What Are The Best Times to Hunt Deer | Morning vs Evening Whitetail Hunting
By: Dylan Hayward
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in your treestand, it’s been hours since you’ve even seen a squirrel, much less a deer, and you’re wondering, “where’s all the action?”.
You are not alone if you have thought this.
Deer movement can depend on several factors, but it seems the most consistent factor is the time of day. There are other factors that will play a more important role as you creep up on sweet November, but for early season and late season, deer can best be predicted on what time of the day it is.
Deer Hunting Morning Hours
Morning hours can be a great time to hunt if planned the correct way. The key for morning sits is to be able to slip into your set up undetected, while not leaving a trail of scent through a path that a deer might take.
This can be a difficult task, especially when it is pitch black. However, if you are able to carefully get in your stand without bumping any deer, the activity is like clockwork as soon as the sun starts to rise.
Whitetail deer are often mistaken as being nocturnal.
Through research, studies have shown they are actually crepuscular, meaning they are most active during twilight hours, or dawn and dusk.
A good strategy would be to set up on a trail that is located between bedding and a major food source, while being downwind of the food. I’ve done this set up many times and the first couple of hours of daylight are very productive, while after around 10-11am there seems to be a steep drop off in activity.
Deer Hunting Evening Hours
Evening hunts can be incredible because of how consistent whitetail movement tends to be in the last hour or so of sunlight.
I like to get in the stand about three hours before sunset, in hopes that whatever noise I may have accidentally made, the woods have settled down and forgotten about it.
Does tend to come out earlier than the bucks for the most part.
Generally speaking, I notice that does will consistently come out to feed about an hour before sunset, while the bucks tend to come out right at sunset. Depending on which state you are located in, legal shooting light generally goes until a half hour past the sunset time, giving you a decent window of opportunity to harvest a buck if you’re patient enough.
One of the challenging parts about evening hunts is the ability to get out of one's stand without spooking deer.
If you’re hunting over a food source, there’s a good chance there will be deer feeding as you’re ready to leave your stand. I once had a guide tell me that he likes to mimic a dogs bark when leaving the stand at dusk. I suppose that’s a better option than deer thinking a human was there, although I don’t necessarily recommend it.
Deer Hunting The Rut
I feel there needs to be a separate category for deer hunting hours during the whitetail rut, as well as some parts of the pre-rut and post-rut.
I personally love putting in all day sits during the rut, because you never know when that trophy buck is going to show up. Studies have shown that when does are in estrous there is a massive spike in daylight activity.
Whether that is because they are getting chased by bucks or not, the outcome is the same.
More hours in the stand in November leads to more opportunities. The rut is a unique time when bucks will make illogical decisions, so don’t feel that you have blown a hunt just because you may have bumped deer headed into the stand. My friend was hunting Ohio in November a few years back, a massive buck walked in and he shot right over its back.
He thought he had blown a once in a lifetime opportunity. That same back came back ten minutes later, and that time he made the shot count.
All hours are great hours during the rut.