As rightfully claimed by those who prefer to move constantly about on foot while hunting deer—still-hunters, sneakers and hunters making drives—whitetails are active all hours of the day, though abnormally. This is because such hunters force whitetails to frequently move about during midday hours when they normally rest. The trouble with these aggressive styles of hunting is, they soon force most or all surviving deer to abandon their ranges. Antlerless deer, especially if young, may attempt to return within 1-4 days, but most whitetails 2-1/2 years of age or older, especially older bucks, are then likely to remain off-range until the hunting season is over. Refuges, parks, posted lands, swamps, bogs and other lands where whitetails seek relief from such hunters can be as far as six miles away from their home ranges.
Where all hunters are stand hunters, hours whitetails are active (up and about feeding, watering and engaging in rut-related activities) are fairly normal—from about 4 AM to 10 AM and 4 PM to 10 PM, chewing their cuds and resting between these hours. There are a number of conditions that can change these hours.
Take winds. When winds are calm or light, whitetails are active longest. Hours they are active are progressively shorter as winds become stronger. When winds exceed 14 mph (except in west Texas), whitetails generally skip feeding (remain bedded).
Take precipitation. Whitetails are active longest when there is no precipitation or precipitation is light—foggy, drizzling or raining or snowing lightly. They generally remain bedded while noisy sleet in falling or while it is thundering. They are less active while rain or snow is moderate. Though I’ve seen some notable exceptions, they’ll generally remain bedded (skip feeding) while rain or snow is heavy. Following the first heavy snow of winter (six inches or more) they are likely to remain bedded until the second evening after the snow has quit falling.
Temperatures can have a dramatic effect. After our northern whitetails have grown their winter coats, generally complete by mid-October, they are unlikely to be active long during daylight hours while temperatures exceed 50 degrees. At least until they become acclimated to sub-zero temperature in December, they’ll be most active while temperatures range between 40 and 10 degrees F. As it becomes colder in November, their morning and evening feeding hours will become shorter. While temperatures are 10-below or colder in November, particularly if it is windy, whitetails are likely to remain bedded throughout feeding hours. When a thaw or near thaw occurs with the wind calm or light following a period of frigid temperatures in November or December, every deer in the woods will be on the move, feeding for 1-2 hours sometime between 11 AM and 3 PM. This is one of the most productive of periods to stand hunt adjacent to a current favorite whitetail feeding area in fall and early winter.