What time of the day are deer the most active? Is it dawn, dusk, or sometime during the middle of the day. Do deer move in the rain or do they prefer dry conditions? Every hunter that I know, including myself, wants to make the most of their time spent in the woods. Knowing when deer will likely be on the move can really improve your odds of bringing home the buck of a lifetime.
While most species of deer are most active during low-light periods, such as dawn and dusk, there are occasions where you’ll find them on the move throughout the entire day. This includes the rut and changes in normal weather patterns.
To better understand the patterns and movements of deer and how to use this to your advantage, check out the rest of this article.
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Deer Movements: When Are Deer The Most Active
Are Deer More Active Before Dawn or Dusk
There really is no clear evidence that shows whether or not deer are more active during the predawn hours, or just before the sun sets in the evenings.
Different hunters have had different experiences, giving them their own personal opinions as to what time of day are deer the most active. In fact, there are a lot of hunters that swear by staying in their tree stands all day long. They claim that the really big bucks tend to move when people least expect them to.
After doing tons of research on this subject and talking to a slew of hunters and wildlife experts, the general consensus is that for the most part, deer tend to move better during the predawn hours.
I personally happen to agree! I’ve seen much more deer and have had greater success during my morning hunts than in the evening.
However, there was one hunter that I spoke with before writing this article that had a different theory. He believed that deer move more in the evening because they’ve been resting all day long, are hungry and are eager to start their search or food.
Does The Weather Affect When Deer Move
Changes in weather have definitely been proven to affect deer patterns and movements! With that being said, the research is not solid and as most hunters know, just when you think that you have these cunning creature figured out, they do something that makes you second guess everything that you thought you knew about them.
However, there are 4 weather conditions that you probably want to keep in mind before planning your next hunt.
While a torrential down pour will most likely cause a deer to seek deeper cover and bed down until the rain passes, a light rain will most likely not have too much effect on their movements.
With that being said, rain does play a role in how deer move. That’s because the rain affects a deer’s sensory functions and washes away the scent molecules in the air that deer use to alert themselves to possible danger.
It’s for this reason that deer might be less likely to move when it’s raining, not because they have a problem with getting wet.
Rain can also dampen the ground cover, making the leaves and foliage soggy. Deer rely heavily on their hearing to detect approaching danger and not being able to hear the crackling of leaves or the snapping of twigs, can really put them at the mercy of predators looking for an easy meal.
For this reason, it’s thought that they just stay put when it rains.
In a seven-year study, scientists at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Oklahoma found that there was very little change in the distance traveled by whitetail deer due to wind speed.
However, while wind speed may not directly change how a deer moves, it does have some influence on where deer move to.
High winds can interfere with a deer’s ability to detect predators, so of course, they will change the patterns to compensate.
High winds also increase a deer’s stress level!
These two factors, while not stopping deer from moving, will most likely cause them to seek areas that are protected from the windy conditions.
I’m a firm believer in that cold weather affects how deer move throughout the day and no, I don’t think it’s because they are cold and have to keep moving to stay warm. That was a joke by the way!
Deer are like all animal, including fish in that they respond to changes in barometric pressure. Deer will bed, feed and move according to if the barometer is ‘rising,’ ‘steady’ or ‘falling.’
An approaching cold front will cause the pressure to drop, increasing a deer’s desire to feed. It’s this natural instinct that will cause deer to be extremely active just before and after a front passes.
While deer feel the need to feed before the impending front, they will stay put until the bad weather passes. Due to not having fed for awhile, once everything has settled down, they will be on the move looking for food.
I personally don’t believe that the moon has any affect whatsoever on how much a deer moves!
I think a lot of hunters think that just because the moon can affect how fish bite, it will also effect deer in the same way.
The most common theory to this, is that during full moon phases, deer tend to feed less or not at all due to the increased light brought on by a full moon, thereby decreasing their movements.
However, according to an article by Mossy Oak, and a study by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, scientific evidence refutes the long-standing belief that moon phases determine deer movement.
This actually backs up my long standing belief in that changes in lunar phases have absolutely no impact on a deer’s movements.
What Time of Year Are Deer The Most Active
Big bucks will typically let their guards down and become more active during the rut. This is the deer breeding season that typically runs from the first week of October through the last part of January with the peak being in November.
It’s a well known fact that bucks (especially big bucks) will change their movements during the rut in order to breed with willing does. A small percentage will display a nomadic behavior, venturing far away from their home base in search of does to breed with.
Most however, will stay close to home and defend their local breeding grounds from nomadic bucks looking to breed with their doe.
If there is ever a time when you can count on deer moving throughout the day, it’s during the rut. This is also my favorite time of the year to hunt and my most productive.
I’ve bagged more big bucks during the rut than at any other time of the hunting season season.
Will Deer Move Differently When Pressured
Deer will react differently in their movements when pressured! Have you ever wondered why that trophy buck that you spotted in the summer is nowhere to be seen once the season starts.
Deer, especially big bucks, are extremely observant animals are are keenly aware when hunters are encroaching on their turf.
They are not likely to hang around for very long if they feel threatened!
However, if there is food to be had, you can bet that they will still be there. They will just be very careful about their movements.
While many hunters will log countless hours in their tree stands no matter what time of the day it is, most prefer to hunt during the time of day when deer on on the move.
Although deer’s movements can and will change due to a number of factors, including the rut, where they are the most active, you can be sure that dusk and dawn will always be the best time of day when deer are most active.