Deer hunting is common in several parts of the world and hunters use various weapons including long range guns, shotguns, and bows for it. In certain remote regions of the US, deer hunting has religious importance for many hunters. However, it is not a threat to the wildlife population, as hunting laws, specified seasons, and lands are allowed. Thanks to the successful wildlife management.
Hunting a deer is quite adventurous but challenging as well, especially for beginners. However, with practice and grit, hunting a trophy buck is within reach. Game animals are very well aware of their predators around them, be they humans or other animals. These creatures are pretty attentive and run away as soon as they hear the hunter approaching.
You can’t hunt a deer unless you know how to. While many beginners may not know their traits and habits. However, it is necessary to know sleeping patterns, movement during day and night and in different seasons, deer bedding areas. etc.
This guide will help you get started with hunting this season. The qualities of these intelligent and beautiful creatures leave hunters and photographers amazed. Every hunting season, we successfully bag a trophy buck following these deer hunting tips and tricks. To help you with the research, we have compiled the commonly asked questions related to deer hunting.
- Deer Sleep Habits
- Deer Travel Patterns
- Best Time and Weather To Hunt Deer
- Hunting a Whitetail Deer
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Sleep Habits – How, Where and When do deer sleep?
Hunters that are curious about the sleeping patterns of a deer are also eager to know the relevant information. Here is an easy answer for all of them; you will find a deer bedded down literally anywhere it feels safe.
Being nocturnal creatures, these animals are more active during nighttime and sleep mostly throughout the day. The main reason is that deer are prey to several carnivores around them. Therefore, they have to stay attentive during the nighttime when their potential predators are out for a hunt.
One fun fact about these game animals is that they can sleep with their eyes open or closed both. Moreover, they love to sleep with a group of other deer since it helps them stay safe. A large group of deer is much more alert than a single buck and they can spot the hunter before it is too late. Deer do sleep alone on their own but occasionally, however, they are still highly alert.
How long Do Deer sleep?
A fawn’s sleep cycle is surprisingly quite brief and is rather dozing off than going into a deep sleep. Normally, it dozes off for 30 seconds or 3 minutes. They then wake up, loom around and watch out for the predators, find a peaceful spot and doze off again.
Most of the time, these creatures also wake up to urinate or defecate and then return to sleep. These short sleep cycles are repeated every day for about 30 minutes which makes a total of 12 hours of sleeping throughout the day.
Deer Sleep At Night
Now you must be wondering if deer sleep 12 hours throughout the day, do they also sleep during the dark hours? And if they do, where do deer sleep at night? Well, night hours are the most dangerous for bucks since many of their predators are out.
As mentioned earlier, does are nocturnal and are active during the night. That said, an adult stag doesn’t spend much of its time sleeping at night. Instead, they spend their time foraging and staying undercover in the dark. On the other hand, a younger fawn would play and feed all day while spend most of their night’s sleep.
Deer Sleep in Rain
It is almost impossible for hunters to catch bucks napping during the rainy season. Usually, deer are found seeking shelter under stray foliage, forest canopies, large coniferous trees, or anywhere they feel safe during heavy downpours. These elusive creatures are likely to bed down in areas that are safe to ruminate and sleep.
When the rain is light, deer don’t find any difficulty moving around or finding a bed. However, as the weather gets harsh with heavy rainstorms, the buck’s ability to look around and smell is also interfered and these animals look for a proper and safe shelter.
During wet season, long crop fields also provide fawns with a good cover, shelter, and above all, easy access to food. In these areas, deer hunting becomes difficult since the hunters find it notoriously challenging to catch any.
Hunting Pressure and Deer Sleep Habits
A trophy buck can easily sense the hunting pressure around them and as a result, it changes its sleeping spots. Whether it’s the hunting season or not, deer are extremely cautious. Since these creatures live at the border of human habitat and wilderness, they can sense when predators approach them. Therefore, it is necessary to use proper glassing equipment e.g. best rangefinder for long range shooting to spot deer from far.
These animals have become highly familiar with hunting activities and therefore, as soon as the legal hunting hours are over, they return to the safe spots for sleeping or feeding. However, when a deer sees a hunter, it will run away or hide and alert every deer nearby about the danger.
Deer Travel Patterns
It is crucial for the hunters to track the movement and patterns of trophy bucks so that they can plan for the upcoming hunting season accordingly. They must know where do deer live and what are their travel patterns throughout different seasons.
