Deer Movement and Patterns

Texas Mule DeerDeer can be hard animals to predict. Coming home empty handed and eating tag soup can cause hunters to go crazy Astronomical clock for deer movements when we can’t bag a Buck!

So I am going to go over some of the ways that we can use a pre-plan of what the deer are doing before we ever step foot in the woods. You may be thinking to yourself what causes Deer movement? Well in fact many aspects of the weather such as temperature, barometric pressure, atmospheric conditions, wind, and even the moon phases are a factor! Lets take each of these environmental conditions and break them down, find out why they effect the deer and what they can cause a deer to do.


The temperature is one of the easiest ways to predict if deer are on the move. Temp is also a good way to know when to just call a hunt. 

Just like us cervid ruminant or deer are susceptible to temperature. On hot days we don’t want to do anything and the Deer feel the same way! On the other hand, low temperature stimulates movement and activity. Usually temperatures above 60-65 will begin to slow down movement in deer. The temperature will affect the deer no matter what time of day or any other prevailing weather conditions. This zone for deer varies from state to state and from region to region so it is good to keep track of your observations.

Barometric Pressure

Barometric Pressure (BP) affect deer a lot like temperatures guide deer behavior. You can pay close attention to the barometric pressure at your favorite hunting spot and know when the deer are on the move. The BP triggers a survival sense in deer to feed before the coming weather change. 

Lets look at some of the changes in BP that affect deer movement. 

  • Rising BP: Rising BP means that a storm is passing and the deer will be moving to feed.
  • Falling BP: Falling BP means that a storm is coming and the deer will really be on the move to find food and a place to bed down.
  • Steady High BP: Steady High BP will be normal activity for deer.
  • Steady Low BP: Steady Low BP will show less than normal activity in deer movement.

In conclusion, deer seem to prefer a moving Barometric Pressure. So when the mercury is moving you should be in the woods. Now is a good time to note that the BP does not over write Temperature. If the temp is to hot but the barometer is falling the deer will still be bedded down.  

Atmospheric Conditions

When I’m talking Atmospheric Conditions, what I’m really talking about is rain fall and cloud cover. This may come to a surprise to you but as far as deer are concerned the nastier the better all the way up to heavy rain. Heavy rain restricts there vision and hearing so the deer will be bedding down.

So, if it’s a Foggy, misty day with a light drizzle you better get your gear on!


Wind plays an indirect factor in the movement and patterns of deer. Smell being one of the major senses for deer means that wind can help or hurt us. The nose of a whitetail deer has up to 297 million olfactory receptors meaning that they will know where we are not comfortable. 

Every area and regions deer are different so once again it is important to note that you need to keep track to accurately predict the local deer. 

To predict movement all we need to do is look at the wind speed. The rule of thumb is “as the wind speed increases the amount of deer movement decreases”, its really that simple. Wind speeds of up to 15mph seem to generally have no effect on deer movements or patterns. But as speeds increase to greater than 15mph you will see drastic decreases in deer movement. 

Hunting during days of high wind will yield worse results over calm or light breezes, but some record bucks have been called right after a drop from a 20-25mph wind was reported. 


Many hunters swear on hunting by the moon phases. Many scientists have been studying the effects of the moon on wildlife patterns for years.

It has been scientifically proven that there is an increase in animal activity during a full moon and in night at general. Many animals feel safer under the the darkness of night and Deer are not excluded. We know that pressure from hunters will have already stressed the deer and they will be more likely to move at night under the cover of darkness.

With a 29.5 day yearly cycle predicting the moon can be one of the more complicated ways of tracking deer. If we take into account that the whitetail estrous (greek – meaning sexual desire) cycle is around 28-29 we can see how the moon phase comes into play. Although moon phases can be complicated it is one of the most accurate and effective ways to track deer movements and patterns. 

Evidence indicates that the periods of greatest lunar influence on wildlife is when the moon is directly overhead and then again when it is directly underfoot (opposite side of the earth){hmm}. On another note, peak activity occurs when the moon is directly overhead. Besides what the theory says. 

