Do Deer Move Better in Frigid Weather or Wait?

We had a little discussion going during our MossbergSwarovski hunting trip at Tall Tine Outfitters in Kansas about whether deer move more or less when temperatures are down around single digits and the wind is howling.

Does heavy snow or frigid temperatures affect deer the same way it affects humans? (Photo: National Park Service)

Does heavy snow or frigid temperatures affect deer the same way it affects humans? (Photo: National Park Service)

The weather affects humans more than animals, of course, at least to a certain point. Even with good winter apparel, we can’t stay out in freezing temperatures, snow, ice and wind like deer, dogs, turkeys, beavers, coyotes and all other critters. They have dens and hunker under trees or bed down in thickets, sure … but they’re still out in it. When it’s 4 degrees and the northwest wind pushes the wind chill to negative teens, any thin-skinned animal — a white-tailed deer, perhaps — is going to be affected.

So our debate was do deer move around the same way in frigid temperatures or days when it’s snowing hard? Do they stay bedded down until the sun rises and warms things up a bit? Or do they wait until they only absolutely have to move around, due to hunger, or maybe a hot doe decides to move and a buck follows her?

Our somewhat unscientific consensus was that deer don’t move as much in the early morning in any part of the country when it’s severe.

Everything’s relative, but when it comes to deer movements we were in agreement that a heavy frost on a calm, 22-degree morning in Alabama is relatively similar to a single-digit, dry blustery day in Kansas. And the deer didn’t really want to move around much on such a day in either location.

Of course, one guy in our group in Kansas shot a 150-inch 10-point on a 12-degree morning and another did the same the day we all departed when it was 16 degrees. So, who knows? One of the favored tactics of hunters in the Southeast is to be overlooking a clearcut on a frosty morning because, usually around 8:30 or so after the sun rises, deer will be on the move. I don’t remember too many hunters saying they scored just at legal shooting light on a frosty morning, though.

What do you think? Do deer move around on what we think are frigid, bone-chilling days or is that just something in our heads?

— Alan Clemons, Managing Editor