Fawns live in a variety of ecosystems such as rain forests, wetlands, grasslands, deciduous forests, mountains, and even arid scrublands. Deer will also make themselves comfortable in situations when human civilizations come close to their habitat.
Out of the numerous deer species only two of them are found in the US. These include whitetail deer and mule deer. Whitetails live in every US state except for Alaska whereas the mules live mostly in the Western States of the US.
All in all, there isn’t any specific place that can be called a deer’s home since they keep moving based on a variety of factors such as hunting pressure, harsh weather, food availability, etc. By following deer travel patterns, hunters often use rifles and best hunting rangefinders to range and hunt big bucks.
Deer Movement In Winter
Bucks try to find the most appropriate and warm shelter during the winter to stay safe from cold winds, snow, and rain. One easy shelter for deer is under the coniferous tree which stands tall and provides a tough shelter from above.
Oftentimes, deer gather in a large group and climb a hill with a large number of evergreen trees. Hills with trees are important since these tend to block cold winds and snow which ultimately keeps the deer warm.
Fawns are extremely careful when it comes to choosing a warm spot in winter. For that purpose, they choose areas where sunlight is present for several hours throughout the day which is known as “deer yards”.
Deer yard is considered the safest place for deer since they are present in a hefty number there. It not only keeps them safe from unpleasant weather conditions but also from potential predators. In case of extreme cold, all the deer share their body heat to stay warm. The vicinity of deer yards almost always has a great source of food nearby.
Deer Movement In Rain and Wind
Understanding this question makes it easier for the hunters to locate the deer during wet conditions. Since it is already mentioned above, you will have some speculation about buck’s bedding areas during rain, let’s discuss in which places these animals travel.
Fawns detect when the weather is getting cloudy and plan their movement to dry areas with little to no precipitation. However, if they encounter harsh rainstorms during their movement, they seek shelter under long pine trees.
Little wind never bothers anyone including the deer. However, as soon as the wind starts to interrupt the visibility, they move. These creatures are likely to migrate in groups and settle at a place with clearer air.
How far does a deer travel in a day?
Be it the search for food, bedding, or shelter, a mature buck is likely to travel nearly 2 to 3 miles daily. The amount that a game animal can travel is based on the area of the forest it needs to cover and its age. For example, a young fawn will not be able to travel more than 2 to 3 miles in a day. However, an adult stag would easily cover more than 25 miles daily.
Movement of Deer in Herd
Most bucks like to move or stay in a group. The foremost reason is their safety from the predators. Even if a single deer spots a hunter, it will alter the entire herd so they can either hide or run away. These animals are extremely social and the number of deer in the group varies. These can range from 40 to 100s of bucks moving together from one place to another.
Usually, a herd is visible in two different groups. One group consists of does (female deer) along with their fawns (young deer) and the other one is of bucks (male deer). The group of bucks travels behind the group of does so that they can overwatch them while traveling.
Just like deer, some other big game animals e.g. elk, also travel in herds. Elk hunting is also common among hunters in various Northern States.
Factors That Increase Deer Movement
Even though deer’s movement is quite unpredictable and sometimes frustrating for the hunter, numerous factors are directly related to it. Below we have discussed a detailed breakdown of these factors, let’s readout.
- Atmospheric pressure
Atmospheric pressure or otherwise called barometric pressure greatly impacts a deer’s movement. Based on the atmospheric pressure, a deer will move more when the barometer rises. This occurs ahead of pleasant weather which is followed by a storm front. However, when the barometer readings decline, which happens as a result of a storm front approaching, deers stay where they are and find a safe spot for bedding.
Since a barometer helps determine the deer’s movement, hunters in groups usually carry one with them.
- Seasonal Temperatures
There is a lot of evidence about the cold weather movement and deer activity even during the daytime. But, despite the amazingly warm winter coat, harsh winters can bother deer.
The reason why deer are more active during the daytime in winters is the relatively better temperatures in those hours. For example, winter days are warmer than winter nights and that is when they are much more active. However, when the winter gets drastically unbearable, they are left with nothing but to move to a better spot.
On the contrary, warmer days are much better for them since they don’t often move but focus on finding a safe bedding area and venture out on a food hunt. When the weather is unreasonably warm, hunters must look for deer in their bedding and feeding areas. This is because deers are likely to travel less during the broad daylight and more at night time.