From what I have seen with multiple studies, is; that the Rut (rub their antlers or horns on trees or shrubs) is highly effected by the moon and can be closely predicted every year. The rut for most of the country comes during the second full moon after the autumnal equinox.

From a study done by Charles J. Alsheimer we found out that most Does are bred under a dark-moon period. Jumping ahead to an average 199-day gestation period, he calculated that most fawns are born within a day of the third-quarter moon.

There are eight primary moon phases: the New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter, and the Waning Crescent. Each phase lasts 3 days. The word crescent refers to the phases where the moon is less that half illuminated. The word gibbous refers to phases where the moon is more than half illuminated. Waxing essentially means “growing” or expanding in illumination, and waning means “shrinking” or decreasing in illumination. 

So lets break down each of these phases and what they mean in the way of deer movement. 

Military Hunting and fishing moon phasesmoon phase and deer movment

New Moon: A new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun. New moons are the most important for us hunters because the deer will be moving the most during this time period. Deer would have had less light to feed at night and will be on the move during the day.

Full Moon: During a full moon, the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, just as the new moon, but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth. Based on the lunar theory the day after will be the least deer movement of all the moon phases. 

First and Third Quarter Moon: These moon’s are half illuminated and half shadowed. These will show you around the same amount of movement depending on the corresponding cycles. 

Although moon phase theory still has a way to go in research, you can see that knowing this information in advance can help you find the deer and know what days to take off of work to go get that huge buck.

More Deer Pattern Tips

Here is some more tips from my friend Duane over at

  • Peak Feeding Times (aka Peak Animal Activity) is really just based on Moonrise, moon overhead, moonset and moon underfootmoon_astro clock for deer
  • When a website displays the range for the peak times they are really trying to take the mean between the 4 time zones.  If you calculate based on Latitude and Longitude you can determent the peak for a persons exact location.
  • Duration of a lunation (i.e. the time from new moon to the next new moon) varies between 27.272 and 27.833 days…most sites just say 27.32 or round up to 28 days…actually lots of conflicts on this topic
  • While many hunters LOVE the Full Moon, it has been my experience that the Full moon is great as long as it is overhead during the daylight hours.  When it is up during the nighttime hours I think hunting is poor.  Which was the case the last 2 weeks.
  • I think it is more important when the moon is overhead and less important the phase it is in.  That being said Wednesday( Nov 14th, 2012) is the New Moon and is overhead most of the day for north America.  As long as the weather doesn’t go crazy this will be the peak of animal activity during the day and make the rut in FULL SWING
  • To me the Moon influences animal activity but weather trumps the moon, but when both are working together we see lots of animal activity.  I also strongly believe this plays a huge part in why the RUT sometimes comes and goes with little seen activity and other times the Rut is crazy with deer running every where i.e parking lots, medians, etc.
  • The moon does not orbit the earth in a perfect sphere (e=.05) and I think being able to calculate the distance the moon is from the earth would be huge as part of journaling.
  • Circles have e=0, and very stretched-out ellipses have an eccentricity nearly equal to 1.

In conclusion, I cannot promise that knowing this information will land you that world record deer. I can tell you that knowing your environment will make you a better hunter and more in tune with nature.

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Gregory Beckman

About the Author:

Hi, I am Gregory Beckman, as the main owner of Military Hunting and Fishing let me tell you a little bit more about myself. I am currently an active duty member in the United States Coast Guard. I have been privileged to traveling the world. My experiences have shaped the way that I see the world and my memories will stick with me for a lifetime. Although I may not live in the country, the country lives in me. Traveling the world I have had the chance to experience the wonders of nature in many different places, meeting many different people and tasting wild game that the normal person would not get to experience. Although these experiences have kept me away from home, it has instilled a deep passion of hunting and fishing in my blood. Thank you for joining our site, and I look forward to interacting and sharing stories of our hunting adventures. Gregory A. Beckman