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Deer are often considered the most graceful and majestic animals in the woods. But have you ever wondered when they sleep? From the middle of the day to late at night, these animals never seem to take a break and are most often active. But everything has to sleep eventually, and knowing their sleep habits could take your hunting to a higher level.
In this comprehensive guide, we will break down all aspects of a white-tailed deer’s slumber. From where they prefer to rest to how their sleep changes throughout their lives and the seasons. Armed with this knowledge, you can head into the field this season a giant step ahead of the competition. Let’s get started!
Let’s start with how deer actually sleep. Do they sleep lying down in a bed, or can they sleep standing like a horse? Wildlife experts say that deer can sleep standing up, but it is extremely rare. Instead, they prefer to lie down in a comfortable bed that provides some cover and protection (more on this later).
They also do not go into a deep sleep like you or I would. Instead, white-tailed deer take short “cat naps” in order to remain vigilant and alert. These short naps can last anywhere from a few minutes up to 45 minutes and allow deer to still remain alert to nearby danger. And even while sleeping, their noses and ears are working overtime to keep them safe!
Once you know how deer like to sleep, it is a lot easier to find the places where they prefer to sleep. While their preferences will change depending on the terrain, vegetation, weather, and danger levels, there are a few common places they will seek out. A popular choice is in tall grass or thick underbrush as both give the deer plenty of concealment.
Another common bedding area is thick trees and forests, where the shadows and low-hanging branches can offer protection. These areas are especially popular in the winter, where the branches and coniferous tree canopies can protect from the wind and snow.
Deer will generally tend to bed near reliable water sources as well. This gives them a chance to get a drink before and after they are done sleeping and cuts down on the amount of travel. Whether it’s a thick patch of grass or a forest thicket, deer love to find themselves the perfect bedding area to take a nap that will keep them safe, comfortable, and secure.
Now that we know how deer sleep and where they do it, when are you most likely to catch a deer snoozing? Deer are what are known as crepuscular, which means they are most active during the dawn and dusk hours. This also means that they get most of the sleep in between these times.
For the most part, deer will sleep mainly during the middle of the day when they are bedded down, getting out of the heat or the cold. This doesn’t mean, however, that they will not catch an opportunistic nap during the night when things are calm and they feel safe. Deer sleeping patterns will also change depending on the season.
For example, they might be much more active during the summer when the weather is decent and food is more plentiful. Being more active, they may take shorter naps and not sleep as much. On the other hand, cold winter days may make them sleep longer to conserve energy and stay warm.
Now you know how deer sleep when they do it, and their favorite places to nap. So what’s left to know? One major point that many hunters are not aware of when it comes to sleeping deer is that they will generally leave one or two individuals to serve as “lookouts”. These deer will not nap with the rest of the herd and are on alert to spot any potential danger for the others.
Another important aspect that is critical for hunters to understand i the importance of deer bedding areas. These specific spots are sanctuaries for the deer where they feel most protected and secure. Disturbing these areas regularly can lead to not only spooking them away but could risk driving them out of the area entirely. Once their bedding areas have been compromised too many times, deer will often seek out new areas to live where they will not be disturbed while they sleep and rest.
Understanding a deer’s sleeping habits will put you miles ahead in the race to get one harvested. Once you know their preferred sleeping and bedding areas, you can then use this knowledge strategically. For example, knowing their bedding spots allows you to better plan your hunting locations accordingly. Try placing yourself between their feeding and bedding areas during the mornings and evenings and you will no doubt see much more deer activity regardless of the time of year.
Knowing where they bed can also allow you to avoid these areas and avoid spooking deer out of your hunting locations. Let them stay in their sleeping areas in peace, and instead focus on where they are going during other times of the day or night. Go in too close and you might risk bumping them out of the area for the rest of the hunting season.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of adapting. As we mentioned earlier, deer sleeping patterns can and do change depending on several factors. Adjust your hunting style and locations to adapt to what the deer are doing and what their sleep looks like. Not only will this bring you more success, but you will continue to learn more about these amazing animals as you continue to study and admire them!
Also, we have an amazing blog about What Deer Sounds Mean?