November 17, 2006 - Admin

Influences On Whitetail Deer Activity

Much has been written about deer movement in hunting magazines and I have been intrigued by differences in deer activity over the years. There are some days when you see lots of deer from your tree stand and other days when, from that same stand at the same time of day, you won’t see a single deer. The difference in deer movements is also obvious when you drive to and from work at similar times each day and see large swings in deer activity.

The Rut

Some would say that the rut causes the demise of more mature bucks than any other factor. There’s no doubt that deer are very active during the rut. It is an exciting time to be in the woods. The woods can explode around you at any time during the rutting season and at any time of the day. Deer hunters all have stories of seeing bucks on the prowl.

One year a spike buck let me take three bow shots at him. The doe that this buck was following ran right by me. When the buck ran by I got him stopped and he just stared at me. After my first shot missed he moved a few feet and let me miss another shot. When the doe saw I had missed, she ran him back by me again. I think she was trying to use me to get rid of him. Fortunately I’ve learned a thing or to about shooting a bow since this episode almost twenty years ago.


I have noticed weather conditions and upcoming storms have an effect on deer activity. When there’s warmer than average temperatures during hunting season, deer activity is definitely minimized. I have also found wind makes deer very skittish. It seems wind messes up all of their senses. The wind causes everything in the woods to move confusing their sight as well as both masking and making noise.

I would also think that their great sense of smell is also confused as well. I have spent many days out hunting on windy days where I couldn’t hear anything or tell what was or wasn’t moving it’s no wonder that the deer lay low on these days. Deer don’t seem to mind a mild rain, but when the rain is falling heavier I’ve seldom seen a lot of activity.

Major frontal changes in the weather definitely cause the deer to move. Most likely it is the change in barometric pressure that triggers deer before large storms arrive. On several occasions I have noticed deer out feeding at odd times of the day in the hours preceding a storm.

The Moon

There have been articles written on the effects of moon phases and moon position on deer activity. I haven’t figured this one out yet but I think that there may be something to it. I have seen increased deer activity on days when I can’t use the rut or weather to explain it.

Research has been conducted in an effort to determine the effects of the moon phases in relation to the start of the rut. What I have read of this information seems promising as far as predicting the start of the rut and the intensity of the rut. A few years ago there was some research into the effects of moon positioning, or in other words when the moon was high in the sky, on deer activity. I haven’t seen any further discussions on this theory in the past couple of years.

Most of us only have a limited number of days we can hunt each year and the best we can do is to take full advantage of this time. If you can plan your hunting time in advance you should plan your hunt during the rut or pre-rut when moon prediction gurus say activity will be at the heaviest and hope for the right weather. In the end, the best way to handle changes in deer activity is to be in the woods as much as possible.

About the Guest Author

John Cook has hunted deer in West Virginia for 30 years. He is teaching his children to hunt and he’s enjoy it more each year.

You can visit his web site at

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