For animals like bats, cockroaches, raccoons, owls, and the Tasmanian devil, there is not much debate on whether they are nocturnal, diurnal, or crepuscular (fancy words, huh?). But for deer, the debate rages on – Are deer nocturnal or diurnal? Are deer crepuscular? That means twilight-active, by the way…

Are Deer Nocturnal Animals

You’ll hear all sorts of answers from deer hunters – some mythical, others factual. I hope this piece by an expert from Airgun Maniac will demystify the age-old myths on the nature of deer. 

First and foremost, it pays to understand these four terms:

  1. Nocturnal – most active at night
  2. Crepuscular – most active in twilight – i.e. that period in the evening between daylight and darkness
  3. Diurnal – most active during the day
  4. Matutinal – most active during the morning hours

Knowing what time of the day the deer are most active will help you schedule your deer hunting expedition better. 

Some statistics

According to The National Highway Safety Administration, about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur every year in the US. The majority of these accidents occur between 6 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. Additionally, most of these accidents occur between October and December – what we roughly refer to as the deer season. 

deer are most active in the evenings

Numbers don’t lie. In this regard, it is evident that deer are most active in the evenings. 

This fact is supported by one past study that concluded “Based on the rate of movement, deer had clearly defined crepuscular activity patterns.” This was after a three-year-long study of mule deer in South-Central Washington. 

There is, however, a further twist to this crepuscular nature of deer. As evidenced in recent research by Erik P Ensing and others, deer may have a nocturnal or diurnal tendency on top of the crepuscular nature. The researchers found out that deer in Canada were mostly diurnal while deer in the Netherlands were mostly nocturnal. This difference was attributed to two major factors:

  • Human disturbance
  • Local weather

Human Disturbance

Human activity is chiefly what makes deer nocturnal. You see, hordes of hunters roam through the forests and thickets in search of deer. They leave their scent all over the place. 

Being the sensitive animals they are, deer sense the looming danger and cleverly avoid these areas. Funny enough, the same deer may visit the spots where the hunters have been once darkness sets in.

deer are actually nocturnal 

And so, when you come in the morning and see the deer tracks and clues of feeding, you conclude that deer are actually nocturnal. In case you decide to hunt them only at night, you will have missed the mark.

Fact has it that deer never continuously sleep or rest for more than 12-15 hours. Be sure that when if seem not to spot them during the day, they are somewhere else feeding and moving. That’s all they can do with so much hunting pressure around. In the absence of hunting pressure, deer freely feed during the day.

Old is gold

As you may have realized, it is usually very hard to spot old mature bucks during the day. The fact that they have grown to such an age tells you how smart they are. They have been able to evade hunters season after season. 

In fact, some come to open spaces only at night. Most of their daytime is spent in hideouts. On the contrary, the younger bucks who are not that clever try feeding during the day and are easily hunted down.  

how to get an old buck

Local weather

Deer are also known to come out of their hideouts when the weather is more convivial. This coincidentally happens at twilight in those regions with adverse daytime temperatures. They bed most of the day to avoid the wide temperature variations during the day.  

Are deer supposed to be out during the day?

If a deer spots a predator during their favorite twilight hours, it may be forced to bed for the entire night, thus you can expect them to feed the following day during the day. 

a deer spots a predator during their favorite twilight hours

Conclusion

Taking all these factors into account, you can now understand why some people claim that deer are nocturnal, while others claim that deer are diurnal. Make sure to study your specific hunting area to understand the exact behavior of the local deer. And don’t forget to check out Airgun Maniac for the best PCP air rifles in 2020 on the market.