A Day in the Life of a Whitetail

Deer have basically five feeding periods per day. This number changes according to the time of the year, temperature, the weather conditions, and whether or not hunting seasons are open. However, in spring, summer, and early fall, if the deer are not pressured, they will generally feed heavily and be active between 2 and 3 A.M. During the 2 and 3 A.M. feeding period, the deer usually don’t go back to their daytime bedding area, but there is a lot of movement from field to field. Because this is a time when most of us are asleep, the heavy feeding goes on relatively undetected. Deer also tend to feed heavily around 5 A.M. and then travel back to their bedding areas around 6 A.M. Most hunters are very familiar with this movement because it usually falls within the hours allowed for hunting.

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If there are any hills in the area, the deer are likely to bed near the crest of the hill, because the thermals that start to rise between 7 and 8 A.M. will carry the scent of any potential danger up to them. In cold weather, they tend to bed on the south-facing slopes for warmth; in hot weather they will bed on north-facing slopes where it will be much cooler out of the sun’s rays.

Unless heavy hunting pressure prevents their doing so, most deer become active and feed again between 10:30 and 11:30 A.M. Because they feed right in their bedding areas at this time, they do not come out into the open and so are seldom seen. Many hunters do not know of this period of activity and so miss out on the hunting opportunities it provides.

The deer again become very active and move from their protected bedding areas to the open areas to feed from about 4:30 to 7:30 P.M., which is the heaviest feeding period. During hot weather, this period will be pushed back. In the south, the feeding periods are both earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, although the 11 A.M. feeding period remains the same. There is another heavy period of activity between 10 and 11 P.M.