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Deer Hunting Basics

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

remain hidden. Deer can run up to 40 miles an hour and jump as high as 8 feet. Witnesses have seen them leap 15 feet across a creek from a standing start. When they are still, deer blend into the background so well that's its difficult to spot them.

Given their exceptional abilities, it's hard to fathom how hunters manage to bag so many of them. Deer are vulnerable to hunters, however, largely because their behavior, while not perfectly predictable, usually has a pattern.

Deer Biography

A deer's life revolves almost entirely around food. Up to 95 percent of a deer's active time is spent foraging. When deer aren't eating, they usually are resting or ruminating the food they've eaten. (Ruminating doesn't mean thinking about food, but actually rechewing it, like a cow chews its cud.)

Deer eat a variety of foods, including fruits and nuts. They focus on what's available and what tastes good to them. They may, for example, eat apples when they are ripe.

Deer also browse young plants or new growth on older plants. They love acorns. They also like many grasses and, of course, row crops. One study found that, in the fall, up to 80 percent of Farm Belt deer's diet consists of crops.

This doesn't mean you should hunt over crop fields. Even if deer are feeding almost entirely on corn, wheat or beans, they usually remain in forested areas during the day and only venture into the fields toward evening and during the night. The best places to hunt these deer are along travel routes between feeding and bedding areas.

On average through the year, deer bed down more than 16 hours a day, although they seldom remain bedded for more than two hours at a time without at least getting up to stretch. Deer almost never go into what we would consider a deep sleep.

Deer bed in areas that provide both cover and comfort. A deer usually beds with its back to the wind, allowing it to see anything approaching from downwind and smell upwind danger. On hot, sunny days, deer tend to bed in shady areas. On cold, windy days they'll find a place that's protected from the wind. They often rest just over the downwind edge of a ridge. They sometimes return to the same bedding areas and, sometimes, the same beds.

Deer keep different hours than we do. They are considered crepuscular animals, which means they

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