15 Facts That Will Change How You Deer Hunt

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Did You Know About These Things?

I’m always looking for something to give me that edge on a whitetail. And while there are loads of products out there that have dramatically increased our proficiency — Realtree camouflage to name one — there is no greater weapon than knowledge. Not one.

And that’s where “the facts” come into play. Countless studies and research have been conducted over the years to help us better understand the most loved big game animal in North America. The following 15 things certainly have the potential to change the way we hunt, if we heed the advice and appropriately apply the knowledge.

Unpressured Early Season Deer Bed Close to Food Sources

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1 | Unpressured Early Season Deer Bed Close to Food Sources

Recent studies show that unpressured deer — even big bucks — bed closer to food sources when they aren’t pressured as heavily. That’s a good thing for hunters to know and recognize.

How it Applies: You need to be able to recognize whether you’re hunting pressured or unpressured deer. Doing so will allow you to better understand how to approach a given hunt even if it’s something as simple as knowing how far or close you should hunt to a bedding area.

Bonus Read: Rubbing Behavior in White-Tailed Deer

Photo credit: Russell Graves

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Pressured Deer Seek Out the Best Cover

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2 | Pressured Deer Seek Out the Best Cover

This is the other side of that coin. Pressured deer seek out the best cover they can find — even if that means bedding miles from their preferred food source.

How it Applies: Understanding if you’re hunting a high-pressure area or not will help you decide where to hunt. Find the best, highest quality bedding cover you have access to and set up cameras along the perimeter. This will tell you what’s using the area.

Bonus Read: 8 Ways to Minimize Hunting Pressure

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

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Mature Bucks Use Advantageous Terrain When Bedding and Traveling

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3 | Mature Bucks Use Advantageous Terrain When Bedding and Traveling

Deer and mature bucks are two separate species. Older whitetails don’t just do. They have a reason for doing and map out every step they take. The trails they travel and bedding areas they call home are chosen for a reason. They’re advantageous.

How it Applies: This is where the off-season scouting comes in. Completely walk the places you hunt. Put yourself inside the mind of a whitetail. If you find a trail, analyze it. If you find a well-worn buck bed, read it. Ask yourself, why this trail? Why this bed? Crouch down. Look around. Think about what’s around — and what’s not. You’ll soon realize why a particular deer chose the way it did.

Bonus Read: The 5 Secrets to Bowhunting Mature Bucks

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

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Deer Typically Face Downwind While Bedded

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4 | Deer Typically Face Downwind While Bedded

Most deer will bed down facing downwind. They do this so they can use their nose to cover their rear and their eyes to cover their front. Uncanny, eh?

How it Applies: Knowing this might not help you position your treestand closer to a buck bed. But if you’re a still-hunter, I assure you it will change how you stalk deer. It’s a solid bit of info to know.

Bonus Read: 8 Bedding Habits of Mature Deer

Photo credit: Russell Graves

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A 200-Pound Buck Will Drink 4 to 6 Quarts Per Day

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5 | A 200-Pound Buck Will Drink 4 to 6 Quarts Per Day

Now we’re getting nerdy. Will this do much to help kill a deer? Not really. But it is good to know. Furthermore, it’s even more important to realize not all of this water is consumed at night.

How it Applies: Deer drink during the day, too. That means they’re getting out of their beds at different hours of the day to drink. Studies also show deer almost always go to water before a major evening food source. Knowing that has certainly changed how I hunt, too.

Bonus Read: 5 Watering Habits of Mature Deer

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Kevin McKeever

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They Bed Relatively Close to Water

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6 | They Bed Relatively Close to Water

Stemming from the previous slide, we know through research that bucks will bed close to water. Granted, it might not be a major water source such as a lake, pond, river or creek. It might be a small stream or branch. It could even be a puddle or small watering hole. Water is water to a deer.

How it Applies: Beginning this summer, I’m going to put in small watering holes near some of the stands that I hunt each fall. Small changes like this can make a difference in filled and unfilled tags.

Bonus Read: 5 Watering Habits of Mature Deer

Photo credit: Denver Bryan

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Deer Are Concentrate Selectors

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7 | Deer Are Concentrate Selectors

Deer don’t just gorge on greens. They eat the most nutritious and palatable parts of plants. That means they’re seeking out the best foods they can find. So whoever’s food plots are the richest are going to attract the most deer.

How it Applies: Fertilizer is key. The better shape you get your food plots (and trees — but more on that another time) the better. Make your food sources the most desirable around.

Bonus Read: 10 Feeding Habits of Mature Deer

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tom Reichner

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They Eat During the Day

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8 | They Eat During the Day

It isn’t impossible to catch deer on their feet feeding during the day. Sure, you need to focus on food sources close to bedding areas (within 75 to 100 yards) to make it happen. But it’s doable.

