Timing is an important factor for hunting. Many animals move more frequently during certain times of the day and knowing when to hit the trails or when to climb up into your tree stand will increase the likelihood of a successful hunt. For example, if you want to catch a deer, some of the best hunting times are in the early morning hours.
However, all animals have different times when they are more active, so it is important to learn the times for each variety of game you hunt. It would be a wise idea to keep a chart in your bag with all of the best times to hunt listed for the game.
Hunting at the prime time makes the most of the time you have available to hunt. Certain times, days of the week, and even months of the time are better than others. Let’s take a look at the different times to hunt.
When to Hunt A Deer
Many hunters hunt deer; it is one of the most popular games during the fall. Research shows that deer are crepuscular, so they are active the most at dawn and dusk. Hunters find this to be the truest during the early hunting season.
Deer are heavily influenced by the phases of the moon. Many studies show that deer move at twilight in all phases of the moon, but there are some differences throughout the month that may effect when you decide to hunt.
For example, the deer tend to move longer in the early mornings during the new moon (new moon tends to fall during the middle of the month for October, November, and December).
Also, morning movements were highest during the non-quarter periods. So if you find yourself able to get out in the early mornings during fall, you may have some increased luck.
You can find these time periods within the 48 hours of a full, new, and quarter moon phases. If you can only get out to the tree stand during the mid-day, you have the best chance during the full moon, which is typical between the beginning and end of the months. The most afternoon activity takes place during the five to 10 days before the full moon.
Hunters love the part of the deer season called the rut. This is the peak breeding season when bucks tend to be the most active while searching for a mate. Luckily, these time periods tend to be predictable. Each state should have the dates listed, but it tends to fall between early to mid-November for the northern states. You will find the best time to hunt in the rut is the week prior to the peak breeding season.
Not every state or area has bears available to hunt, but those areas that can, have the potential to get a freezer full of delicious meat. Most hunters look for black bear because other breeds tend to be protected. Alaska has a variety of bears, but the contingent states lack the variety. Luckily, black bears are found from coast to coast.
Most states have a legal springtime hunt for black bear. Springtime is when the bears are emerging from their dens, typically between the months of March and April. Bears come out hungry, with the strong need to find food to rebuild their fat reserve.
They den from 90 to 150 days, so they tend to be more aggressive during this time period. By hunting in the spring, you are likely to encounter more bears due to the increased level of activity.
The springtime bear hunt can be divided into three parts.
- The first part, when they emerge from the den – this part has a lot of activity but a late spring can delay their emergence. They are more aggressive, but have less meat because of their long hibernation.
- The second part, typically around the beginning of May, offers more active bears who have found the bait stations, but the rut season hasn’t begun.
- The third part, from June to July, offers a great amount of activity, but the green brush can make visibility low.
Just like deer, black bears have a typical rut season as well and it is very predictable. The season is between late May and early July and bears’ rut season lasts 60 days. This is a great chance to get some nice sized bears who are out scoping the woods for a mate.
This tends to be the most popular time to hunt because bears have had time to find the bait stations and have fattened up since emerging from the den.
What About Moose?
Moose can be found in most of the northern areas of the United States and all of Canada. They are quite large and will give you a great amount of meat. However, hunting moose can be a challenge and even quite dangerous – their size can put hunters at risk for injury or even death. In many northern areas, such as Alaska and Canada, people get hurt and killed each year because of moose hunting.
Like all other animals, hunting moose during their breeding season proves to be effective. Their average rut season takes place in early October, but as you move south, the later the rut will take place. If you decide to hunt during the rut, it is best to stay where the cow moose typically stay.
They prefer to hang out near water for food and safety (moose can enter the water to avoid dangers like bears).
Time and Weather
Moose are a member of a group of mammals called ungulates, and they are all most active during the early morning and evenings. This generally even applies to their rut season. If it is too warm outside, they prefer to find some willows and sleep until the temperature cools off.
Depending on your state laws, it is best to get out in the woods as early in the morning as possible. The temperature has yet to increase, and the moose are active.
Hunting Feral Pigs
Many land owners would gladly give hunters the opportunity to hunt feral pigs on their land as they are destructive and can damage acreage. That’s why deer hunters tend to move their focus to wild hogs after they have successfully filled their tags for deer. Because feral pigs are an invasive species, most states have no bag limit and no closed periods for hunting.
Hog hunting tends to take place in the coldest parts of the year. While feral pigs are active all year round, cold weather makes the hogs have to eat earlier in the day and consume more food. They need to eat early in the morning in order to have enough energy for the rest of the day.
Other Times of Year
If you are hunting during the warmer months, the best times are during the late afternoons rather close to dark and very early mornings. Like many other animals, feral pigs dislike the extreme heat during the middle of the day. They prefer to hang out in the thick, dense brush.
Weather makes feral pigs move. During the times of pressing cold fronts or very rainy days, you are likely to find groups of swine on the move. They want to find cover and food before the upcoming storm.
Lastly, one of the best times to hunt feral hogs is at night. So long as it is legal in your state, you are likely to find feral pigs in your area at night. These animals are nocturnal and face little predators at night. However, tracking animals at night is tricky. Most hunters prefer to use an established bait station for nocturnal feral pig hunting.
