Deer movement times just before sunset or just after sunrise.

The Best Times to Hunt Deer During Bow Season

Hunting is an art, and deer hunting is no exception. If you’re an avid deer hunter, then you know that timing is everything. Knowing the best times to hunt can mean the difference between coming home with a trophy buck or an empty cooler. Deer are creatures of habit, and their movement patterns are influenced by a variety of factors, including the time of day, weather conditions, and mating season.

In this post, we’ll explore the best times to hunt deer throughout the hunting season. Whether you’re a seasoned bow hunter or a novice rifle hunter, understanding deer movement patterns can help you plan your hunts more effectively. We’ll cover the morning and evening hunting times, as well as the highly sought-after scrape week and rut hunting periods. So, whether you’re hunting for meat, sport, or both, read on to learn how to increase your chances of success on your next deer hunt.

Buck looking for predators

Deer Movement Times

The specific times of day that bucks move can vary depending on several factors, including season, weather conditions, and the stage of the rut. However, in general, bucks tend to be more active during two main periods: dawn and dusk.

During the fall and winter months, when daylight hours are shorter, bucks may be more active during midday hours as well. During the spring and summer months, when daylight hours are longer, bucks may be more active during the early morning and late evening periods. Finding the best hunting times largely depends on the time of the year and hunting season and can change quite a bit.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of buck movement patterns throughout the year:

  1. Spring: During the spring, bucks may be more active during the early morning and late evening hours, as this is when temperatures are cooler and food sources are more abundant. Bucks may also be more active during midday hours, particularly on overcast days.
  2. Summer: During the summer, bucks may be more active during the early morning and late evening hours, as this is when temperatures are cooler and food sources are more abundant. Bucks may also be less active during midday hours, particularly on hot, sunny days.
  3. Fall: During the fall, bucks may be more active throughout the day, particularly during the early morning and late evening hours. Bucks may also be more active during the midday hours on cool, overcast days.
  4. Winter: During the winter, bucks may be more active during the early morning and late evening hours, as this is when temperatures are the warmest and food sources are more abundant. Bucks may also be more active during the midday hours on sunny, mild days.

It’s important to note that the stage of the rut can have a significant impact on buck movement patterns as well. During the pre-rut and rut phases, bucks may be more active throughout the day as they search for mates and defend their territories. In contrast, during the post-rut phase, bucks may be less active as they recover from the rigors of the breeding season.

PSU Deer Study Findings on Deer Movement

Penn State University has an ongoing deer study with over 1000 collared deer in central and north central Pennsylvania that found that deer, specifically bucks, have a home range of approximately one (1) mile or 640 acres. They stay in this home range for most of the year with small shifts based on food, pre-rut, and rut-induced activity.

The study also said that most mature bucks are bedded before daylight in the morning (on average) and that bucks tend to move from the hours of 9-10:00 am and 12-1:00 pm. Then, later in the day, they begin moving again around 4:00 pm in the afternoon. These are averages but are significant findings. In addition, the movements were generally still in and around the buck’s bedding area.

Deer Movement Times During the Fall Archery Season

During the fall, bucks may be more active throughout the day compared to other seasons, particularly during the early morning and late evening hours when they are most likely to be moving to and from feeding areas. However, the timing and location of buck movement can vary depending on several factors, including weather conditions, hunting pressure, and the availability of food and cover. This can change the best times to hunt deer based on the time of day.

Here are some general guidelines for when and where you might expect to see buck movement during the fall:

  1. Early Morning: Bucks may be active in the early morning hours, particularly around sunrise, as they move from their bedding areas to feeding areas. During this time, bucks may be found in or near agricultural fields, food plots, or other areas where there is an abundant fall food source.
  2. Midday: During the fall, bucks may be more active during midday hours compared to other seasons, particularly on overcast or cool days. During this time, bucks may be found in areas with good cover, such as thickets, brushy areas, or dense woods near their bedding areas.
  3. Late Afternoon/Early Evening: Bucks may be active in the late afternoon and early evening hours, particularly around sunset, as they move from feeding areas to bedding areas. During this time, bucks may be found in or near food sources, such as agricultural fields or food plots, as well as in areas with good cover and bedding habitat.
  4. Night: Bucks may also be active at night, particularly during the full moon or on clear, cool nights. During this time, bucks may be found in or near agricultural fields or other areas with abundant food, as well as in areas with good cover and bedding habitat.

