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    White-tailed Deer Activity Graphs



 Daily Deer Activity Times

The graph below shows the number of miles typically traveled by deer during each hour of the day during the Fall in Georgia. It shows that peak deer movement generally occurs at sunrise and sunset, and that deer travel fewer miles per hour between the hours of 4 and 8 PM than they do between the hours of 6 and 10 AM. This suggests that deer travel farther per hour in the morning, probably because they are in a hurry to get back to the protection of their daytime core areas before it gets too light. The graph also shows that (in this study) deer rarely moved more than 5 miles during one night. These peak morning and evening activity times of whitetails are supported by data from other states.


 The above graph shows deer sightings at cameras taken by John Stone in Texas. It also shows that peak deer activity occurs at sunrise and sunset.

Daily Overhead/Underfoot Position of the Moon

Several popular game activity tables (Solunar Tables, Feeding & Fishing Times, Vektor Tables, Moon Guide) suggest that deer activity is affected by the overhead/underfoot position of the moon. Supposedly the gravitational pull of the moon is strong enough when it is directly overhead of underfoot of a deer's position on earth that it will cause the deer to get up and begin to move or feed. There is no scientific evidence to support this belief/theory. Since the time of the overhead/underfoot position of the moon changes every day (by about 55 minutes) the times when deer are sighted (over the course of a month) should be scattered throughout the day, but they aren't, deer sightings peak at dawn and dusk. The data from the above two graphs (and several other studies) show that deer activity is not affected by/correlated with the overhead/underfoot position of the moon


Monthly Deer Sightings and Moon Phases


Data from White-tailed Deer Activity In Relation To Lunar Factors, T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Publishing, 1994.

It has been found that MONTHLY (not hourly) deer activity is correlated with the full moon phase, with the amount of available moonlight, and with the distance of the moon from earth. This is the graph of 547 deer sightings during my research from 9/1/94 through 2/15/95. During the study deer were observed along the same route each day. The graph shows that Monthly Deer Sightings peaked during the full moon phase each month, with the exception of January. The dates when deer are most likely to be seen during daylight hours each month are predicted in my Moon Indicator which is available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.


Deer Movement and Wind Speed



Data from White-tailed Deer Activity In Relation Meteorological Conditions in southeastern Minnesota, T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Publishing, 1994; and from Jon's Stone's research project.

High wind speeds often cause deer to move less, and seek shelter from the wind, in protected areas; probably because they have a hard time hearing in high winds. If they are in wooded areas, where the wind bounces off every hill and tree, they may not be able to determine exactly where smells come from. The graph on the left is from my deer study in Minnesota, which shows that deer movement decreased as wind speed increased, with minimal movement when wind speeds exceed 15 mph.

The graph on the right is from John Stone's deer study in Texas. It again shows that deer activity decreased as wind speeds increased, with minimal deer activity once wind speeds exceeded 15 mph. Although it appears that deer movement continued in wind speeds up to 21 mph, there were not enough sightings above 20 mph to accurately determine deer movement.


Deer Activity and Temperatures



Data from White-tailed Deer Activity In Relation Meteorological Conditions in southeastern Minnesot, T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Publishing, 1994; and from Jon's Stone's research project.

Deer are affected by temperature, and because they live in areas of different temperature ranges, they react differently in high and low temperatures. Generally speaking, deer in the north move less in high temperatures and more in low temperatures; deer in the south move more in high temperatures and less in low temperatures. The graph above shows that deer in Minnesota are more active in lower temperatures (-15 to +55 degrees F) than deer in Texas; and that deer in Texas are more active in high temperatures (+15 to +90 degrees F) than deer in Minnesota. The graph reads from left to right.


Monthly Changes In Deer Activity

The time of day when deer are active, particularly dominant bucks, changes as the rut progresses. My studies show that throughout the rut: 1. Morning sightings were slightly higher than evening sightings, except in December. 2. Deer were sighted most frequently during the evenings in December (the rest phase and late breeding phase), when food sources were low/limited, when evening temperatures were regularly higher than morning temperatures, and when cloud cover often made deer feel secure while moving/feeding up to 3 hours before sunset. 3. Deer were sighted most frequently within 2 hours of sunrise or sunset. 4. Bucks were sighted most frequently within 1 hour of sunrise or sunset. 5. Subdominant-bucks were sighted most frequently in the mornings and evenings during November (the primary breeding phase). 6. Dominant-bucks were sighted most frequently during the evenings, particularly during November (the primary breeding phase).


