When you think of fall, you may think of the crisp, cool air, apple picking, and leaves changing to shades of red. But, if you’re thinking of deer hunting this fall, you might want to check the forecast before you go. Temperature, cloud cover, wind speed, and even lunar phases can play a role in how active deer may be and at what time of day.
High temperatures can limit deer movement, as they will want to conserve their energy and maintain their hydration. Just as cool air sinks, they can be found bedded down in the shade in a creek bed. Often times, deer will feed before sunrise or after sunset, when a minimum in temperatures will occur. The decrease of light into the fall months can also trigger photoperiodism- coinciding with increased testosterone levels in bucks.
Low temperatures can increase deer activity, with the upcoming rut approaching and fattening up for the winter to ensure survival. Does have to build up their body fat to ensure they have enough stored energy to sustain a successful pregnancy. Possibly, looking for food on colder days may help the deer stay warm rather than bedding down.
Deer prefer a slight to moderate wind to locate predators, food, and other deer. They will often bed down facing the wind to “see” what’s approaching them from behind. During windier days, scent is harder to register and the deer’s sense of smell is partially impaired. Therefore, stronger winds may decrease deer activity.
Deer also have an innate ability to sense changes in pressure (seeming to prefer rises and falls in pressure to steady patterns) and will adjust their activity levels accordingly. Typically, low pressure patterns are associated with high winds and precipitation, which will limit the deer’s activity. If precipitation is heavy, the deer’s sense of smell, hearing, and vision will be compromised and may leave them vulnerable to predators. They are also able to see predators better on sunny days than overcast, rainy days. Once the storm passes, deer spring back into action.
In summary, an ideal day for deer hunting would be cold, clear skies, and higher wind speeds. Even the previous summer and winter can have an effect on future deer populations. Warm, dry weather was favored during the spring and summer 2018 months across the southeast to the central Plains and cool, wet weather across the Northeast. A mild, wet spring and summer will provide optimal foliage growth. Droughts can contribute to lower deer populations, as it not only impacts their food source, but is also correlated with outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease (HD). Cold winters can be harsh on deer populations, with the young and oldest typically the ones that won’t make it through the winter. Also, a pregnant doe may reabsorb the fetus she is carrying- a physiological strategy that allows her to preserve an otherwise additional energy investment.
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©2019 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan