Early in the season it’s pretty much a given, you hunt mornings and/or evenings. With warm temperatures and bed-to-food patterns, deer are very predictable and tend to really cling to their crepuscular (movement at dawn and dusk) behavior. Some hunters will only hunt afternoons during the early season. But as colder weather sets in and action in the deer woods heats up, does sitting all day really increase your odds rather than hunting just mornings and evenings?
The old phrase “you can’t kill them, unless you’re out there” absolutely is true. Especially during the rut, a buck could come by at any second, cruising for love. Early in the rut (even late in pre-rut), bucks are still most active at dawn and dusk, as that is when does are the most active. At that time of the season, the bucks aren’t harassing them enough to make them move during all hours of the day.
As the chase phase begins to crank up, the odds of encountering a buck at any time during the day increase dramatically. Bucks are on the prowl for a girlfriend or a fight. But I have to admit, even at this time of the season, I have to have amazing conditions to sit all day. The action still revolves around the normal behavior of deer.
So when is the best time to sit all day?
For me it is three times during the season. First, when the rut begins to come down from its peak. As fewer and fewer does are available for breeding, mature bucks will be up on their feet looking. Because there aren’t as many receptive does, they have to look a little harder and longer, which increases your chances of running into them throughout the entire day. You may not see a lot of deer during these days, but it only take seeing the right one. Doe-in-estrous lures and rattling can be very effective (just like in the early stages of the rut) as the competition for the remaining does increases.
The second is during high-pressure times, such as the opening day of gun season. The hunter pressure will often move deer around, especially on smaller properties or public land. When most hunters are headed to their vehicles for lunch or to warm up, you need to be in the stand. Many deer, unknown to the wandering hunter, will be bumped and pushed past those with the most patience.
The last is the late season. I actually wouldn’t even call it a full day sit though, as I don’t worry about getting in an hour before daybreak. When temperature in the North and Midwest fall well below freezing, deer have to pick and choose their movements and feeding behavior. Often, they will position themselves on a south-facing slope to suck up the warmth of the sun. Then as temperatures begin to rise they will move. Although the afternoon until dark is still probably the best time to hunt, you could catch a hungry buck cruising through at any time in the afternoon.
You definitely can’t harvest one if you aren’t in the stand, but with “free time” at a premium, it may be best to pick and choose your all-day sits. At the end of the day, however, there aren’t many better places to be than in a tree, whether you’re seeing deer or not.