Determining the best deer hunting times isn’t an exact science, but some key factors can increase your chances of a successful hunt. Knowing the time of the day, days of the week, and windows during the month where deer are most likely to be active are critical.
Here, we’ve rounded up advice on the best hunting times to help you make the most of your outing and get lucky in your treestand.
1. During the hunting season
Check with your state Department of Natural Resources website to find the deer hunting times tables for your area. You’ll also need to obtain a hunting license from your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service branch.
The rules vary by state, so be sure to check with local regulations before you head out to hunt.
2. Pay attention to weather fronts
Animals are sensitive to changes in pressure, atmosphere, and the weather and will sometimes react to them before they occur. If you know that a front is pushing through your area, then you may see more activity than usual right before its arrival. This is especially true if the barometric pressure drops to 30 or below. Venture out to find deer feeding and preparing, sometimes even during daylight hours before the weather hits.
Check out our picks for the best deer blinds!
3. Significant changes in temperatures
Another weather condition that can increase deer activity is a substantial swing in the temperature outdoors. Regardless of whether it’s going up or down, right after a significant change, you’ll have a chance to fill your deer tags.
4. At dawn and dusk
Deer are what scientists call crepuscular, which means that their activity levels peak in the early morning and around sunset. Although researchers don’t know precisely why we do know that this is when deer’s eyesight is the most effective, which makes it one of the best hunting times.
This is when you’re most likely to see them feeding or roaming in the open, giving you the best chance of getting one in your sights. Particularly during hunting season, schedule your time in the treestand at dawn and dusk for best results.
5. When it’s less crowded
Experienced hunters know that it’s critical to be silent, downwind, and hidden by thick cover to not disturb deer in their natural habitat. During hunting season, crowded public lands can make it challenging to create this optimal environment. Fortunately, two tricks can help you work around any disturbances other hunters may create.
If you have a flexible schedule, consider hunting outside of peak times like during the middle of the week when others might be at work. Weekends tend to be the busiest times on public land, and many hunters will extend their time and take a long weekend by adding on a Friday or Monday, which makes those days congested as well.Try setting up at sunrise or sunset on a Wednesday or Thursday for better luck.
Alternately, you can use the pressure on public lands to your advantage. Try arriving early and finding a location with a thick cover and set yourself up to get comfortable and stay awhile. As hunters start to leave their treestands in the late morning or arrive in the early afternoon, you may see deer begin to cross your path as they move out of the way of those entering and exiting the land.
6. During different phases of the moon
One potentially surprising factor that influences the best time to hunt deer is during the moon phase. There have been numerous studies that seek to understand how the different phases of the moon influence deer behavior and movement.
Recent observational studies reaffirm the fact that deer are most active around twilight. However, there are slight variations in their behavior during the month that seem to tie to the moon calendar. Understanding these differences could give you an edge and help you find the best hunting times by understanding these factors.
Here are some key findings:
- During the new moon, deer are active longer during the early morning hours than normal
- During non-quarter periods there is more movement during mid-morning hours
- During a full moon, you’re most likely to see movement in the mid-day
- In the last quarter (five to 10 days before a full moon) there is increased late-afternoon activity
If you combine these findings with changes in weather, fronts moving through, and what we know about peak times, then you may find more deer than usual roaming near your favorite spot.
7. A week before peak breeding season
Also known as the rut, during the week to 10-days before peak breeding season is when you’ll see a significant spike in activity from bucks.
In most states, the breeding season and rut dates stay consistent year over year. In the north, it typically falls in early to mid-November, but as you move into the southern states, these windows can vary. The best way to learn the peak times in your area is to check with your local Wildlife and Game Commission, which will gather information from local biologists.
8. Make the most of opening day
Opening day is an exciting time to hunt deer and also gives you the extra advantage that the deer on public lands aren’t yet feeling pressured. This sometimes means they’re less cautious and move more than they will later in the season.
Combined with the anticipation, tradition, and excitement of opening day from a hunter’s perspective, it can lead to a successful start to the season.
9. Hunt when you can
Although there are lots of tips and tricks that will help you find the best time to hunt for deer, in the end, it’s all about you and your schedule. If you love hunting and it’s open season, then make time to go when you can to make the most of it.
Yes, there are scientific and environmental factors that make you more likely to be successful at different times, but a big part of why it’s so enjoyable is the possibility and the unknown.
The best hunters know that you can do everything right and still not tag a deer that day. On the other side, you can hunt during non-peak hours in congested public land and still might tag an impressive buck.
Use these tips and when you can, and when you can’t, just hunt – and enjoy it.