Understanding Daily Deer Movement by TR Michels
One of the most important things to know about deer hunting is when to hunt. When you’re hunting you need to know where the deer are likely to be during legal shooting hours. In order to know you’ll need good knowledge of when and where deer normally move during the day. Studies by Dr. Kent Kammermeyer and studies by Dr. Larry Marchinton, show that throughout the year deer move more during the day than they do at night. However, this changes as summer turns to fall, and as the rut progresses.
As vegetation begins to die off, food sources in wooded areas are depleted, and the leaves begin to fall. This causes the deer to seek food in more open areas, where they feel insecure during the day. Consequently, they begin to move more during the night. The studies show that fall deer movement peaks from 4:00-10:00 PM and again from 4:00-8:00 AM, with some movement between 8:00 and 10:00 AM. The farthest distances traveled per hour usually occur in the morning, probably because the deer are trying to get back to the security of their core areas before it gets too light.
Daytime Deer Activity
I have had the opportunity to watch hundreds of deer during the day, especially the ones that bed in the grove behind our house. Because the deer bed within 50-100 yards of the kitchen window I have been able to document everything they do during the day. They usually move out of the grove to feed about from a half-hour to an hour before sunset, earlier when there is cloud cover. They usually move back into the grove from a half-hour before to a half-hour after sunrise, later when there is cloud cover.
Once the deer are in the woods, they usually wander around and eat grass, forbes and twigs for about a half an hour, and then lay down. Most of the deer have two or three beds they use on a semi-regular basis. One doe used the same bed three times in one week. Most of the beds are on the side of a hill where they are out of the wind, and are at the base of large trees, or near fallen logs, or piles of brush where the deer can’t be seen from one or more directions. One bed is in the open, but it is in a low-lying area that you can’t see until you are within thirty yards of it.
While the deer are in their beds they usually face down hill, or with the wind at their backs. I assume this allows them to see or hear approaching danger to either side or in front of them, and to smell and hear any danger behind them, or from upwind. While in their beds the deer intermittently lie awake or doze with their heads up and their eyes closed. They usually open their eyes at the slightest sound of danger, but don’t usually get up unless they think the danger is getting too close. Every once in a while the will put their heads down on the ground and appear to be sleeping. But again, the slightest sound will cause them to open their eyes and raise their heads and try to determine what caused the sound. But, they don’t spook easily, I have seen crows land within five feet of the deer, while they remained lying down, and only occasionally looked at the crows.
When I go out the back door to go the garage the deer usually look in my direction when the door slams shut, but they rarely get up. They do watch to see what I am doing, and as long as I don’t appear to be moving in their direction, they lay there and watch me. However, if I begin to move toward them they usually get up, make sure I am still coming, and then run out the other side of the grove, across the field, and head for the river bottom a half-mile away.
During the day the deer usually remain in the same bed for 3-4 hours, and then get up between 10:00 and 11:00 AM. When they get up they stretch, walk a few yards from the bed and urinate, wander around a bit while eating, not usually traveling more than a hundred yards, and then lay down again. About 3 to 4 hours later they repeat this, and may lie down again. If it is getting close to sundown they may wander around in the woods until they feel it is safe to go out into the open and feed.
Most of the rest of their activities occur after dark, that includes scraping. What all this means is that deer, especially older bucks, spend up to 80 percent of the day in or near their bedding areas. If you want to see bucks during legal hunting hours you should get as close to their bedding areas as you can without alarming them.