Are you hoping to stock your freezer with a few delicious wild turkeys? Turkey is a popular small game and makes some delicious dinners if you can catch them. All states, except for Alaska, have a spring turkey season and they typically begin around March 1.
While you can hunt turkeys in the fall and the spring, the most popular choice is the spring. One of the reasons spring is so popular is because, like with so many other animals, it is their breeding season.
Male turkeys want to try to breed, and this increased activity level gives you more luck. As the increase in daylight begins, the males are signaled to begin the search for hens.
Turkeys also are influenced by the weather and certain weather conditions encourage increased activity, while other conditions cause the turkeys to bed down and wait. Here is what you should know about weather and turkey hunting.
- Turkeys will subdue their activity during bad weather, such as rain, high winds, cloudy, or sleet.
- Watch for low-pressure systems that are moving towards your area. The day beforehand, go into the woods. Turkeys feed ahead of storms.
- Turkeys love warm sunny afternoons. Sun helps the woods and area feel less damp and encourages movement. Set up a decoy or wait for the sound of a gobbler on a sunny day.
- While hard rain makes turkeys wait for calmer weather, they don’t mind a mist or a gentle rain. If this is your reality for the day, head for open fields and pastures. The rain decreases their hearing, so they prefer wide open space where they can rely on eyesight for protection.
Even though squirrels are small, they make great stew and have delicious meat. The season begins between early and mid-March when the winter cold gives way to the warming of spring. Right around this time is the perfect time to plan a hunt for squirrel.
Time of Day
One of the best things about hunting squirrel is they are active all day, so you don’t have to worry about waking up super early to catch one. They are very energetic animals, constantly searching the woods for berries, nuts and other food.
However, the best time to hunt for squirrels is in the early morning. Most deer hunters know this because, while they wait for the deer, they hear the sounds of squirrels in the leaves.
Squirrel hunters do need to consider the weather before entering the woods. They prefer warm, sunny mornings and afternoons, just like most humans. This is when they will be actively looking for food. So long as the woods are dry, you will be able to hear them running around. This is when it is easiest to just sit and wait for the squirrels rather than walking.
However, stormy weather and approaching storm fronts can make squirrels stop activity rather quickly. They will den up and stay hidden until the pleasant weather has returned. If you opt for this time to hunt, your chances are lower, but damp woods are easier to walk without alerting them to danger.
Hunting rabbits in the wintertime is a great way to get a different variety of fresh meat than what you scored over the warmer months. Winter is one of the most popular times to hunt rabbit, partly because of the decrease in the brush to hide.
While rabbits are active all day, there are certain times that are better for hunting. Most rabbits are more active early and late in the day, especially when they are close to their favorite feeding areas. Yet, some of the best times to go rabbit hunting during the winter is when it is miserably cold outside. This is less than appealing for humans, but it can result in some great scores.
The reason why cold weather is great is because their fur doesn’t insulate as well as other animals. When it is extremely cold outside, they have to take shelter in the heavy brush to stay warm. Instead of having to flush rabbit out, you are likely to find them hiding in the brush.
Many states have different regulations as to when you can hunt rabbits. For example, Ohio only allows rabbit hunting during November and December. Some states do allow a season during the warm months.
During the warm months, it is best to hunt during the morning and later afternoon. Rabbits bed down during the hottest parts of the day. However, most states don’t allow you to hunt during the nighttime.
The Proud Pheasants
Another popular small game is pheasant. Many hunters head out with their hunting dogs, in hope of catching a number of pheasants. The most common time for pheasant hunting is from November to January, depending on the state in which you live. Check out our list of the top dog hunting breeds that can help you catch your game.
The best time of day to hunt pheasants is during the evening. This is the prime time because pheasants are leaving their feeding areas to return to cover. That’s why you are most likely to find pheasants out and about just before dark, walking along the seams.
You can also start your pheasant hunt early in the morning. At sunrise, pheasants begin to make their move towards gravel areas to eat. They typically begin their search for food around 8 a.m., and it is easiest to find them in the fields.
By mid-morning, pheasants have left the fields for the thicker coverage such as brush patches and tall grasses, making it harder to find them.
Another great time to hunt for pheasants is when the weather isn’t nice. Even though it may be miserable for you, hunting pheasants when the weather is nasty and cold forces the pheasants to be in more predictable areas. However, if you are hunting with a dog, hunting pheasants is great when it is bright and sunny outside. They are active while searching for food.
What to Remember
Even though animals are all different, many of the standard hunting times apply to all. Most game is active during the early hours of the morning as they are up and on the search for food. If you can hit the woods early in the day, you are likely to spot a variety of game.
Weather can affect most game and determine their activity level. Few animals enjoy moving far in heavy woods, even under the cover of the woods. They prefer sunny and warm days but, extreme heat drives animals to bed waiting for the cool of the evening. To learn how to determine the best times to hunt, see our informative guidelines for reference.
The breeding time for animals is a prime time for hunting, especially large game. Large game, such as deer and bear, are more agitated and active during their breeding season so you are very likely to encounter your desired game if you hit the woods in the peak season. Males searching for a mate are likely to be active for longer periods.
We hope that the information described here was of use to you and we’d love to hear your hunting stories. Let us know your adventures in the comments section!