Ever find yourself looking at online maps thinking “where are the deer?”.
You’re not alone.
Picking out deer bedding areas will go a long way to taking your deer hunting from on-the-couch research to actual in-the-field action.
Today we jump headfirst into the world of deer bedding, paving the way to get you into the right spots and improving your odds of finding deer.
In this article, you will learn:
Let's dig deep into it...
What is a Deer Bedding Area?
A deer bedding area is a location where a deer spends resting.
As deer are crepuscular, moving mainly during the twilight hours and feeding at night, they spend large daytime bedded down.
Since we as hunters are usually only allowed to hunt during daylight hours, knowing where deer like to bed down and the paths they travel to and from their beds helps us improve our odds of success.
Where Do Deer Bed Down?
Bucks bed in different areas depending on:
These are a few key areas you may find them bedded:
One of the key factors in where bucks will bed is where edge habitat of some form exists.
This could be where food plots butt up against timber, where bushland runs into marsh, or even just where the denser vegetation starts to open up a little more.
Thicker brush gives space for good hiding, whilst adjacent openings allow for vision and feeding.
Bucks are regularly found around water. Marshy and watery areas can offer great cover due to the overgrowing of reeds and brush.
These areas also offer a decent getaway for bucks, who are more than happy to crash through water to escape.
Similar to that of the marsh edges, oxbows (sharp hairpins) of creeks and rivers offer decent bedding for bucks as they are protected around most sides by water.
This leaves one direction of land access for predators to approach, whilst still allowing a 360 degree wet escape for the buck.
Drainages and Ditches
Channels that run down the side of a slope with enough vegetation cover are also regular hiding spots for bucks.
The dips in the terrain make them hard to spot from the sides and offer a slightly elevated position to see downhill.
Bucks can be found deeper in the timber in more pressured areas, further back behind potential doe bedding zones.
While they may be further back in the woods, they will still try to use aspects of the immediate topography to their advantage, such as those mentioned above.
Factors Affecting Deer Bedding:
Bucks prefer to find a location where they can sit, slightly elevated, with the wind at their back and their eyes able to see across an area.
This gives them the best chance of their senses picking up any danger.
In order to survive, deer rely on their senses.
So it is important that they put themselves into areas where they can use their scent, sight and hearing to their advantage.
We should always be thinking about what the deer may be thinking.
A buck’s home range is usually around 1 square mile, so they are likely to be aware of where hunters (and people in general) may access and move throughout the region.
Roads, footpaths and trafficked spots are unlikely to have bucks bedded down.
Deer will not always bed down in the same place every time. They may have their favorite locations if they go largely undisturbed.
However changing conditions and needs will have them changing spots.
Not only may they change day to day, but multiple times throughout the day if need be.
Public Land vs Private Land
Deer density and ease of finding whitetail bucks (and their associated bedding areas) can vary depending on the region and terrain you are hunting.
Generally private and agricultural lands create more limited space for deer, due to cleared paddocks and areas, infrastructure (roads, buildings etc.) and general pressure (perceived or real).
When it comes to public land, where areas are more expansive and there is less natural competition for space (including with other deer), you may find deer spreading out further.
Deer will usually bed down near to a food source, especially if there is cover within a reasonably close proximity.
Does and fawns will usually look to bed within 50-100 yards of a food plot or feeding area, in private land and built up agricultural areas, as long as there is adequate cover.
Bucks have a greater home range than does do, and move greater distances. Buck bedding areas are usually further back, behind the area that the does and fawns bed down.
As long as there is still some decent cover behind, bucks can be found around 200-400 yards back from the primary food source locations.
Finding quality bedding areas for does is important, as the presence of these other deer is what incentivizes bucks to hang nearby.
Depending on the size of the area, bucks on public land may be much further back, given that they have greater room to move, and less competition with other deer and animals for space.
You may then find bucks around 1000 yards (give to take) back from a key food plot area.
How to Find Whitetail Deer Bedding Areas:
Look for Unpressured Areas
Deer will bed down either to rest during the day, or to hide from potential threats.
Regardless of whether they are actively hiding from a predator or hunter, they still generally choose their bedding locations by focusing on areas they can feel safe and secure.
So, even though you may have found what looks to be a nice deer bedding area, if it is too near to potential high pressure hunting areas, you may not find any deer.
Looking at spots where deer may be pushing back further away from well-trafficked areas is a good start when it comes to getting to where deer may actually be, not where we want them to be.
Deer Bedding Signs: Buck Vs Doe
If you come across what looks like a good bedding area, and the grass it patted down…
How do you know if it is from a buck or a doe?
Number of Beds:
Usually if you find a few beds in one area, that belongs to a family of deer; a group of does and fawns (possibly with an occasional younger spike in tow). Mature bucks usually spend their time alone.
Another telltale sign that a buck is bedding in that area is whether there are rubs and scrapes along the brush and trails nearby.
Scouting with Online Map
Looking into deer bedding zones usually begins at home, honing down areas of focus for you to then scout in the field.
Applications such as OnX, iHunter and Google Earth are great for map overlays of satellite imagery, topographical overlays, access roads, waterways and so forth.
Ideally when looking overhead for bedding-style vegetation, you want to be looking at where there is cover, but does not appear too dense from overhead.
The reason for this is that not enough sun is able to hit the forest floor, which limits undergrowth, and therefore limits cover for deer.
Looking for semi-dense areas that allow some gaps for sun is more likely to create better on-the-ground bedding zones for deer, especially if nearby to edge habitat, feed zones or water.
Set Up High
As the area that bucks bed are usually quite dense for vegetation, it can be difficult to still hunt or set up ground blinds in these spots.
Given that the line of sight for the hunter is not great, it is best worthwhile setting up a tree stand or saddle nearby.
To best utilize hunting buck bed areas you want to set up along frequently used trails in and out of the bedding area, or across the edges nearby overlooking potential bedding spots.
Play The Wind Right
The wind is always one of the most important factors in hunting.
Bucks primary line of defence is their scent, so be sure to approach areas from downwind, or crosswind as a minimum.
Hiking in or setting up from upwind is likely to spook the buck off before you even know he exists.
Use Trail Cameras
There’s only so much you can discover from studying online maps, and only so much time we have in the field to be able to scout.
Trail cameras are a great option for summer scouting and in-season check-ups on different zones, to understand how frequent or infrequent a trail or bedding area is used.
The more data we can collect as hunters whilst minimizing our physical disturbance on a potential deer area, the better.
There Is No Perfect Formula
When it comes to behavior, deer are still wild animals doing wild things.
Although there are basic behavioral patterns and consistencies in how they act, their movements and locations can still change.
Factors such as terrain, weather, pressure (other deer, predators, humans) and time of year (rut, winter, birthing season) will all play a part in how the deer move and where they ultimately end up at any given time.
Hunting is all about putting yourself in the positions where your odds are greatest.
Whilst there is no perfect formula for finding deer hunting success, following tips such as these will greatly improve your chances.
Just This Past Season:
Still hunting through a section of public land; timbered and layered by many small ridgelines, I came across a doe, bedded.
The wind was howling, so I could sneak right by.
Another 300-500 yards further I came across a small rise, looked over, and found a buck bedded.
The timber wasn’t super dense, but it was further in from path or trail access, protected by the layer of bedding that I passed that doe, and regularly cross does and fawns.
As you can see, buck bedding areas can be found in a range of places.
By using this guide and assessing your hunting area, you can determine which kind of topographical holes your next buck is likely to be nestled down in.
The action doesn’t get much more exciting than sneaking into a buck’s bedroom.
Which tips and tactics do you use to find deer bedding areas? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!