Getting inside the mind of a whitetail deer is the ultimate goal of every successful hunter, but something many are unable to do. Deer are highly unpredictable, but intriguing animals that are much more difficult to track than many people think. Because of this, knowing the best practices in finding them is the best way to accommodate, and knowing exactly why it is they move so erratically can help.
The winter season is upon us, and that means dropping temperatures and cold fronts. Typically, colder days translate to deer being more active while the sun is up to stay warm. However, extreme cold fronts can actually hinder activity, causing herds to stay put for extended periods of time.
Deer have been studied moving much more frequently during seasonal weather, i.e. hot summer days, crisp fall afternoons, or freezing winter days. Take advantage of these times. Take to the outdoors and study highly active areas like feeding grounds or rub/scrape lines. In more extreme weather, stay closer to bedding areas, as they will more than likely try and conserve as much energy as possible through minimal movement.
Speaking of weather conditions, storms can have a drastic effect on a herd’s movement as well. Following a heavy thunderstorm or rainfall, deer will be much more active in the nicer conditions that come afterwards, whereas they will begin to halt as a storm moves in. It is important to note however, that light rain and fog actually promote activity. Perhaps this is due to the added cover the fog provides and the lower temperatures that come with cloudy skies.
Barometric pressure is a surprisingly big factor in animal movement. As the pressure in the air changes, birds often wait for when it begins to rise to migrate, or communicate with one another. The same can be said for deer. As it reaches a certain point, they will begin to move much further and for longer periods of time.
Wind is an element that deer are extremely perceptive of. Because of their prey mentality, they are constantly on the lookout for predators; something that wind can either hinder or assist with. Strong, gusting winds may prompt a herd to lay low, as they have more trouble smelling predators in the area. This also poses an issue for hunters, as one’s scent may be picked up at random times. With that said, a steady wind in one direction can be used to a hunter’s advantage. It is much easier to know where your scent may be picked up in relation to this, and deer tend to be more comfortable knowing which direction the wind is coming from, prompting higher activity.
As many hunters know, the rut is the ultimate guide to deer movement. When mating season begins, bucks are often high in numbers. People have argued that phases of the moon and lengths of daylight effect when the rut starts, but as long as you are hunting within this timeline (early to late November), you are bound to come across several mature bucks seeking a mate.
While there is no way to predict exactly how a deer or herd will move, there have been studies pointing to a number of patterns they take part in. Consider all of those mentioned above before your next hunt in order to increase your chances of finding a target.