Buck Bedding 101. Learn how bucks choose their bedding areas.

Buck Bedding 101: How Bucks Choose Their Bedding Areas

If you want to know how to scout buck beds effectively, the first thing you need to understand is how bucks choose their bedding areas in the first place. In this post, I’ll take you through the basic rules of thumb for how mature bucks select their bedding areas and show you some examples of the key things they look for before deciding to bed down in a location.

When it comes to scouting deer bedding areas, it is important to understand that bucks and does bed differently and do not have the same criteria for selecting a bed. Does bed in family groups and often bed in a circular fashion to provide security and don’t rely on things like winds and thermals (as much) unless they are bedding alone.

Bucks on the other hand, specifically mature bucks, refine their bedding selection process and develop their core area over years. They learn the areas they live in and find those locations that provide them with the biggest wind advantage, most security, and available escape routes possible. A mature deer doesn’t make it through multiple hunting seasons without mastering a few key rules of thumb. If you want to plan to hunt them effectively, you need to master them too.

*Watch the video below now if you want a detailed breakdown of everything in this post.

The Three “S’s” of Buck Bedding

There are some basic Rules of Thumb for how a buck chooses their bedding areas. The most critical to understand is the three “S’s” of buck bedding. They are Scent, Security, and Sight. Understand, for every rule listed here, there are different situations, terrain variations, limitations, food source locations, and pressures (parcel size, hunting pressure, roads, development, etc.) that influence where deer bed and when they move during the day and night. The rules listed below are optimal scenarios that they will look for when selecting a place to bed down.


Scent drives everything a deer does. This applies to does, but bucks, especially mature bucks rely on scent to determine how they travel, feed, and bed. They use the wind direction and thermals to take a tactical advantage over predators and hunters alike. An old mature deer can be very hard to hunt.

Wind in Their Face

When choosing a bedding area, bucks will often select a spot where the wind is blowing in their face. This allows them to detect any potential threats, such as predators or hunters before they get too close. By having the wind in their face, bucks can also avoid being detected by animals downwind of them.

However, this is not always the case. In some situations, bucks may also choose a bedding area where the wind is blowing over their back. This can occur in areas where there is limited cover and visibility, or when bucks are bedding in a group and need to watch each other’s backs. In these situations, bucks may rely more on their sense of hearing and sight to detect potential threats.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to have the wind in their face or over their back will depend on the specific terrain features and conditions of the area where the buck is bedding. As a hunter, it’s important to consider all factors, including wind direction, thermals, and cover, when scouting for buck bedding areas and planning your approach.

Prevailing Wind at their Back

A mature buck will prefer to bed with the wind at his back. Primary buck bedding will usually be based on the prevailing winds in the area and alternative bedding will change from day to day (and even during the day if it shifts substantially) depending on the primary direction of the wind from day to day. He will want the wind at his back so he can smell anything coming from behind him.

A deer’s sense of smell is far greater than even a bloodhound and they can smell almost on a molecular level. They don’t just smell something, they smell the parts of the odor. This asset allows them to feel comfortable putting their back to an area, with visibility to their front.

Buck bedding on opposing points for a west and an east wind using the upper one-third of the mountain.

Thermals to Their Front

A mature buck will also rely heavily on the thermals in an area for scent. This is why in hill country and mountain areas, bucks will often bed in the upper one-third of the hill. This allows them to bed there during the day. They are able to take advantage of the thermals rising through the day, pushing any scent below them into their face, thus giving them the advantage of both visibility and thermal wind to their front.

Thermal winds rise as the air is heated through the day and then drop as the air cools into the evening.


Bucks will look for both travel routes and bedding areas that provide them with security. Security bedding begins with adequate security cover and concealment from predators and people. Mature bucks will want dense security cover behind them with visibility to see what is coming in front of them. Deer are creatures of the “edge.” They travel along and bed near transition areas that also provide good escape routes.

Transition areas are places where different habitats or changes in terrain occur. These locations might not always be very obvious to the untrained eye, but you will find deer trails and bedding near these areas because oftentimes they provide the cover and concealment provided by the thick dense cover they desire, and more importantly, these transitions between habitats also provide food sources that they can browse on while moving from one location to another during the day.

buck bedded in the military crest of a hill

*Bucks will bed in what appears to be an open area if they have a backstop behind them that makes them comfortable. Sometimes this can be a hill or dense area of trees with a slope behind them. This includes an area that sits on the “military crest” of a hill. The military crest is the area where a hill begins to slope and then begins to drop. This area can provide a slight backstop with just enough cover for bedding locations.

Bucks will bed in hill country using the military crest of a hill in the upper one-third of the hill with winds over their backs and thermals pushing up from below them.


As discussed above, mature bucks will want a bedding area that gives them a good view in front of them. As they take advantage of the winds at their back and thermals, they will select bedding that allows them a good view of the area in front of them. A deer’s sight is not great when determining colors, but they are very adept at detecting movement and have exceptional peripheral vision. They will select bedding that allows them to have visibility where needed unless there is a lot of hunting pressure.

Key Signs of Buck Bedding

A few of the key signs that you are close to buck bedding are things like food sources. A buck will get up from his bed multiple times throughout the day, but he will stay within a 150-200-yard radius of his bed. He will get up to browse and eat, then go back to his bed to chew his cud. So, when you find an area that meets the other criteria here and has food close by, you are probably getting close.

In addition, a lot of times there will be rubs really close to bedding areas and often, right next to the bed itself. This isn’t always the case, but it is a good indicator to look for. Not a rub line, but individual rubs. They can be an indicator if in line with the 3 “S’s” listed here.

Hunting Pressure

One of the most important rules of thumb to consider is pressure. Specifically hunting pressure. Bucks will adjust their bedding based on predators, but when hunting season begins, the number of hunters and hunting pressure applied to an area can drive them to bed in different locations like thick dense cover. If there is a lot of road access high on a hill or mountain and all the hunters are accessing a hunting area there, then bucks will tend to bed in lower areas. This applies to anywhere you hunt.

As the season progresses, you will normally find the biggest bucks in the most remote locations where there is little to no pressure. Bucks tend to use their hearing more as the hunting pressure increases during the season and will choose their beds strategically where they can both see and hear hunters and predators. If you want to find big mature bucks, you will need to go where most of the hunters are not.

Buck Bedding 101

This is basic, buck bedding 101. Using the rules of thumb (the 3 “S’s”) above will help you identify potential buck bedding areas and help you get started on your scouting of buck beds a lot faster. Always remember that this is the optimal scenario for a mature buck, every deer has its own personality, and every area has its own dynamics. The basics are that mature deer will want the wind at their back with security cover, and they will want visibility to their front with additional thermal wind coverage to aid them in smelling what might come at them.

If the thermals are not there to provide them with this additional scent coverage, they will bed with the wind in their face or will use a crosswind to give them security and keep predators from smelling them downwind.

By factoring in wind direction and thermals when scouting for buck bedding areas, you can increase your chances of finding mature bucks in their natural habitat. Look for spots where the wind and thermals work together to carry scent away from likely predator areas, while still providing good cover and sight lines for the buck to stay safe and secure. With a little bit of patience and persistence, you’ll be well on your way to hunting mature bucks like a pro.

Good luck!

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