Bedding Behavior of Wilderness Bucks

Posted on August 5, 2014



Whenever most of us think of privacy and the one room in our house that can and will facilitate this seclusion, we automatically consider the bedroom. Let’s face it, although a nap can be had on the sofa in front of the tube, or a few winks stolen while lounging in an easy-chair, or a mid-afternoon slumber enjoyed swinging in a hammock beneath the shade of two towering trees, our serious sleep takes place behind the bedroom door.


 The typical American dwelling has at least two rooms designated for slumber and is usually located away from all other activity. It’s a place where our most intimate secrets and activities will be shared, a location of quietude and the one spot that provides us the greatest feeling of serenity and security. I know that when my head is laid upon the pillow at night, snuggled beneath the covers in the comfort of my bedroom environment, all the cares of the world are temporarily erased. As I begin to drop off into a blissful nights rest, it is with the expectation that no one will be able to interrupt or cause me harm while I’m immersed in the safety and security of my bed.

The wilderness buck is not so different when it comes to where he prefers to sleep. Despite the fact that he has no fabricated structure to crawl into, his bedroom location is carefully chosen to accommodate concealment and security. As you will learn, these bedding spots are not whimsical sites to accommodate a tired beast, but rather judiciously selected areas that offer the reticent buck the self-assurance that he will be safe. Even though a buck will occasionally lie down wherever he happens to be (take a nap, if you will) most of his horizontal inactivity will indeed transpire within the confines of the animals chosen bedding area.


Behaviorisms of The Big Woods Buck


Typically, the male of the whitetail species exhibits a relatively lazy disposition. Throughout the duration of his life, he will spend approximately seventy-percent of his time lying on his belly. From a human perspective, it would seem that the buck equates well to the individual who goes off to work, accomplishes barely what is required of him,  all the while looking forward to the end of the shift, and returns immediately to the comfortable lazy boy and inactivity. Although it would be easy to characterize a buck with the stigma of being lethargic, I do not believe in most instances that is the rationale for his behavior.


Whitetails are a prey animal. Every predator skulking around the animal’s wooded environment wants to eat him. Antlers reaching to the sky make the buck an even more conspicuous target to locate. A bedded buck whose form only rises about eighteen inches above the forest floor becomes almost invisible. With his bland dun coat and white markings, he camouflages himself quite nicely amongst a backdrop of leaves, limbs and blow downs. A sage old buck that has escaped the fate of the meat pole has learned that his best defense against detection is to remain motionless. This is one of the first lessons imbued to a newborn fawn by a wise mother, and the bucks that learn the importance of this prima become the very animals that routinely best us as hunters, despite our most strategic efforts.

Other than when jumped by an intruder or when his escalating activity prior to and throughout the three stages of autumn’s rut, the buck is quite sedate. He will rise only when it is time to feed, which happens four–to–six times per twenty-four hour period, or out of sheer boredom. Therefore, the place where most of his time is spent needs to be secure and familiar to him. A place, much like our own home, that he will return to daily.


Separate Bedrooms Between The Sexes


In order to understand where a buck chooses his bedding area and why that particular parcel of ground is chosen, we must first identify where the doe’s home turf is located. In the big woods every move by deer is in some way predicated on food; find the food source and whitetails are sure to be nearby. Because groceries are not evenly distributed in the wilderness, deer living in this part of the world are found in pockets. The doe groups establish home field advantage and will always be housed where the food is most preferred and available. These individual family units can be spread out as much as two–to–five miles apart. Interspersed between the approximately four hundred acres comprising a doe group’s home, bucks of various ages will take up residency. Their bedrooms will always be on the periphery of a female’s home area rather than in it.

If the area offers any type of elevation such as hills, ridges or even mountains, the buck will select his bedroom above where the girls are located. He will search out the thickest, most inconspicuous part of the terrain available that will grant him optimum security advantages. This set-up provides the male protection at the front door by using the females below as his alarm and the wind from over the top to signal any danger coming from the rear. Where elevation is nonexistent, the same axioms still apply only now the buck has to be even more vigilant to approaching enemies.