It’s important to note that buck movement patterns can be affected by a variety of factors, including weather conditions, hunting pressure, and the availability of food and cover. As a result, it’s important to scout your hunting area ahead of time to identify areas where bucks are likely to be moving, feeding, and bedding.

Buck Movement Times During the Rut

During the rut, buck movement can be highly unpredictable and may vary depending on a variety of factors, including weather conditions, hunting pressure, and the availability of food and cover. However, there are some general patterns that hunters can observe.

Buck cruising for does during the rut. See how this affects the best times to hunt deer during this time.

Typically, the rut begins in late October or early November and lasts for several weeks. During this time, bucks are actively seeking out mates and defending their territories against rival bucks. This can lead to increased activity and movement, as bucks travel long distances in search of receptive does.

Here are some general guidelines for buck movement during the rut:

  1. Pre-Rut: In the weeks leading up to the peak of the rut, bucks may be more active during daylight hours as they begin to establish their territories and search for potential mates. During this time, bucks may be found in or near areas with good cover and bedding habitat, as well as in areas with abundant food sources.
  2. Peak Rut: During the peak of the rut, which typically occurs in mid-November, bucks may be highly active and unpredictable. Bucks may be found traveling long distances in search of receptive does, often ignoring food and cover in the process. Bucks may also be more aggressive during this time, potentially leading to more encounters with other bucks.
  3. Post-Rut: After the peak of the rut, buck movement may become less predictable as bucks begin to recover from the intense breeding season. Bucks may be found in or near areas with abundant food and cover, as they focus on regaining their strength for the winter months.

Overall, it’s essential to keep in mind that buck movement during the rut can be highly variable and unpredictable. By scouting your hunting area ahead of time and monitoring buck movement patterns, you can increase your chances of having a successful hunt.

Are Bucks Nocturnal?

Bucks are not strictly nocturnal, but they may be more active during low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk when they feel safer moving around in open areas. During the fall, when bucks are actively seeking out mates and defending their territories, they may also be more active during daylight hours compared to other seasons.

Bucks tend to move more during the early morning and late evening hours, particularly around sunrise and sunset, when they are most likely to be traveling to and from feeding areas. During these times, bucks may be found in or near areas with abundant food, such as agricultural fields or food plots, as well as in areas with good cover and bedding habitat.

Bucks may also be more active during midday hours on overcast or cooler days, particularly in areas with good cover and bedding habitat. However, it’s important to note that buck movement patterns can be affected by various factors, including hunting pressure, weather conditions, and the availability of food and cover.

To maximize your chances of seeing bucks during daylight hours, it’s important to scout your hunting area ahead of time to identify areas where bucks are likely to be moving and feeding. You may also want to consider using trail cameras or other scouting techniques to monitor buck movement patterns in your hunting area. By understanding when and where bucks are most active, you can increase your chances of having a successful hunt.

The Best Times to Hunt Deer

The best times to hunt vary through the season and also depend on the time of day and specific location you are hunting. Deer are known to be most active during the early morning and late afternoon/evening hours, which are typically the best times to hunt. This is because deer are primarily crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the hours around dawn and dusk. During the middle of the day, deer tend to lie down and rest.

Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to the weather and other environmental factors. For example, deer tend to move more during cooler weather, so hunting on a cooler day might be more productive. It’s also important to consider the phase of the moon, as deer are more active during the darker phases of the moon.

Finally, it’s important to understand the specific habits and behaviors of the deer in the area where you’ll be hunting. Observing deer in their natural habitat, studying their movement patterns, and talking to other hunters and experts in the area can help you develop a better understanding of when and where to hunt for the best chance of success.

Buck moving just before sunrise, just after daybreak.

Best Morning Hunting Times

When you understand that deer, especially the mature buck we all want to hunt, are most active just before daylight and are in their bedding areas not too long after daybreak through most of the early into the mid-archery season; then you can understand the basics of what times you need to be in your stand for those morning hunts.

