There is no single “best” time of day for deer hunting. There’s also no singluar time of day when most deer are killed. Instead, deer activity is cyclical. Not only is it dependent upon the time of day, but also the time of year and seasonal progression.
Other factors like the weather and position of the moon can also affect deer behavior.
That having been said, understanding when deer are moving around most on a given day can certainly increase your chances of tagging one.
What Time of Day Are Deer Most Active?
Like other animals, deer are crepuscular, meaning they are “most active during those twilight hours of dawn and dusk”.
This means that there are really two “best times to hunt deer” — around first light, and around last light. This corresponds to most state hunting laws, which of course vary, but which, for the most part, stipulate hunting hours are around 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.
Of course, you don’t want to confine yourself to hunting during only those times.
What’s the Best Time to Hunt Deer in the Morning vs Evening?
Whether morning or evening hunting, it’s best to “set up where deer want to be next”, as world-champion game caller Brodie Swisher notes in his article “Best Time to Kill a Whitetail: Morning or Afternoon?”.
It’s also best to get in early, play the wind, settle down and be patient, he asserts, while not letting the lull of mid-morning fool you, because “Deer are browsers and will often mill around for hours before making it to their destination”.
His top advice? “Tet in early and stay a little late. At least till dark thirty.”
Is Morning or Evening Better for Deer Hunting?
Different hunters will tell you different things.
The key is not to get stuck in analysis paralysis to the point where you miss out on good morning or evening hunting opportunities.
As veteran pro hunter Scott Bestul puts it in his helpful guide to navigating deer hunting times, aptly titled “Best Times To Hunt Deer, All Season Long”,
“It’s always fun to sit at a keyboard and tell others when they should be out in the timber, catching up with a whitetail. And, after a whole lot of years in the deer woods (this is actually season No. 50 for me), I’ve obviously come up with some opinions, some of which are backed by science and many backed by fellow hunters. But let’s be honest. The absolute best time to hunt deer is still any time you can go.”
When to Hunt Deer During the Rut
The time of day understood in the context of the time of year is important to deer movement, and therefore, to your chances of making a kill shot.
Put more simply, deer movement patterns change depending on the season, so if you’re hunting the rut, like most hunters, this is something to keep in mind.
TR Michels phrases it this way:
“...throughout the year deer move more during the day than they do at night. However, this changes as summer turns to fall, and as the rut progresses...fall deer movement peaks from 4:00-10:00 PM and again from 4:00-8:00 AM, with some movement between 8:00 and 10:00 AM.”
Train Deer to Feed During the Day
Normally, deer feed the most at night, making evenings suited to rut hunts, according to MeatEater’s Tony Hansen. In his words,
“Evenings provide more predictability because of the food factor. Even when the rut is rocking hot and heavy, deer still have to eat. Food sources are the go-to location for evening hunts. They attract does, and those does attract bucks.”
What if you are neither a morning person or night owl, and you prefer to hunt during the daytime (and we’re not talking first light)?
You can try your luck. Or, you can be more strategic and train deer to feed during the day with a timed Tectonic Daytime Deadfall feeder.