Morning or evening deer hunts?
This question pops up every year like morel mushrooms after a warm spring rain. People have heard good and bad things about hunting mornings and evenings, and many beginning hunters are curious about the topic.
I have 20 acres just outside my back door, but rarely will I hunt with a bow in the morning. For me, it isn’t so much a problem of rising early as it is getting to a stand ahead of the deer.
My answer to the question can be easily summed up with one word: Evening. It is the best time to hunt because the deer have moved around and returned to their bedding area hours before. It’s possible to get into a stand, and if done quietly and without being winded, the odds of seeing deer are greatly improved.
A buck on a hot can be hunt in late morning through early afternoon.
What success I’ve had hunting mornings has happened later in the morning — anywhere from 8 to 10 a.m. — and it certainly beats trying to move into a stand in the dark and run the risk of busting deer.
Mind you, I get around fairly well in the woods but it’s very easy to bump deer while walking to a stand before sun-up. The deer may not snort and run madly off, but they can be curious. I’ve found the odds of spooking deer in the morning go up if you have to walk very far in the dark to reach a stand.
Morning hunting can and does pay off during the rut, but in most cases a hunter can have a late breakfast, and climb into a stand about 9:30 a.m. Hunting from 10 a.m. until 2 or 3 p.m. can be a dynamite time to hunt because few other hunters are afield at that time and the bucks are moving well.
It’s the evening hunts that appeal to me and many other hunters. We move to our stands during daylight hours when most deer are still bedded down. The woods and fields have an opportunity to quiet down after our passage, and unless we leave a heavy human scent trail behind, there is little to spook deer an hour or two hours later.
Late afternoon and early-evening hunts are less frantic. Morning hunts find us hurriedly rushing against the coming dawn to a stand we have trouble seeing. We get all sweated up, and find ourselves hurrying and making mistakes in the dark. We trip over tree roots, step on twigs and branches that snap, eventually turn on a flashlight to make any needed correction in our travel route, and all of this can scare deer.
My preference is to hunt late afternoon & early evenings.
The late afternoon approach allows us to see where we are going, and we can take the longest or shortest route to our stand of choice. We can see where we place our rubber-clad feet, and we can avoid touching bushes, leaves, trees, etc.
The trip is seldom eventful which is more than most people can say about finding a stand in the morning darkness. There is more risk when climbing into a stand in the dark, and attaching a safety harness without turning on a light, is fraught with danger.
Deer that move in the early morning may be frightened by your nocturnal approach, and go running off snorting and blowing. Of course, the same thing can happen later in the day. But deer spooked in total darkness are slower to recover from their scare than deer that are spooked in the daylight by something they can see.
Pattern a good buck, and hunt him whenever possible.
The only good thing about morning hunts is that visibility increases as time passes, and a late-moving buck can offer an easier shot than one seen 10 minutes before shooting time ends in a dark swamp.
There is no doubt that some very big bucks are taken by bow hunters early in the morning, but each of us has a certain comfort level. Mine is starting my hunt in the afternoon rather than in total darkness.
I believe more deer are taken by bow hunters in late afternoon or early evening than in the early morning hours, and I think the reason for that is that more hunters are afield in the late afternoon and early evening. Hunters who have a favorite stand only 300 yards from their back door, and can walk to it in the dark with their eyes shut, are in luck.
They can hunt both time periods. Me, if I must make a choice, mine will be to hunt from 3 p.m. until legal shooting time ends. It fits my personality and life style very well.
Not convinced? Hey, no problem. Try hunting both time periods this fall and decide which is best for you. I know when I will be hunting.