Guide Deer Hunting : Understanding The Rut And Bedding And Sleeping Behaviors Of Deer

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But, an understanding of where and how deer move at night is essential if you want t0 be a successful hunter. During the fall of I decided not to hunt the opening of the gun season. Instead, I parked my truck on a high hill, where I could watch the hunters as they drove to their hunting spots, so I could learn how the deer reacted to all those vehicles driving down the county roads and into the woods and fields; and all those hunters walking through the woods during the early morning hours.

I couldn't believe the number of vehicles I saw driving into and through the fields and woods where I knew the deer would be feeding at night. As I drove down the county roads to the hill, I saw five vehicles parked on access ramps to logging roads that led into wooded areas. Didn't the hunters know that the deer regularly used the logging roads, and often crossed the county road right where they had parked their vehicles? Didn't they know that any deer that saw the vehicles would probably not use the trail, and probably would not return to their normal bedding area because the vehicles were there?

I watched one truck go across a half-mile cornfield, and then stop within fifty yards of the woods. Didn't the hunters realize that the deer were feeding in the field when they drove across it? Didn't they realize that every deer in the field headed for the woods the minute they saw the headlights or heard the truck?

Didn't they realize every deer in the woods also heard the truck, and that none of them would come out to feed after sunrise when the saw the truck in the field? I watched as another truck was parked on a county road within twenty yards of a hay field where I saw deer feeding from September through January. Didn't the hunters know that the deer regularly stopped there for a last minute bite of alfalfa before they went back to their bedding areas in the morning? No wonder those hunters saw so few deer, and rarely saw a buck, nonetheless a big buck; they let every deer in their hunting area know it was the opening of gun season, and that the woods was being invaded by humans carrying guns.

The only reasons I can think of why hunters cross open fields to get to their deer stands is that they don't understand that the deer eat in those fields at night. The only reason I can think of why hunters park their vehicles where they do is because they don't know that deer use access ramps as crossing areas, and logging roads as travel lanes as they move to and from their wooded bedding areas at dawn and dusk. Either that or they are just downright lazy. If you want to be successful on opening day, or any other day, don't cross an open field as you go to a stand in the morning; know where the deer feeding areas, crossings, and travel routes are; and don't park where the deer can see or hear your vehicle when they use those areas.

Nighttime Deer Activity Many hunters realize that they see deer most often at dawn and dusk, but some of them fail to understand that the deer rest in wooded areas during most of the day, get up around sunset, and move out of the woods and into fields after dark. They also don't understand that, when the weather is nice, the deer often spend the night eating and resting in or near the fields, and that around sunrise, they leave the fields to go back to their wooded bedding areas.

During the night I regularly check the feeding areas where I do research and hunt. While I often see deer feeding after sunset and before sunrise, I also see them bedded in or near the fields from - PM and from - AM. Several different studies on daily deer movement show that during the fall deer are most active at night around dawn and dusk, and from - AM.

This means they are not moving much between and PM, and between and AM. So what do deer do at night? When deer leave their bedding areas at sunset they often head for the nearest field, stopping to feed on grass, sedges, forbes, fruits and twigs along the way. Once they get to the field they stock up on corn, soybeans, alfalfa or whatever else is available.

2. Do Your Deer Movement Patterns Include Bucks?

In areas where there are several types of forage the deer may travel to each of them during the first few hours of darkness. Deer don't actually digest what they eat while feeding because they are ruminants, they store the food until later. Once they are full the deer usually lay down to regurgitate their cud and chew it to make it digestible.

From the daily movement studies I mentioned earlier it appears that deer feed for hours in the evening, lay down to rest and chew their cud for a couple of hours, then get up and feed for another couple of hours after midnight. Then they rest again for a couple of hours, and get up to feed again for hours before going back to their bedding areas. It is thought that deer rarely sleep longer than two hours before standing up to at least stretch. During the winter deer may sleep longer than that. During the rut bucks may bed very little. While I was watching the hunters during the first day of the gun season one year I noticed three does, each with a fawn, feeding in the cornfields within a half-mile of my truck.

Because these deer were not harassed by hunters they continued to feed until about Even with several gun-shots around them they continued to feed, and appeared not to be alarmed by the gun shots in the nearby woods, or the fact the hunting season was in progress. Shortly after the does and fawns moved north and crossed a county road in open country.

They followed the trees east and crossed a highway, and eventually moved back into the wooded area where they bedded. I suspect the deer were unaware of the hunters stationed in those woods, unless they came across their scent, and therefore they may have continued to move and feed as they normally would. They probably didn't stop moving and feeding until they got back to their bedding areas, which may have taken an hour or more.

Movements by deer such as these, which were unaware of the hunters, explains why hunters often see deer moving in wooded areas late in the morning even during the hunting season. Hunters who know that this movement may occur can take advantage of it by staying in the woods most of the day. They may even see a buck following a doe late in the morning during the rut, especially if the does have been feeding in fields away from their bedding areas.

If you are interested in more whitetail hunting tips, or more whitetail biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T. If you have questions about whitetails log on to the T. To find out when the whitetail rut starts, peaks and ends in your area click on Whitetail Rut Dates Chart. To List Of T. Michels Articles: T. Michels T.

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As a rule, the second week of the month is typically the most frantic by far. Within a short period of time, mature breeding bucks can lose a quarter of their body weight searching out and guarding does in heat—one after another. A prime-aged breeding buck will spend approximately two days with a receptive doe, after which the doe will no longer be in estrus. The buck will then leave her to pursue another doe, repeating the cycle for the better part of two weeks.

Set up on the edge of two habitats: where field meets forest, along a known runway or beside a natural funnel steep forest ridges, for example, or below beaver dams. The first time I heard such a commotion, I just sat on my stand in disbelief. And did that buck and doe ever cover ground, crashing their way in and out of hearing range in less than a minute.

With bucks running and searching for does all day and night, one or more are very likely to pass by your stand at some point. And bucks only have one thing on their minds during the rut: sex. They forget to eat and sleep, and they even forget their buddies. The only purpose behind every breath they take is to breed. You think you were bad as a teenager? Take another look at mature bucks. Typically the most secretive and cagey of creatures, they undergo a radical change when the smell of does in estrus fills the woods. Bucks make more scrapes during the rut than any other time of the year.

By tearing up a patch of ground and urinating on it, a buck leaves his scent as a threat to other bucks and a lure to interested does. In the vast woods that deer roam, these scent pools of concentrated pheromones draw mates together, serving as critical communication hubs during the rut. The odds are that over a three- or four-day period, the buck will return.


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  4. Other bucks and does will also regularly visit the scrapes during this heated phase. Nonetheless, bucks will continue to roam and revisit their scrapes, hoping to find one more female to share their affections with. This results in a second, albeit smaller, rut. Most bucks still have the steam to search out does and will become very active again as a few more receptive does prance through the woods.

    The second rut is also when any early-born doe fawns that have developed quickly can enter their first heat. And even without snow to reveal increased deer movement, the second week of December is simply a good time to be on your stand-chances are, at least one female will come into heat again and fire up the bucks.

    Many outstanding bucks have been taken during the final days of the season, when the accumulating snow alters deer behaviour. As snow cover exceeds more than a few inches, deer will head to stands of conifers for shelter.

    Dream Bucks: A Look at Whitetail Sleep Habits

    These are typically low-lying groves of cedar, pine or hemlock that border swampy areas. Here, the deer will seek refuge from winter storms and create well-packed trails or runways for easier travel to their browsing areas or to escape predators such as wolves and coyotes.

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