How to Find Deer Bedding Areas

HuntStand Definitions | Deer Bedding Areas

Hunters, here’s a crazy number for you to think about – 70%. That’s the amount of time on average a deer will spend bedded during the day. Broken down, that equates to roughly 17 of the 24 hours in a day. Combo that with an average of 11 or so hours of darkness and your chance to catch a buck on its feet in daylight is pretty darn slim! For this reason alone, it’s imperative that a hunter understands and considers where deer are bedding during all times of the year.

There’s been a lot of media over the years telling you to STAY OUT of deer bedding areas so you don’t pressure the deer and bump them off the property. The risk just isn’t worth the reward is what many believed, so much so, that many hunters barely ever make it more than 80 yards in from the edge. While there’s certainly some truth to that, always playing it safe may be costing you opportunities on mature bucks. And who’s to say you can’t hunt a bedding area safely? The first step to successfully identifying bedding areas is to find them. Once you find them, you’ll need to understand why deer prefer them and during what winds/conditions.

Summer Bedding Areas

During the summer, deer can bed just about anywhere. With the forest alive and grasses over three feet tall, cover is everywhere! Since this is the case, deer will often bed close to food or in areas that are cooler or less buggy. Cornfields, north facing slopes, draws, and heavily shaded areas are all popular bedding locations during the summer. The best way to locate bedding areas during the summer is to find where the deer are feeding. If you find where they are feeding on a nightly basis, you can back track them to their bedding. Deer are extremely predictable during this time of year, especially bachelor groups of bucks. Glass or hang a trail cameras up over a soybean field or preferred browse area and backtrack them to their beds. Chances are they won’t be too far away.

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PHOTO: *Deer are extremely predictable during the summer and early season, especially bachelor groups of bucks. Glass or hang a trail cameras up over a soybean field or preferred browse area and backtrack them to their beds. *

Fall Bedding Areas

Fall is the time a hunter really needs to understand buck bedding behavior. However, unlike summer when everything is lush and green, fall is a time of constant change. With that comes a constant change in preferred bedding areas. Couple this with mounting hunting pressure and you’re really in for a wild roller coaster ride. Mature bucks live to maturity because they are driven by fear – plain and simple. If people are around, they bed where there are none (urban deer not included). They also tend to bed in the thick nasty areas (probably because we don’t like to go in there). Fact is, there are entire books written on fall bedding behavior, so what you’re getting in the next paragraph is barely a blip on the radar.

When it comes to preferred fall bedding areas for bucks, several areas come to mind immediately –wooded islands or peninsulas scattered in swamps and cattail marshes, feeder ridge points in hill country, thick edges in flat ag areas, meanders along any creek or river, and interior edges in big woods country. Search and scout these areas first and work your way deeper and deeper, as bucks tend to move away from the pressure throughout the season.

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PHOTO: *Fall is the time a hunter really needs to understand buck bedding behavior in relation to thermals, wind, and likely path of travel from the bedding area. In this case, once a buck bed is found, HuntStand can help you map out where to place a stand based on the wind direction. *

Winter Bedding Areas

Temperatures have dropped, food has disappeared, and security cover is at an all-time low. This is the season of survival. In the extreme northern reaches of the country, deer will often herd up in what are commonly called deer yards. These are typically coniferous forests, which helps insulate the area and limits the amount of snow due to the dense canopy cover – both extremely important factors when it comes to saving energy and surviving the winter.

Once you get away from the vast timbered areas of the Northwoods, deer will still herd up in the winter, but this time they seek southern hillsides and any area that offers cover in the 0-3 foot range. Winter is relatively easy to discover preferred bedding areas because all you have to do is think to yourself, Where would you go to stay warm? Pine plantings, CRP, swamp edges, and thick areas, are all good places to check, especially if there’s snow on the ground and if terrain is southern oriented.

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Photo: *Pine plantings, CRP, swamp edges, and thick areas, are all good places to check for late season deer bedding, especially if there’s snow on the ground and if terrain is southern oriented. *

Conclusion

Bedding is a big topic and it can take a fair bit of scouting and reading to really understand how and why bucks are using a specific area. Bedding areas are chosen carefully as to avoid danger by bedding in a way that allows them to utilize their ultra-keen senses – usually this means their back is to the wind so they can smell behind them and see in front of them. Next time you find a bed, get down in it, and really observe what a deer can see and on what wind they would be bedded there, it just might change the way you hunt for years to come.

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