Hunting 101

Before we can answer the question of when to hunt, we need to go over a few things about deer. Deer are nocturnal animals. Nocturnal means that deer can see at night, which is one of the reasons they are more active at night. Deer have more light-detecting cells in their eyes than humans, which aids their nocturnal vision. However, a deer's nocturnal vision is not perfect on a very dark night. A deer will spend more time looking for food and less time eating food on a dark night, than they would on a clear night with a full moon. Deer tend to be the least active on days following a clear night, because their stomachs are usually fuller and they are content to stay near their bedding area until sundown. As sundown approaches the deer will start the feeding cycle all over again.

Deer travel to their feeding area from their bedding area in the last minutes of daylight. On the reverse trip they travel from their feeding area to their bedding area in the first minutes of daylight. In most areas you are allowed to hunt from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. This one hour time period is usually the most productive time of day to hunt. Many hunters seem to avoid this hour of daylight, I guess it is just not convenient for them. If a hunter is going to waste an hour of their hunting day, they should choose one at mid-day when deer are less active.

A deer's behavior is not set in stone. Their behavior is easily altered by several factors. The most common of these factors are precipitation, wind, hunting pressure and the rut. Deer will usually stay in their bedding area during times of heavy rain or snow. When the storm stops, deer will start moving for a couple of reasons:

* The trees and brush are usually dripping with rain or snow and this noise will make the deer nervous, so they will move about.
* They will also start moving if the storm lasted through their feeding period. They will be hungry and out looking for food.

When the wind blows it becomes noisy in the woods and the deer can't hear approaching danger, so they get nervous and start moving. Windy days in the woods can be very dangerous for hunters. The wind can cause tree limbs to fall and even trees can topple over. If you choose to hunt on windy days use extra caution.

Deer hunters roaming through the woods will cause deer to move from their bedding area. If other hunters are in your hunting area, this might be a good time to stake out a deer trail or crossing and let the other hunters chase the deer to you.

The rut is the period of time when bucks mate with does. The rut usually lasts about a month. In most parts of the country the rut occurs in November, although this varies depending on geographic location. During the rut all deer are more active, especially the bucks. It is not unusual to see a buck chasing a doe during the middle of the day, when they are normally resting. It can be said that the rut clouds a buck's judgment as they are often seen doing things they wouldn't normally do. I have observed a similar behavior in other animals, down at the bar on Friday night!

One last factor that seems to have an affect on deer movement is the position of the moon. Most of you have probably heard that the position of the moon plays a big part in the activity of fish. The moon also seems to have an effect on deer movement. The peak of this activity is when the moon is directly overhead.