Alsheimer: How Deer Survive in Cold Weather

Copyright Charles Alsheimer Deer in Cold

Deer will often bed down for six hours at a time in cold weather (Photo copyright Charles J. Alsheimer)

Since Christmas North America has been hammered with record snowfall and cold temperatures. Simply put, conditions have been brutal. Because of this I’m concerned with how well whitetails will survive over the next two months.

The length of time a whitetail beds depends on a host of factors. A deer’s age and health, the time of year, weather conditions, and pressure from predators are all parts of the equation. On average, most deer will not bed longer than 2 hours. An exception to this occurs in the far-northern reaches of the whitetail’s range. Where intense snow and cold persist, I’ve seen deer remain bedded up to 6 hours at a time without rising and moving around. Consequently it’s not uncommon for northern whitetails to bed over 90% of the time in winter.

An example of this is illustrated in the accompanying photo I took in mid-January here in New York State of a deer in cold weather. It was a very cold winter day, with a strong wind out of the north. To conserve energy and stay warm this buck tucked his face between his hind legs and hardly moved during the four hours I observed him. The only time he moved was to stand and shake the snow off his fur. Once that was accomplished he turned his body around and bedded again.

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One thought on “Alsheimer: How Deer Survive in Cold Weather

  1. Oldschool

    Charles,
    I recently purchased your latest book Whitetails – read it in 2 days. Found all the information on the topic very insightful. I am 51 years old and over the last 2 years really got into bow hunting. I harvested my first doe and 8 point buck this year with a crossbow. I spent all my time hunting from a tree stand on public land in all types of weather this year. I found that deer move in all types of weather at all times of day. Most movement was at dusk but on the last Saturday of hunting season had a herd of 18 deer move through the snow storm at 10 am. That is when i harvested my doe. I hunted on the coldest day of the year and missed a doe with my compound bow. I will keep reading to learn more. My son is also hunting with me and with his best friend.

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