Whitetail deer sleeps peacefully in a snowy wooded area

Where the Wild Deer Sleep: Your Guide to Finding & Hunting Bedding Areas

Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep in a new environment? Maybe you were staying in a friend’s guest room or a hotel. Maybe you were on vacation in a new and unfamiliar area. As humans, we’re creatures of habit. 

Deer aren’t as habitual. Though they may re-use bedding areas or sleep close to where they already have before, they are not den animals that sleep in only one place. They don’t have one set “bedroom”. 

As Bernie Barringer for North American Whitetail puts it, “Bucks and does don't often bed in the same areas, although there is some overlap. Most bucks will have 3-5 places they prefer to bed, and they will use them in various conditions at the different times of the year.”

Therefore just because you’ve found a deer’s bedding area today doesn’t mean that will be the same bedding area they sleep in tomorrow. This makes looking for signs of bedding as well as knowing where and how deer sleep especially important to a successful hunt.

When Do Deer Sleep?

For hunters, timing is everything. Knowing where to find bedding areas for deer is important. But so is knowing when (and for how long) deer sleep in these areas. 

Deer are primarily crepuscular and nocturnal animals that are most active at dawn and dusk.

They are known to sleep in short bursts (think 10-30 minutes), but they also spend most daylight hours lying in their bed awake. Find deer bedding areas and if they’re not lying down, there’s a good chance they aren’t too far away.

Finding Bedding: Where Do Deer Sleep?

Deer bed near where they eat. Therefore it may be wise to scope out primary food sources even before scoping out bedding areas. That having been said, every hunter’s strategy is different, and what works for one may not work for another.

When looking for deer bedding areas, keep the following in mind.

Terrain & Vegetation

The terrain and vegetation of a given area have a big impact on whether or not a deer will bed there.

 “We can group bedding areas into two basic categories: Thick and Open”, as Bernie Barringer for North American Whitetail notes. He continues, “Yes, these two are polar opposites and bucks may use both, even during the same day when the conditions change.”

Top spots where you’ll find whitetail bucks, as Field & Stream notes include:

  • Tall grass
  • Conifers
  • Hillside bench
  • Blowdowns
  • Hedgerow
  • River or creek banks
  • Ridge end

Seasonal Considerations

If you’re not asking questions like “Where do deer sleep when it rains?” or “Where do deer sleep in the winter vs. Summer?” then you should be, according to MeatEater:

“In the summer, when foliage is thick everywhere, deer have many bedding options and like to be as close to food and water as possible...As the leaves start dropping in the fall, deer bedding will shift to the areas with more cover while still being a reasonable distance away from the primary food source. This is where thicker areas play more of a role. When the leaves have all dropped, bedding is the most concentrated in the last areas of security cover. Conifer trees that create thermal cover, mountain laurel, and beech thickets close to food come to mind during the winter.”

How to Find Deer Bedding Areas on a Map

One of the most impactful strategies to implement while attempting to locate bedding areas on a topographic map is to look for ridgelines. Bedding areas may also be located near or in saddles and valleys.

What Does a Deer Bedding Area Look Like?

Bedding areas are normally characterized by “matted vegetation, depressions in the soil, white belly hairs on the ground” and more. Deer scrapes may also be found nearby, especially in big woods.

How Do I Hunt Deer Bedding Areas?

In a word, carefully. In five words, “with a lot of patience.

Hunting bedding areas requires a much lighter touch than hunting evening food source movement or daytime cruising areas. Therefore, though locating deer via bedding source can be a useful strategy, you may want to consider hunting other areas where deer are first if possible. 

Bring Deer Where You Want Them On Your Time

Deer usually eat close to their bedding areas. So if you bring the food to where you are, chances are they’ll sleep close by, and then you can hunt where they’re moving around in the day. Make hunting easier by doing just that with the Tectonic Daytime Deadfall Feeder. Not only does it bring deer to you, but it also trains them to feed during the day.