Wind is another important factor for deer’s movement. The game animals focus more on the type of wind rather than the velocity. These include swirling or gusty winds which directly impact the buck’s ability to detect the hunters.
Hunters try to hide their scent stream from the deer, but the swirling winds make it challenging to have control over it. This ultimately results in spooking the fawns and they run away even before the hunter can find them.
Therefore, the steady wind is much better and helps deer with comfortable movement. It also aids the hunters to control their scent or at least helps them predict where their scent will disperse.
No other factor than precipitation shuts down the game animal’s movement faster than anything. Light showers don’t impact deer’s movement but heavy downpours sure do. These animals would also move during foggy and misty conditions since it helps them to stay out of the hunter’s sight.
As soon as the weather gets cloudy, fawns start moving to a much safer place with favorable weather conditions. Cloudy weather has more to do with the temperatures than the rain itself. This is because the scorching heat is covered by the clouds, making temperatures more suitable for the movement.
Wondering how does the moon affect deer movement? Well, this is one interesting factor that has two common rules of thumb regarding the movement and moon phases. First, there is a dramatically increased deer movement in the morning after a darker night with the absence of the moon.
On the other hand, the game animals move minimally during the mornings occurring right after a night with a full and bright moon. However, fawns are likely to travel in the late mornings or early afternoons of the same day. Hence, the best time to hunt deer during a full moon is the next morning when these creatures are settled and rarely moving.
Best Time and Weather for Deer Hunting
Hunting a buck is the game of odds as well as the game of making the right decisions. Knowing how, when, and where to hunt in different conditions is a crucial part of the process. While hunting a buck, there are times when the odds become the most favorable and reliable. Below are those things explained:
During cloudy weather, fawn movement is significantly visible which can help the hunters spot their trophy bucks. However, these game animals are the most productive when the weather is pleasant with clear blue skies. You can plan your hunt on clearer days and when the weather is not too humid.
When Are Deer Most Active?
Observing their activity is the foremost thing while planning a successful deer hunting trip. If we talk about the months when bucks are the most active, these would easily be July, August, and September. In these three months, deer are highly visible to the hunters. The main reason why fawns are seen mostly during these months is the availability of plentiful food and deer never stay behind in availing the full advantage.
The rut season is favorite for certain hunters and in November, deer visibility increases significantly. Bucks are looking for doe to mate and hunters use various sounds, also known as calls to lure the big bucks towards them. These tricks, if done right, often lead to a big trophy.
However, if we further specify the time of the day when deer are out, it would be the hours right after dawn. After waking up, these animals venture out to the closest food source they have to their yard. This is the prime time for deer hunting since they are less focused on their defense and more on feeding.
Deer Eating Habits
These animals are herbivores and subsist solely upon greens around them such as grass, forbs, nuts, mushrooms, etc. They spend most of their time searching for vegetation to feed on healthy foods. Let’s learn about the common eating habits that deers share:
How do deer search for food?
Just like humans, bucks also have the five senses of touch, smell, taste, hear and see which help them search for food. When it comes to finding food, out of all the senses, a deer will mostly rely on its ability to smell.
Their nose consists of an exceptional number of olfactory receptors i.e.800 times more than in a human nose. Besides its smell, deer also have excellent eyesight which contributes to finding food efficiently.
What do deer eat in the wild?
The most favorite food for bucks is the needles that grow on the fir trees. You will find these animals munching on the leaves from trees like honey locust, wild plum, and dogwood as well.
Not only do the bucks love feeding upon twigs and stems but on fruits, nuts, and seeds too. Fruits like plums, apples, pears, and strawberries make up most of a deer’s diet. Whereas, they consume forbs including wild lettuce, ragweed, verbena, and pokeweed.
A common question is what do deer eat during the winter, since leaves are available inadequately. That is the time when fawns shift towards their other favorites i.e., nuts such as hickory nuts, pecans, beechnuts, and acorns. Additionally, these animals also enjoy eating occasional fungi and lichens, especially in cold weather when other foods are not plentiful.
Do Deer Eat Bananas?
Since they love consuming fruits, they would also happily eat bananas. This particular fruit is a great source of fiber and potassium. However, beyond these two nutrients, it doesn’t have any other nutrient useful for the deer.