Buck Home Ranges, Rub Routes and Scrape Lines

The map and information below was previously published in the NRA's American Hunter magazine. The map covers approximately 2 square miles, showing that the buck traveled a minimum distance of about 1 mile from one end of its Fall/Breeding Home Range to the other end. There were times when the buck traveled farther to the east, north, south and west during the rut than is shown on the map. The area covered by this buck, in ideal mixed habitat, may have been 3-5 square miles during the rut. The buck's Annual Home Range (the total area used by the buck in the winter, spring, summer and fall) was 5 square miles, because it used an entirely different area than the one shown as its winter and spring home ranges.

The large flat area in the middle of the map, the flat areas on the top left of the map, and the smaller flat areas on the left of the map (above and below the single dark line) are agricultural fields. The steeper areas (where the contour lines are close together) are all heavily wooded areas with oaks, elms, maple, box elder and basswood.

The buck regularly bedded 9) on the downwind side of an east facing ridge, where it could hear and smell anything to the west of it because of the predominant westerly winds. These beds were from 1/4 -1/3 of the way down from the top of the ridge, where the buck could see anything approaching from below it, or across the ravine to the east, north and south. Bucks often bed on the down wind side of a hill or slope for these reasons.

As can been seen by the map, the buck often followed fence lines (along the single dark line on the left of the map), traveled through funnels (where the two dark lines converge) and skirted field edges (the two dark lines around the large agricultural field in the middle of the map. The buck made infrequent rubs along its rub route (dark line), and made numerous rubs and scrapes near the agricultural fields, as evidence of its passing for the does.

The buck traveled from its bedding sites 9) in the core area in the late afternoon/evening to the small agricultural fields on the right of the map, and a larger field not shown at the bottom of the map (using the bottom dark line as its rub route), where it found the does feeding. It spent most of the night in or around the large agricultural fields. As morning approached the buck began to make its way (using the top dark line as its rub route) back to its core area (in the vicinity of the beds 9), which it tried to reach before or shortly after sunrise. If the buck was with an estrous doe, it often did not go back to its core area, but followed the doe to her core area instead.


Patterning This Buck


1) 10 point buck spotted in an alfalfa field in January. 2) Ravine with first rubs and tracks in September. 3) Buck sparring with an 8 point buck in August. 4) Buck feeding in alfalfa field in September. 5) Buck spotted in October. 6) Buck with a doe in mid-October. 7) Ravine with fresh rubs and scrapes in mid-October. 8) Buck walking rub route in late October. 9) Buck beds located in late September. 10) Stand site. S) Scrapes.

The black line is the buck's travel/rub route. From January to June the buck used home ranges east of this area. It began using the eastern portion of this area in July. It began bedding in the western portion of this area 9) in late September, and used the area on the map as its fall breeding/home range until December. It usually traveled the rub route (dark line) after sunset through mid-October.

The buck usually left its bedding area 9) in the evening, crossed the creek, and got to point 8) about sunset. It traveled the southern portion of the rub route from point 7) to the east after sunset, and spent the night on the eastern portion of the area. It traveled the northern portion of the rub route in the early morning, and usually got to point 10) before sunrise.

In mid-October the buck began to leave its bedding area late in the afternoon as it began to scrape more frequently. I saw it at 4:00 PM at point 7). It also began to head back to its bedding area later in the morning. I saw it at 7:30 AM in late October, when it walked within 10 yards of my stand at point 10).

Bucks often return to their core areas before daylight. But, if they find a doe at night or early in the morning they may be late going back to their core areas. This happens most often during the peak of the rut when the bucks are chasing does. However, the time when a particular buck returns to its core area during peak rut is totally unpredictable. The buck may stay with a doe for up to three days and not return it's core area, bedding near the doe instead, or it may return to its core area at any hour of the day. The period when the buck is most predictable is during the scraping phase, before breeding begins. Once scraping has begun does start coming into estrous, and buck movement is less predictable.

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There is more information on deer activity in the Whitetail Addict's Manual and the Deer Addict's Manual, Volume 5, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.


To view John Stones White-tailed Deer research Project Click Here


The data, graphs and information on this page are the copyrighted property of T.R. Michels/Trinity Mountain Publishing and John Stone. Copying and use of the data, graphs or information, without the written permission of the owners, is expressly forbidden by Federal law. 



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