With winter around the corner, the amount of daylight hours is decreasing. As humans, it means many of us will be spending more time in the dark. But what does shorter daylight mean for wildlife?
To help put it in perspective, Hunt To Eat Ambassador Jason Norris tells us about his resident deer, Larry.
Meet 2-and-a-half year old Larry. He’s reliable, almost punctual to a fault. Larry is the resident buck on 40 acres, so he rarely travels far. This is largely due to the fact that we provide supplemental feed to him. The feeder goes off at 7am, 10am, 4pm, and 7pm.
So Larry has begun to understand time, or at least his version of time. Like clockwork, all summer long he was at the feeder no more than 30 minutes after it went off in the morning and evening. Due to Texas heat, his afternoon travel was very limited.
In Texas, we have the unique ability to watch deer, the same deer all year long. We learn their routines, study their behavior and most often use that to kill and harvest meat. In the case of Larry, he is safe (at least from me). I have such an admiration for these animals that even ones I am not "patterning," I want to learn all about.
Larry’s Change in Routine
Recently, Larry began to change his schedule. He now comes to feeders later than in the past. What is it that changed for him? Why get off a schedule he has had for months? Does daylight saving time affect deer?
The short answer is: Larry is not reacting to daylight saving time or any version of our concept of time. He doesn’t wear a watch.
But he is reacting to what his body is telling him. Larry is sensing the small changes happening each day. Minor changes in the barometer, in humidity and changes to the amount of sunlight during the day give him clues.
What do these changes ultimately tell him? The days are getting cooler and shorter. He feeds later in the morning and later into the night. He knows his grocery options have changed.
And, Larry's DNA is telling him to ramp up for the rut. That magical time of year when bucks appear to throw caution to the wind so that he can pass on his genes, or in simple terms, find the ladies. With the rut, his schedule will alter even more, his patterns will become more erratic, something that every hunter is familiar with. He travels more looking for food high in calories, putting on the weight before the rut. His travel and caloric needs determine his schedule now.
But Larry isn’t Alone...
Another animal hunted in Texas is also going through a change this time of year. Ever since late May, our wild hogs are almost entirely nocturnal. Pigs are unable to regulate their body temperature and so during the hot summer they must stay in the shade or find a wallow bath. But with a change in daylight and winter on its way, they have to get out in the sun to warm up. The hogs are now finding they can be a little slower after feeding in the early morning hours getting back to bed. They can come out from their thick cover and feed during the day.
With the increase in movement of both Whitetail and hogs in Texas, it is a great time to be in the woods. It is the time to Hunt to Eat!