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DEER BEDS

Jul 4, 2008
Deer beds are oval-shaped depressions in grass leaves, soft dirt or snow and are easy to recognize. Many beds are only used once, though beds in the prime, most concealed locations probably see intermittent use. Usually, whitetails return to the same general bedding area even if they shift their actual beds around.

It is not known how long deer actually sleep or whether deer sleep the least bit. Deer sometimes will lay their heads back on a flank or hind leg, their eye lids will droop and total alertness will be lost. For practical purposes, this is sleep. But there are other reasons why deer lie down, other than to sleep. Cud chewing exemplifies one basic reason why deer bed down. They also bed down to preserve energy.

Deer are herbivorous cud-chewing animals related to cattle and sheep. They need to eat large amounts of food and as quickly as possible so that they can return to the safety of thick cover. Once in their beds, deer are able to regurgitate small packages of food, re-chew it and then swallow and digest it in a leisurely manner. Deer spend from six to seven hours a day chewing their cud, although they rarely spend more than twenty minutes consecutively in the cud-chewing process.

Deer that bed down in a snow storm will likely remain bedded, if undisturbed, until the storm passes, even if the storm lasts for several days. Snow can literally bury them, yet deer remain perfectly warm. The insulating qualities of their coats prevent snow that falls on them from melting, and the covering of snow acts as additional insulation.

Deer bed down for as long as an hour and half at a time. Few systematic observations exist on the actual proportions of the day in which deer spend bedding. The more time deer have to spend traveling from a food source to a bedding ground will influence how long they bed. Untroubled deer frequently bed near their food supply, such as in oak woods producing acorns, or in cornfields. Deer that are pushed seek more reclusive spots and may spend more time in transit.

When preparing to lie down, deer often circle and often scrape with the forefoot on the selected spot. In winter, deer often try to scrape away snow to get down to leaves or grass. Weather and terrain greatly determine a deer's selection of a bedding place. During summer months, deer look for protection from extreme heat and pesky insects by lying in water. During the winter, whitetails seek protection from cold winds in swamps and low-lying thickets. In the fall, standing cornfields provide excellent hiding for bedded whitetails.

In general whitetails prefer high ground, such as knolls and ridges, where they can be sure of detecting the approach of danger well in advance of its arrival. They also frequently bed just under the crest of a hill rather than on the top, where the wind is less steady. They rely heavily on sound and smell, rather than sight, to herald the approach of a hunter. Actually, they use their bedding cover as a blind to slip out of existence.

Family groups tend to have their own special places for bedding. Does, yearlings and fawns will bed within a few feet of one another. Mature bucks frequently bed in small patches of cover, little hideouts that are overlooked by many deer hunters. A big old buck can live to old age by bedding in cover that looks less than perfect.
About the Author
Hunter and author Ethan O. Tanner discusses the reasoning behind deer beds and shares the secret behindfinding deer beds
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