Despite their love for fruits, deer don’t eat a hefty amount of bananas and only munch if someone feeds it to them. One must be careful in feeding these animals bananas because it isn’t a part of their regular diet. Therefore, bananas become hard to digest if bucks consume them, exceeding the moderate limits.
Ways to Lure Deer
A hunter would be no stranger to a buck’s ability to stay alert. This makes spotting a deer hard and catching it even harder. Therefore, to help you with it, we have discussed some very useful ways through which you grab a deer’s attention and attract it towards yourself.
A common question is how to find deer? Locating these game animals is a tricky task as they are always cautious about any potential danger. There are still some ways to find a deer in the wild such as:
- Choose a particular area. If you have a private hunting land, set up trail cameras to monitor deer activity. Look for signs of deer activity.
- During the hunt, make sure you are out on the search at the right time. Nocturnal creatures like deer are most active during dawn and dusk.
- Look for the places that fawns are more attracted to, for example, greener areas and a thick bed of bushes.
- Stay as quiet as possible so that you don’t spook any deer.
- As soon as you find the target, set your aim and bag your trophy buck.
You can also find a deer by following their tracks. However, the track of a doe (female deer) and that of a buck (male deer) are different. Here is how you can identify the tracks:
Doe vs Buck Tracks
Buck and doe have a lot in common when it comes to their features, for example, both have the same ratio of the toe and the same toe count. In fact, their front tow is relatively bigger than the other toes. So, on what basis will you identify the difference?
Doe has a larger rear track, smaller front tracks, and a narrower chest. This is why the casual rear tracks of female deer usually fall a bit outside of their front tracks. Moreover, the gap between a doe’s track would be wider than that of a buck. For example, the length of its track will measure 1-¼ inches to 2 inches and the width will be around 1 inch.
On the contrary, a buck has larger front feet as compared to its hind feet. Because of their front ends and muscular antlers, male deer weigh heavier than the doe. In various states, people often go for antler hunting. Hunters know how to find deer sheds and use it for various decorations as well as sell it to make money.
One easy way to identify a buck’s track is by its size. The track looks like that of a large deer at the first look because of the larger front foot.
The buck’s track measures around 2 to 3 inches in length whereas the width measures around 1-¾ inches. Since bucks have a large chest and narrow rear, their casual rear tracks come slightly into their front tracks.
Rules of thumb
- When the hind feet measure around 1-¼ inches in length and 1 inch in width, the track belongs to a buck.
- Whereas, if the hind feet measure 1 inch in length and only ¾ inches in width, the track belongs to a doe.
Attracting Deer From Miles Away Using Sound During Day
Bucks have an extremely sharp smelling sense. For example, scents of flowers, fruits, and most importantly the doe’s urine. If you want to lure the deer towards yourself in the daytime, try spilling the liquid scent of the doe’s urine in the areas these animals usually visit.
This scent makes them think as if the other members of their herd are nearby and they might come along searching for them.
Food plots are the best way to attract bucks from far away. These game animals have a wide angle vision. So, if they spot a vegetative area even miles away, they won’t hesitate to travel towards it.
Bucks keep their ears alert all the time. Even the slightest sound makes them spot the danger. However, you might not realize that whitetail deer are the most vocal among all the species. They make various calls each of which has different meanings and is understood by all the deer.
So, if you know how to make those calls or have an instrument that can produce the calls in louder sound, you can potentially attract multiple deer nearby. The different calls include: The Gunt, Tending Grunt, Trailing Gunt, Social/Contact Gunt. Buck Roar, Doe Bleat, Fawn Bleat ,Breeding Bellow, The Snort Wheeze
Out of the aforementioned calls, the most common one is the gunt whereas the buck roar is used very less often.
Hunting Whitetail Deer
If a hunter knows the important characteristics of a whitetail, it enhances the chances of bagging and ways to do it much more efficiently. Whitetails are quite intelligent and hence elusive to the hunters. Knowing the best time to hunt these bucks down can optimize your chances for a successful hunt. Being nocturnal creatures, they have increased activity during dawn and dusk. The chances of spotting them are even higher during the late night hours.
While rain may affect the hunters, it rarely does the whitetails. Precipitation usually impacts the activity hours of whitetail fawns but they are not completely inactive. As soon as the rain stops, they are eager to venture out for feeding or other businesses. That is the perfect time when you can spot and bag the trophy buck you have been trailing on.
