How Fast Can a Deer Run?

Nativecompass is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How fast can a deer run? Deer might not be the fastest land animal in existence, but this doesn’t mean they are slouches in the speed category either. They can sprint at incredible speeds and it can seem like they can disappear in the blink of an eye.

Whether you are trying to photograph deer or you are a hunter, you’ve probably seen deer that are quite fast.

Most of the time, deer move at a casual pace through the woods. They are likely searching for food, listening, and trying to conserve energy. After all, energy conservation is essential for survival.

They don’t tend to sprint unless they are trying to flee. The animal is a great jumper in addition to running fast, which helps them get away. With one leap, they can clear eight feet high fences, which they can do from a standing position. When white tailed deer run, they can leap even higher.

During mating season, some bucks might run after a doe. They want to get there before the competition, naturally. Below are some basic facts about these animals that can help when hunting deer.

What Can Affect a Deer’s Speed?

Even though all manner of deer are fast when they need to flee, certain factors can affect their speed and make them move slower.

One of the biggest of these will be the terrain. Deer that are moving through heavily forested areas or hilly locales can’t reach the same speed as a deer that’s running across an open field. There are simply too many obstacles in the way.

The weather will have a similar effect. When there is a lot of snow on the ground, deer can’t move as quickly or easily as they can during the other seasons. Deer run slower because snow slows them down. It also takes more energy to move during the winter, which means going slow is the order of the day for most deer.

How fast can a deer run in snow? When moving through thick snow in the winter, they will often have to bound rather than push through the snow if they are trying to flee. Deer will often try to avoid areas with heavy snow because of this. It can be very difficult to get away from predators in those types of conditions.

The age and health of the deer are two other factors that can affect how fast they move. If a deer is very young or very old, it will not move as fast as one in its prime. If a deer is sickly, it will also move slower. This tends to make them more of a target for dangerous animals.

Types of Deer and Their Speed

In North America alone, there are several species of deer. While there are similarities between them, you’ll find that the top speeds of each species tend to be slightly different. Let’s get a closer look at several of these species to see how fast a running deer moves to avoid danger.

Whitetail Deer

This is a common type of deer and is often found in the eastern part of the United States. However, they range much further and are found all the way from the southern part of Canada to Panama. These deer will typically stand about 3’6” at the shoulder and the males, or the bucks, will weigh between 200 and 400 lbs. The females, or does, tend to be between 150 and 220 lbs.

The whitetail deer are speedy animals and can move quite quickly, reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour when they are moving across relatively open territory. A flash of their white tail and they’re gone.

Mule Deer

The mule deer lives in western North America. Although mule deer are not as tall as the whitetails, they are generally heavier. The deer will reach about 3’ or so at the shoulder, and the weight ranges from 155 to 330 lbs. Even though these deer might be a little shorter and heavier than the whitetails, they are a bit faster. A male mule deer can reach speeds up to 38 miles per hour.

Caribou

Caribou live in the northernmost regions of North America in subarctic, tundra, and boreal locations. They aren’t running around the contiguous United States any longer, but you will find them in Canada. They can be found in Alaska, the Yukon, the Canadian Rockies, and the Northwest Territories. Both male and female caribou can grow antlers, but the antlers are larger on the males.

This type of deer is capable of running up to 31 miles per hour. Adults can reach from 2.8’ to 4.9’ at the shoulder and can weigh between 180 and 400 lbs.

Elk

Elk live in Canada and many states around the US. Colorado has the largest elk population on the planet. They tend to be more common in the western parts of the country. This is one of the largest species of deer in the world. Only the moose is larger. At the shoulder, a bull elk could be about five feet at the shoulder.

Even though this is a massive animal, it doesn’t mean that it’s slow. A mature bull elk can run up to 40 miles per hour over relatively short distances.

What’s Faster?

Inevitably, when it comes to considering the speed of an animal, people want to know how other animals stack up to them. One of the top questions is about canines, one of the natural predators of many deer species. How fast can a deer run compared to these canines?

Wolves and Coyotes

Wolves are fast, especially in short bursts. They can reach speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour. Of course, they can’t keep up that speed for an extended period. Most of the time, they travel while loping and can maintain speeds of 5 mph. However, they accelerate to those aforementioned pace when they are trying to run down their prey.

Because they work together and use pack tactics as hunters, they can wear down deer, pick out the slower and weaker ones, and then take them down. Still, deer are wily and quick, and can often get away from these predators.

Coyotes in pursuit can run about the same speed. These hunters can run between 35 and 43 miles per hour. They typically catch and kill smaller game, but they can take down deer.

Horses

Horse speed is impressive. They will typically have a maximum sprinting speed of 55 miles per hour. A horse can keep up this top speed for longer than a deer, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to chase down a deer on horseback. The deer are more agile and can maneuver through areas that a horse simply can’t.

How to Get Closer to Deer

Given the speed of deer, it’s easy to say that you won’t be running any of them down in your hiking boots. However, there are a few simple things you can do to get closer to these animals.

One of the first things you will want to do is know the behavior of the type of deer you are trying to find. What types of habitat do they prefer? What are they eating and where are potential feeding and bedding grounds in your area? Know the territory, as it will make it easier to get an idea of where the deer will be spending their time at different parts of the day.

You also need to pay attention to the wind direction and what you are wearing. If you are wearing a lot of cologne and deodorant, the deer will smell you long before they see you. They will likely hear you, as well. When they sense danger, they will take off. They always have escape routes in mind.

Learn how to move quietly through the woods when you hunt. Deer can still hear you, but if you reduce the sounds you are making, it can help you get a bit closer to them. These are prey animals, so it’s their job to be cautious about everything.

Hunting running deer is difficult given how fast even big deer are. A skilled hunter learns the deer trail, becomes familiar with the area, waits for a good shot, and tries to take the deer down quickly. It can make a vast difference in the success of a hunt.

Conclusion

The answer to how fast can a deer run surprises many hunters. Deer are a lot faster than most people who haven’t seen them in the wild realize. Despite their size, they move with alarming quickness. Whether you are hunting deer or just trying to take some great photos, you need to learn how to move through the woods quickly and without being detected if you want to get close to any type of deer.

After all, they have grown to see humans as predators. Once they get wind of human activity in the area, they will be on edge and far more likely to flee.

Scroll to Top
native compass logo

Get the latest gear news, product reviews, editor-curated deals and more.

All in your inbox.