that he would be on the move anyway and just arrives in the vicinity having travelled many miles, instead of being enticed in by the female.

When you consider my experiences and think about the really big bucks that you have seen once only – or twice at most – and then vanished, maybe you will agree that this theory holds some water.

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