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Early-Season Debate: Hunt Deer in the Mornings or Afternoons

With the whitetail rut on the horizon, early-season morning and evening hunting strategies are about to become ineffective

Early-Season Debate: Hunt Deer in the Mornings or Afternoons
Many early-season bowhunters prefer to hunt the evening hours due to seasonal deer patterns. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Deer season is in full swing across the country. For some, the most exciting time to be in the deer woods, the rut, is on the horizon.

But regardless of whether you live in the North or South, East or West, the early season can be a tricky time to get on deer. Primarily, the warmer temperatures of the early season, coupled with drastically changing food sources, can make deer tough to pattern.

Many hunters say they only hunt afternoons during the early season; the mornings are unproductive. That be true for some, but can’t be concluded for everyone. In fact, some may find the complete opposite by using trail cameras on their property.

So what is the best time to get after whitetail in the early season?

To answer the question, much depends on your style of hunting. For those who continue to hold tight on large food sources, such as crops or food plots, you not only want to be hunting afternoons, but you may want save your vacation days.

Why? For starters, the fields may have deer feeding under the cover of darkness in the mornings. This makes slipping into the treestand extremely difficult. If you do manage to get in, or hunt in the afternoon, you may not see as many deer as you expect.

This is a result of the October Lull. With the changing food sources, deer behavior, and now the added hunting pressure, deer are somewhat of a mystery during this time.

For morning hunters, one strategy is to slip into the acorn-dropping oak flats near bedding areas. While deer are transition from feeding to bedding areas, you’ll be there to intercept. The hard part is not getting too close to bedding areas; you could jump deer when you leave. Spooking deer at this point can be a season-ending mistake.

On October 16, Michael Waddell, of Bone Collector, spent the morning on a food plot. Although only does came to visit, it’s sometimes just about getting outside and enjoying a quiet sit in a stand.

For aggressive hunters, it’s time to move. Deer are holding close to bedding areas and if you want to tag a buck now you have to get close to those spots. Personally, I am a fan of moving in on them in the morning and catching deer cruising back to bed after feeding.

During the last 10 days or so of October is when I see the best daylight scrape activity. I have a few honey holes I will be overlooking, waiting for some visitors.

If you find a good scrape line, get on it towards the end of October. This is the time of year when the odds of catching a good buck, both mornings and evenings, is good.


Before long the rut hit and these early-season strategies will be lost again until next year.

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