A lot of things will alter a deer’s behavior and movement patterns. Perhaps the most damaging to the hunter is pressure; more specifically, “hunting” pressure. But what about those outside factors that Mother Nature and the calendar seem to throw into the mix? Well, let’s take a closer look at them.



 

 



Temperature



 

 



Like humans, deer movement is greatly affected by the outside temperature. When it’s unseasonable hot or cold we don’t move much. When it comes to the thermometer and what the deer are doing, the biggest factor is “normal” or seasonal temperature. In other words, deer activity often increases or decreases depending on the current variation from the “normal” temperature for that time of year.

Let’s say the normal temp is 80 degrees during the early days of your deer season. Suddenly, a cold front moves through and the mercury drops to 50’s or 60’s. That cooling trend is going to have a positive effect on deer movement. However, a rise in temperature to say upper 90’s will likely shut deer movement down.

So, when it comes to the temperature and how it influences deer movement, a cooling trend from the seasonal norm is good and an increase from the seasonal norm is bad.



 

 



Time of Day



 

 



The time of day that brings about more movement usually coincides with the time that the temperatures are the coolest. This typically occurs during the early morning and late evening. This is especially true during the early part of the season before bucks are feeling the effects of testosterone and tend to move any time of day or night.

Commonly, deer will bed down a half hour or so before daylight and get up about a half hour or so after sunset. What’s more, deer will also get up and move a short distance in the late morning hours to eat and change bedding locations. Some mature bucks will also tend to use the mid-day hours to move as the hunting pressure decreases as hunters leave their stands to enjoy lunch. So, even the age of the deer will have an influence on movement in relation to time of day.



 

 



Moon Phase



 

 



A lot has been written regarding the moon's affect on deer movement and the overriding opinion is that when you are dealing with the moon you aren’t just dealing with the moon. In other words, while the moon plays a small role in the movement patterns of whitetails, more important factors such as temperature, barometric pressure and time of the year play an even bigger role. 


Whenever conditions are normal and there is a full moon, deer activity seems to shut down for the day or so before and the day or so after. However, if a cold front were to blow through on the night of a full moon then the deer movement would increase because of the weather not decrease because of the moon phase. On the contrary, if you had a half moon (or new moon) and a warm spike in temperature occurred then the deer movement would likely slow down; even though the moon phase says otherwise.



 

 



Wind Speed and Direction



 

 



Because whitetails live and die by their ability to smell danger, wind direction is a very important variable when it comes to predicting deer movement. Obviously, the ideal situation is one where the wind is blowing from the deer to you. You always want the wind in your face. But what about wind speed?

For the most part, whitetails don’t move very much in wind speeds above 20 mph. The reason is that they simply can’t smell danger as well, they can’t hear danger approaching and they can’t see danger because of the exaggerated movement of foliage.

And, even though high winds are usually accompanied by a rise or fall in the barometric pressure, which increases deer movement, you can’t expect to be successful in a howling wind just because the barometric pressure is rising or falling. Just before the wind kicks up or immediately after it dies down is a better time to see increased movement.



 

 



Barometric Pressure



 

 



Barometric pressure is the weight of the overlying air as it presses down on the earth. A falling barometric pressure will usually produce some form of precipitation. As storms approach the air pressure will start to fall quickly and wet and/or windy conditions will prevail.

Conversely, after the storm from a Low Barometric Pressure System leaves, the air pressure will gradually begin to rise. This is a sign that the weather is going to be good for possibly the next 24 hours as high air pressure is usually associated with clear skies.

Understanding pressure systems and how they affect deer movement is vital but so is the timing of such systems and when they are approaching or regressing. If you can get this vital information before your hunt you can ensure that your time afield is maximized.



 

 



Time of Year



 

 



Think about the amount of activity that occurs during the whitetail rut at first light. Now think about how much it would compare to movement in August during early morning. It's apples and oranges. When planning your hunt you have to think about what the deer are doing during each phase of the season in order to be successful. You wouldn’t hunt a rub line in late December would you? Nor would you pass up hunting over a food plot in the late evening hours during the early season.



 

 



Final Thoughts



 

 



The most important thing to remember when it comes to each of these variables is that they do not stand alone. They are STACKED on one another and dynamically reposition themselves in importance as the conditions change. While one variable may indicate increased deer movement, another may be bringing it to a screeching halt. They savvy deer hunter should be able to recognize each and understand their effects on movement not only alone but when stacked with one or more of the other variables listed here.





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