Deer Time: What is the Best Time to Achieve Success?
One of the biggest questions in deer hunting, other than “Where are the big ones?”, is “What is the best time of day to hunt?”. With a full time job, a part time job , a wife who works full time and three kids who need attention the answer for me is easy – Whenever I can. But those of you who need to plan time off and wish to make the best of it the question remains – When should I hunt?
During the course of my employment as a conservation officer I have encountered hunters during all hours of the day (and sometimes evening hours), but if I had to guess I would say the majority of contact has been in the morning; more specifically, in the 3-4 hour window immediately following sunrise or the opening of legal hunting hours. Based on this one would believe this is the best time to hunt, otherwise why would so many long time hunters be in the woods then?
Turns out the majority of hunters may be wrong. Outside the rut the prime means of successfully bagging a deer is to intercept them on their way to or from feeding areas and bedding areas. Deer are prone to feed during overnight hours, as it provides a sense of security. This does mean that there are two opportunities to intercept those feeding deer – when moving to (evening) or from ( morning) those food plots. But one is definitely better than the other.
During morning hours deer are already at the feeding areas and some have already taken advantage of the dawn hours to move securely to bedding areas. Although this does allow some opportunity to intercept those moving after sun up, it also means there is a possibility of bumping those deer already on the move. Plus, getting to your stand earlier only increases the chances you will bump even more deer before you have a legal chance of shooting them. By contrast the later afternoon hunt allows you to encounter the first deer to leave the feeding area, reduces the chances of bumping others on your way in and provides the possibility of shooting any deer you do encounter on your way in.
Of course every rule has an exception and deer hunting is full of both. Hunting a healthy acorn stand or trail leading to or from such an area? Morning might be a better bet. Hunting an area with a lot of other morning hunters? Surprisingly you may want to follow suit and attempt to pick up what the other hunters bust and push your way. In other words there are times when morning hunts will be more productive, but if you can only hunt one or the other and need to schedule time off statistics show afternoon to be better time spent in the stand. Remember even if you are in a perfect morning stand you still face all the pit falls and dangers mentioned earlier , especially altering wandering deer to your location. Because of this it is vital you practice extreme noise and scent discipline.
Good luck, good hunting!