How it Applies: Seek out mast trees tucked in tight to good bedding cover. Also, plant small kill plots adjacent to heavy bedding areas. These are two great ways to capitalize on a deer’s belly during daylight hours.

Bonus Read: The 3 Basic Needs of Deer

Photo credit: John Hafner

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Research Shows Deer Make Dozens of Vocalizations

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9 | Research Shows Deer Make Dozens of Vocalizations

Everyone seems to think deer are quiet animals. They’re not, especially in areas where their line of sight is minimized. They talk quite a bit, actually. Research shows deer make several hundred vocalizations. Now, not all of these are completely distinct (to most of us) from one another. They're variations of the same or similar vocalizations and then there are variations of variations.

How it Applies: Learn eight to 10 different vocalizations. Educate yourself on what they mean. Understand deer body language so you can apply the right calls to the right scenarios.

Bonus Read: Can You Talk Deer?

Photo credit: Chantal Honeycutt

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The Average Fall Range of a Buck Is 750 to 1,000 Acres

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10 | The Average Fall Range of a Buck Is 750 to 1,000 Acres

Recent studies show a buck’s average fall range is somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 to 1,000 acres. That’s a large area. But you have to understand that a buck’s core area (the home range within the home range) is likely only 50 to 100 acres, or maybe a little more. They’ll spend 75 percent of their time on that small piece of dirt.

How it Applies: Use trail cameras to home in on a buck. Then determine where that deer is spending most of its time. Connect the dots between bedding areas, food sources and watering holes. Then move in for the kill.

Bonus Read: 6 Things That Attract Big Bucks

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Bucks Travel Significantly Further from Stand Sites by the End of Deer Season

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11 | Bucks Travel Significantly Further from Stand Sites by the End of Deer Season

According to the QDMA, a recent study showed bucks traveled approximately 50 to 60 yards further from treestands by the end of deer season. That’s certainly something to remember when formulating and changing your game plan throughout the season.

How it Applies: It’s several weeks into deer season and you’ve started noticing more deer traveling just outside of range. Coincidence? Not likely. Recognize this shift and move your treestands to match it. Keep deer guessing.

Bonus Read: Rotate Pressure to Kill Big Bucks

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Ray Hennessy

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White-Tailed Bucks Aren

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12 | White-Tailed Bucks Aren't Territorial

A lot of people think deer are territorial. They’re not. They don’t “protect a piece of dirt.” They do establish dominance and assert themselves within the pecking order. But when they rub and scrape, they aren’t staking their claim, so to speak. It’s all communicative acts. And when they fight, it’s to establish dominance and for breeding rights — not because a given buck loves the grassy knoll he’s standing on.

How it Applies: Don’t put too much stock into rut sign. Sure, you can score over a scrape or rub line. It’s been done many a times. But don’t rely on it. Instead, use that sign to help paint a picture of how deer are using the property and make plans accordingly.

Bonus Read: Buck Kills Rival in Fight, Bowhunter Kills Buck

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Dennis W. Donohue

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Deer See the Color Blue 20 to 25 Times Better Than We Do

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13 | Deer See the Color Blue 20 to 25 Times Better Than We Do

Deer see differently than we do. They can see the color blue especially better, though. That’s certainly something to remember.

How it Applies: Quit wearing those blue jeans to the deer stand. The deer are laughing at you.

Bonus Read: Busted: Five Things You Don’t Know About Deer Senses

Photo credit: Bill Konway

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Deer Smell 500 to 1,000 Times Better, See Differently and Hear About the Same as Humans

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14 | Deer Smell 500 to 1,000 Times Better, See Differently and Hear About the Same as Humans

It’s true. Deer smell better, see better and hear about the same as us. Now, they smell much better. While they see differently, they’re better at picking up movement than we are. And hearing is roughly the same, but they can key in on the locations of sounds better than we can.

How it Applies: Take a bath. Play the wind. Wear Realtree camo. Be quiet.

Bonus Read: 8 Ways to Beat a Deer’s Nose

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tony Campbell

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Every Deer Has Its Own Personality

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15 | Every Deer Has Its Own Personality

Whitetails aren’t cookie cutter critters. They all have their own personalities. They prefer different foods, choose different bedding cover, interact with other deer differently, tolerate different levels of human intrusion, etc. Every deer is its own deer.

How it Applies: One game plan that works for harvesting one deer might not work for another. Get a good read on the deer you’re after and tailor your hunt plan as best you can to target that deer. Use scouting efforts, run trail cameras, scout from afar and read the terrain to better understand how to kill a given deer.

Bonus Read: 12 Bucks That Taught Me Lessons

Editor's Note: This was originally published April 12, 2017.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tom Reichner

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