Science project

Deer Behavior

Difficulty of Project



$5.00 for poster board

Safety Issues

This experiment requires access to a car.

Material Availability

Student will need access to a park with roads with a variety of different terrains such as a lake, a wooded area and an open field.

Approximate time to complete the project

Two weeks


Just like us, deer in the wild have daily routines. In the morning, deer may enjoy congregating in large groups in open fields while at other times, smaller groups are more likely to be found in wooded areas or by bodies of water.  Particular behaviors may also correlate with a particular type of terrain.  Students will identify several different types of terrain and regularly scout those areas for deer during different times of day.  They will estimate the number of deer in the area, and observe social and feeding behaviors.  Data gathered from these observations can be graphically represented so that students may draw conclusions about the behavior of the deer in a particular region.

Project Goal

The goal is for students to observe variations in deer behavior as related to time of day and terrain.  Behavioral variables include social behavior (how many deer are present), gender distribution (what is the male-to-female ratio), and feeding behaviors(are deer actively grazing)?

Materials and Equipment

  • Access to a car at different times during the day
  • Binoculars (optional)


Background information

Deer can be found throughout the United States. Their behavior has long been a hot topic for hunters and naturalists.  Knowing when and where deer are likely to be found is obviously desirable for hunters.  However, this information is also fascinating for anyone interested in nature and animal behavior.

Daily variations in deer behavior are determined, in part, by the nature of the environment.  In rural areas, deer often prefer feeding in the evening hours, but in urban areas, this behavior seems to be less common.  The type of terrain also determines behavior.  It is common for hundreds of deer may congregate together in open fields.  However, small social groups may dominate in wooded areas when animals are feeding.  Part of this may relate to feeding behaviors and competition for food.  Generally, deer are not grazers by nature, although in some areas, they may resort to this behavior if adequate food is not available.

The male-to-female ratio in stable herds is relatively constant once dominance patterns are established. Observing herds during the rut (when females are in estrus) is likely to produce unusual (and interesting!) results that may vary from the rest of the dear.

Research Questions
  • Are there certain times of day that deer are more likely to be social than others?
  • Are there certain times of day that deer are more likely to be eating?
  • When large numbers of deer congregate, are there differences in the male-to-female ratio?
  • Are there times of day when deer are more likely to be in wooded areas?  In open fields?  
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Animal behavior
  • Feeding behaviors
  • Social behavior
  • Male-to-female ratio
  • Gender distribution

Experimental Procedure

  1. It is important to have access to a car for this experiment.  If you are unable to drive, perhaps a parent or older sibling can be persuaded to help. Just make sure your assistant can be reliable, however, because it is very important to stick to a fixed routine for deer observation.  It will be necessary to observe deer in a variety of locations twice a day for at least a week.  Ideally, you can make regular observations before school and around dusk.
  2. The ideal location is a park with roads traversing throughout. You will need to carefully choose two – or preferably three – observation points.  These areas should include an open field and a wooded area where deer congregate.  Areas by water also make great observation points.  
  3. Bring a binoculars and note pad when you go to make an observation.  At each locale, observe:
  4. How many deer are present?  If it is a large population, estimates are okay.
  5. What are the deer doing?  Watch for feeding behaviors.  
  6. What is the ratio of males-to-females?
  7. After you make an observation, try and determine how gender distribution, sociability, and feeding behavior correlate with the observation location.  Draw graphs and charts of what you have observed.  Take pictures of your deer!


  1. The Hidden Life of Deer:  Lessons from that Natural World by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  2. Whitetail Deer by Laura Evert
  3. Wikipedia article "White-tailed Deer"
  4. Animal Behavior.Net

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