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When and where do deer most likely bed?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: What is the anatomy of beddings? I see a lot here in Iowa but no sightings of the deer that left them. When do they bed and leave them?
- C. Matson

ANSWER: Describing when deer bed is a bit like describing when humans bed; most follow similar general patterns, but there are always exceptions. From radio and satellite telemetry studies we know deer are most active at dawn and dusk, with peak activity levels declining on either side. We can logically conclude periods of inactivity would increase the farther you move away from dawn and dusk; and that seems to be the case. However, deer still move around well outside peak periods. They just move less, and less often.

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Movement also varies depending on things like weather, temperature, climate and pressure - both hunting and barometric. Deer will move more during a rising or falling barometer, and less (during daylight) with increased hunting pressure. Deer tend to move more during colder weather, especially northern deer, while extreme cold sometimes has the opposite effect on southern deer. Daytime movement increases during the rut, especially for bucks. Deer also seem to move more during periods of heavy overcast, I suspect because it creates a “false twilight” effect.

While not purely scientific, my personal observations have shown a general morning pattern of peak activity around dawn, followed by a slow period, then a little more movement an hour or so after sunrise. I have a theory on why this occurs.

Deer are ruminants. Feeding exposes deer to danger. They minimize this exposure by filling their rumen as quickly as possible with coarse food. They then move off to the safety of nearby bedding cover where they regurgitate a wad of partially digested food, called a bolus (cud) and re-chew it. This finer material is then passed the remaining three chambers of the stomach. The second morning activity period - I believe - is sued to re-fill the rumen before deer go off to bed for the day, perhaps farther away from a concentrated food source, in thicker cover.

They may stir a bit during the middle of the day, but will remain relatively sedentary until late afternoon, when they again move toward feeding areas. If there’s a concentrated food source like a food plot or agricultural field, they may feed selectively along their way, staging up in the fringes before dusk, or dark.

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