The best time to hunt deer in the morning is to get into your hunting spot at least an hour prior to daybreak. This is before sunrise. Sunrise is normally 30 minutes or more after daybreak. So you should be in your stand location at least an hour and a half prior to sunrise. This can vary from location to location, so it’s important to do some research on what the times of daybreak (also known Before Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT)) and sunrise are in your area.

Don’t leave your spot until after 10:30 am. In the early season, deer can be moving a lot through the day, but if the weather is hot and humid, deer movement will be limited, but this depends on your specific area as well. Deer will move at all times during the day when close to their bedding areas.

*NOTE: A lot of bow hunters ask why they should be at their hunting spots so early. The reason is that this is the time that deer, especially mature bucks are moving. If you wait until daybreak or sunrise to walk into your hunting spot, you increase the chance of spooking or pushing the deer you are trying to hunt. Often without even knowing you are doing it. You need to get to your spot before the deer move through that location. This can be verified through scouting and trail camera usage as well.

Best Evening Hunting Times

Deer, especially mature bucks, are in their bedding areas most of the day. As discussed above, we can expect them to start moving close to sunset. Deer normally get out of their beds and start moving to their feeding areas an hour or two prior to sunset. With this in mind, we can determine the best time to hunt in the evening for the earl into the mid-archery season.

The best time to hunt in the evening is to get to your hunting spot no later than 3-4 hours prior to sunset. Once again, remember that there is more daylight after sunset. After sunset, there is still daylight for approximately 30 minutes of light before the end of legal hunting time. For some spots, especially those close to bedding, you may want to get there as early (and quietly) as possible. Bucks will get up and feed at all hours of the day in the vicinity of their bedding areas but are most likely to start moving after 4:00 pm during the hunting season.

Getting into your hunting spot at this time allows you time to get set up and be ready before most deer start moving to their evening feeding locations. Can deer start moving earlier? Absolutely, but this s where scouting and trail camera data comes in. You need to scout and understand the deer movement patterns in the area you are hunting so you understand the specific times the deer are most active in that specific spot.

Once you are in your spot, hunt until the end of the legal shooting light (in the state where you are hunting). I can’t count how many times I’ve taken shots at bucks that just started moving prior to it getting dark. This is prime buck movement time and you don’t want to get out of your stand too early. This is one of the biggest mistakes hunters make. Don’t do it.

Best Scrape Week Hunting Times

In late October, from approximately October 20 to October 31st, a lot of archery hunters call this timeframe “Scrape Week.” This is a time when bucks tend to create and tend scrapes and scrape lines. I’ve found that bucks will tend these scrapes at all times of the day during this timeframe. It really depends on the location of the scrapes.

Some scrapes are nighttime-only scrapes and others are daylight scrapes. This is why scrapes are some of the best locations to hang trail cameras. Trail cameras in these locations will give you insight for this year and next to understand the habits of deer in your specific area.

I highly recommend hunting an additional 2-3 hours in the morning and an additional 2 hours in the evening during the October 20-31st timeframe when hunting scrapes. If you are not hunting scrapes, follow the suggested times for morning and evening hunts above.

Best Rut Hunting Times

The rut is one of the best times of the year to hunt mature bucks when bow hunting. Bucks will cruise and roam for does who are coming into estrus during this timeframe and they will be active at all times through the day and night.

The rut timeframe differs across the USA, but it commonly begins around the beginning of November and into the second or third week. It is recommended to hunt all day during the rut. If you can’t do all-day sits, then extend your hunting hours as much as possible, using the morning and evening hunting hour recommendations above.

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Conclusion

As a bow hunter, understanding the best times to hunt deer is crucial to increasing your chances of a successful hunt. By targeting specific times during the early morning, late evening, scrape week, and rut hunting periods, you can increase your chances of seeing and harvesting deer.

However, it’s important to remember that deer movement times can vary depending on location, weather, and other factors. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to do your research, scout your hunting area, and pay attention to the weather to help increase your odds of a successful hunt. So get out there, put your knowledge to the test, and good luck on your next hunt!

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