Deer are crepuscular creatures, which means their movement is influenced by light.
Particularly twilight. For this reason, the majority of deer movement happens a few hours before sun up and a few hours after sundown.
Deer evening activity
Most of the time, deer will come out in the afternoon just after sundown. However, many factors will contribute to the deers’ activity, such as season, weather, food sources, and hunting pressure.
Fall is the busiest time of year for deer and the time we are most interested in as hunters.
Hunting pressure is high this time of year, and deer are into rutting season.
This is a challenging time for the deer as they tend to come out earlier and move more.
However, the increased hunting pressure also pushes them further into cover, so although they are out earlier and longer, you’d be forgiven for thinking they are nocturnal because you only see them at night on your trail camera.
The reality is they are likely coming out around 4 pm. How long they stay out depends on what is happening around them, but generally, they are generally out until around 9 pm.
Obviously, these times will vary slightly depending on where you live, but the general rule of thumb for deer evening activity during rutting season is from just after sunset and staying out for four to five hours.
Winter is one of the hardest times for deer. They tend not to move much during this time of year in an effort to store energy.
Food sources are also in low supply. Typically deer don’t usually come out until 5 pm this time of year.
Again this depends on where you live, but it’s generally around an hour after sunset.
They also don’t stay out for very long. Typically they move a lot less and only stay out in the evening for around 2 – 3 hours.
In some cases, when the weather is particularly harsh, deer may not come out at all and physically hunker down instead.
They can do this for up to two to three days at a time by cutting their metabolism in half and living off of their fat resources.
Spring is another active time of year for deer. After a harsh winter with limited food resources, deer need to start consuming nutrition from the abundance of newly emerging food sources.
With the longer twilight periods in the evening and the extra food sources, deer are generally out at around 3 pm or around sunset hours in early spring.
This time of year, does are getting ready to give birth, and bucks are growing new antlers.
Their nutrition needs are high, so they spend more time browsing and less time bedding down.
However, they are often pushed into cover by shed hunters, which disrupts their typical pattern and puts them at risk.
Later in the spring, twilight is a little later in the day. However, there is not much change in the time when the deer come out.
Does have given birth and need a large amount of nutrient intake. You can see them hitting salt blocks around 4 pm in the afternoon or right around sunset.
Summer is generally a time for hunter recon. Trail cameras are going up, and scouting is in full swing.
However, for the deer, this is still a critical time. Does are nursing fawns and bucks are still growing antlers.
This means that deer tend to come out earlier and stay out longer in order to consume as much nutritious food as possible.
It’s common for trail cameras to pick up bucks early in the afternoon feeding on alfalfa sprouts or other crops.
However, on the flip side of this is increased pressure from scouting. Deer can’t decern between off-season and hunting season.
To them, all they see is more people in the field. This can push deer to stay in cover for longer and not come out until later in the evening.
For the most part, deer will come out during the twilight hours as normal. If there is heavy pressure from scouting, they may come out an hour or two later.
However, it is often the case that deer are still up and about but staying in heavy cover. This also helps to protect them from the heat. The shade provided by mature woodlots allows them to browse the undergrowth without overheating.
This is a handy pocket guide you can bring with you to the field. It will take you step by step on how to field dress big game animals
Deer Activity and Weather
The weather has a large influence on a deer’s activity and can alter the times at which they come out or for how long they stay out.
If we take winter, for example, deer often hunker down and make limited movement for days.
During these few days, deer will not come out in the evening at all.
The same is true for summer. During intensely hot days, deer bed dong for longer. And often, when they do come out, they don’t move about too much, preferring to stay in cover to protect from the heat.
Deer generally come out during the twilight hours due to their crepuscular nature.
The main reason for this is that there is less predator pressure, and they can see better during these low light hours.