The average distance traveled by a young whitetail fawn varies according to the size of the area needed to be covered. However, fawns are younger deers and can travel a distance of about 2 miles or less in a day. Whereas, an adult whitetail doe can travel as much as 10 to 23 miles daily.
Similar to the other deer species, the whitetails also eat a lot. As mentioned earlier, these animals feed upon the food which is less in fiber and hence digests it quickly. Because of it, they need to munch on food after a couple of hours (3-4 hours generally).
Interesting Facts About Deer
Deer and Cold
While inquiring about deer’s movement during winters, many hunters are also concerned about whether deer get cold or not. The straightforward answer will be that these animals don’t get cold because of the way their furry coat is structured. Deer’s diet such as grasses, stems, twigs, etc. also plays a vital role in keeping them warm during winter.
Deer have a unique cycle of their hair which changes seasonally and hence keeps the animal comfortable in various environments. For example, their summer hair is relatively hard and lacks an undercoat which keeps their body cool in hot weather. Whereas, when the winter is around the corner, deer shed their summer hair and a new winter coat grows.
For hunters, knowing how much wind is too much for deer hunting is important. This allows tracking movement of does and bucks to resting and feeding areas.
This winter coat has hollow guard hair and right under grows a furry undercoat that insulates the animal’s body. Because of the undercoat, the heat fails to escape the deer’s body. In fact, it is warm enough that the snow melts right on their backs.
Another interesting fact worth knowing about deer is that their body color changes during winters. Deer go from reddish brown to gray brown when the cold season arrives. The mechanism behind this change is that the darker body color soaks more sunlight to maintain the warmth.
Deer Sight In Dark
You would be surprised to know that deer actually have an excellent sight at night. It is nearly impossible to compare a deer’s vision with that of a human because the differences are beyond colors. The oval pupil works like an aperture on the camera ll because of the rods present in high concentration in deer’s eyes. Moreover, the layer of tissue in the deer’s eye magnifies the light and acts like a mirror.
Deer have a longer wavelength of color vision during nighttime, but this ability is impacted significantly during the daytime. Wondering why? Well, this is because they have a less number of cone cells.
As a hunter, the worst color to wear while deer hunting would be none other than blue. This is because unlike humans and most animals, deer are not born with ultraviolet light filters. Due to this, deer are capable of seeing short-wavelength colors such as blue 20x times clearer than us.
How far can deer see?
Using an eye exam to get a typical deer’s vision, the figure we get is 20/100. It means a deer can see as clearly at 100 ft. as a human can see at 20 ft. That said, deer have an impeccable long range vision that makes it easier for them to escape the predators.
This is because bucks have eyes on the sides of their head, giving them a wide angle vision of 310 degrees. On one hand, this makes it hard for the game animals to focus on a single focal point but enhances their night vision. It ultimately helps them to spot the predators from far away.
For hunters at hunting manual, deer hunting is common, like in most parts of the world and is quite an adventure. The experience is different when you hunt most active and elusive creatures of the wild and munch on their meat. However, bagging a trophy buck isn’t a piece of cake. You need immense patience, skills, and above all, adequate knowledge about these game animals.
This article was only a small nutshell of deer hunting and how it is a pretty complicated subject to learn. Like most things, the more you do it, the better you will be at it. All you need is to perform hunting while keeping yourself safe so that you can master the craft even more efficiently.
Moreover, it is usually probable that the ends of a track come together at a certain point and that point is called the front. Even if the deer’s track combines to its front, it will also be the direction of its travel.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
No, deer do not sleep standing up, in fact, it is impossible for bucks to maintain this position while sleeping. The main reason is that they lose control over their muscles as soon as they fall asleep and hence are unable to lock their legs in the standing position. That said, deer always lie down in a comfortable place to get some sleep.
No. Many people as well as hunters have this misconception that deer undergo hibernation as the cold weather arrives. However, their activity is reduced significantly but they never hibernate in winters.
Deer will sleep through the day and work through the night hours. However, they keep waking up during the day as well and the most common time in the afternoon at around 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
One direction that the game animal’s tracks are likely to go is towards its new movement place. So, while following the tracks, make sure you check the starting point as well. This will help you determine if the deer started the travel alone or if it joined the herd later on.