Trust me, seldom will you ever have the advantage when attempting to sneak up onto a buck in his lair. He has selected this familiar spot for all of the benefits it offers him. However, once a buck’s bedroom is discovered and per chance the animal is harvested, you would do well to remember this spot. As younger males disperse and begin to search for a place to call their own, their new digs often become the former residence of a buck that has met his demise.


Seasonal Bedding Patterns


Wilderness bucks bedding sites will remain the same from spring through the fall with exceptions. Those changes in his bedding behavior will occur with the initial stages of rut. It would be like you or I going on a trip, even though we are temporarily absent, the house is still ours. As he begins to seek out estrus does, his wanderlust will take him far away and preclude him from returning for a few days. Once in the company of a willing partner, he will spend his nights in her house rather than returning to his own. Upon the completion of the breeding season he will return to his bedroom for a much needed respite.


Northern whitetails are a two-house group. Because of the harsh conditions that wilderness deer live under, wintering whitetails annually migrate to traditional yards. They vacate their summer range and spend over 100 days in a location that collectively meets their needs to survive. Bucks will be the last to arrive at these sites and will stay on the fringes of the yard rather than joining the rest of the herd within. Once the winter has subsided, the buck will once again return to his home range and take up residency in his old haunt.


Seeing Is Believing

By following the twisting trail of a buck that had exited a doe bedding area, I was provided with a real and practical look at a bucks bedding behavior. It was early in the morning near the tail end of the breeding season. This particular male had tracked through a group of does and based upon the path he was leaving, there wasn’t any female remotely interested in his company.

His track led up the ridge quartering the breeze coming out of the northwest. When he reached a plateau just below the summit, his trail suddenly deviated and swung sharply ninety degrees to my right with the wind to his back.

Fearing that my scent may now alert him, I stopped to assess the situation. As I pondered my next move all the while staring into a labyrinth of balsam, intermingled with stunted beech and whips, I caught a glimpse of the buck. He had come out of this tangle and gingerly walked straight up the incline only to quickly disappear once again. Rather than waste time and energy in following his spoor, I slowly began to creep in the direction where he had just materialized.


As I was about to take my next step, the buck came into view again in the same spot only this time he was heading back from whence he came. For more than twenty minutes I looked, stared, watched and agonizingly tried to find this beast making an exit, but to no avail. Finely, impetuousness got the best of me and I proceeded onward to pick up his track. Believing the buck had pushed on, I approached the thicket without the least bit of thought that he may be bedded. To my chagrin and great surprise, the buck suddenly, with one fluid motion vaulted from his bed and streaked back down the mountain.

Due to my inquisitive nature and inclination to validate that this indeed was the buck I’d been tracking, I returned to the original trail to follow it out. As I had surmised, this indeed was the same buck and the following descriptive events that saved his skin also became a valuable, albeit tough, lesson for me. When he diverted from his original path and placed the wind to his back it was to protect himself using scent to alert him of any approaching danger. Using his eyes and ears, he cautiously walked through what would ultimately prove to be his bedroom to the top of the ridge checking for any possible intrusions from above. When he reappeared, it was with the belief that all was secure and thus laid down facing downhill. You may be thinking right now, what a clever buck, but in reality, this animal had no idea danger lurked so close. Essentially, this buck was only behaving how he would on any other given day. Although I never did get that buck despite an incredible chase after my faux pa, he provided me with a wealth of behavioral information that I have been able to use on several of his relatives.




There are many quirks in a buck’s behavior and each one demonstrates different personality traits. This attribute comes as a result of their cumulative experiences and the education they received from their mother. While some males will exhibit more timidity than others, there will be bucks that are easily frightened by even the slightest noise or disturbance. And although by nature the whitetail has an insatiable curiosity, when it comes to the security of their bedroom being compromised, I’ve yet to find a buck that was lax about his sanctuary – no matter where whitetails reside.



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Posted in: Whitetail Deer