Humans have it backwards. We go to a beach and lie out in the sun on a hot summer day, hoping to balance our SPF lotion for a tan without risking skin cancer. Deer? They’re in the shade at such times. If you want to seem them sunbathing, catch a day like today – January, with a brisk north wind. They lie low and soak up the warmth, idly enjoying a winter afternoon that beats the often-brutal cold of night. Yeah, that makes more sense.
While resting, they cough up a cud and chew their most recent meal in peace. Below the sight line of hunting predators, they take their time to increase digestion of winter wheat, corn, cheat grass, whatever. By re-chewing it thoroughly, plant fibers are broken down further, so that hard-to-digest cellulose can be efficiently utilized for food. They might lie and chew a cud for hours, content in their sunny beds. This allows them to eat hurriedly while in the open and then to rework the food safely in cover.
Sometimes, when resting in a food source, they’ll actually eat a snack while lying down. Then it’s time for a nap. And every so often, they’ll stand, stretch, graze, and plop back down until the evening feeding period puts them on the move again.
Sunbathing deer area a common sight when trees and brush are bare, and when winter storms matt the grass and vegetation. Take a drive through a wildlife area in early afternoon and see for yourself. Oh, and don’t forget your camera.