Do you really need to get up at 5am to catch your prey, or does it not actually matter at all?
Which animals are nocturnal, and what variables tend to affect game activity?
Most animals tend to land somewhere in the dawn & dusk range, but you might be surprised how much variability you should expect when it relates to seasons, weather, temperatures, and hunting pressure.
Let’s find out what the best hunting times are!
For deer, you can pick either dawn or dusk. I always recommend the earlier the better, so that if you should be terribly unsuccessful you’ll have the daytime opportunities.
During dawn and dusk, you’ll see a lot more movement and activity, but the second it gets dark outside it gets really difficult to continue.
If you want to learn more about deer hunting, check out my deer-guides here!
Elk are very similar to deer in their hours of activity, and you’ll see most activity happen either early morning or late evening.
During the rut for elk which tends to land between September and October, AKA start of the fall hunting season, you’ll see them be pretty active during the day as well (so it’s okay to sleep in a little).
Check out my elk-hunting guide here!
For turkey, I would stick to early morning, just after dawn. This is when they tend to be done eating for the morning, and you’ll see a lot of activity.
They do return to roost at dusk, so you could technically hunt during the evening – but that just feels wrong. Like, who hunts turkey in the evening?
During fall season, I tend to start my turkey hunts right at 7a.m. Do with that as you will.
4. Duck & Geese
For ducks, it can vary greatly when they are active depending on local feeding and migration patterns. What I’ve personally discovered is that they are, like most prey, more active in the early mornings and late afternoons.
I have only hunted ducks in the evening and actually got my first kill during a beautiful Wisconsin sunset!
Did you know that weather has a massive impact on rabbits activity patterns? Essentially, the more overcast the more active.
Therefore, if you go hunt during an overcast day then essentially all of daylight hours are open to you. If it’s sunny out I recommend you go at dawn.
Bears are fairly active at all times during the day, so I wouldn’t stress too much on exactly when you decide to head out as long as there’s plenty of daylight.
They’re technically more active during dusk, but you do not want to be out there when its dark when it comes to black bears so the earlier the better.
8. Wild Hogs
Wild hogs are primarily nocturnal, so you want to head out late evening and through the night.
It is worth noting that hogs are also weather dependent, so in colder weather you can definitely catch them active during the day as well!
Squirrels, unsurprisingly, are similar to most prey active either very early morning or late afternoon.
Pheasants are a little more complicated.
If you’re hunting with dogs, I recommend you go during midday because thats when they rest in cover and dogs tend to take care of that.
If you’re trying to find them when they’re being most active, however, and you do not have a dog with you, early morning and later in the evening will be your best bet.
12. Coyotees & Foxes
Most predators like coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions tend to be more active during late evening, dusk, and night time.
Have a good dinner at five, grab an afternoon coffee and head out just in time to find them at their most active!
Moose pretty much follow the same pattern as elk; they are most active during dawn and dusk, but during their rut in the early fall hunting season you’ll see them pretty much equally as active during the day.
Quail activity is largely dependent on a few factors:
- Hunting pressure.
Quail does not like discomfort, which means that if it’s real hot out you’ll have no shot at finding them during midday and they’ll only be active at dawn and dusk before it heats up.
If the weather is really extreme, such as high winds, rain, or snow, you’ll also catch them seeking shelter and the activity levels will be low across the board — but you’ll have more luck at dawn since that’s usually when the weather tends to be the most relaxed.
Quail are also hyper-aware of hunting pressure. Meaning that if you’re hunting in an area where a lot of other people are also hunting quail, you’ll see their activity levels significantly decrease.
If it’s a quiet and untouched area, and it’s nice and cool and no rain, you might be able to catch them at all hours of the day.
Doves tend to be the most active from early morning to mid-late afternoon.
Check out my dove-hunting guide here!
Raccoons are nocturnal, so if you’ve decided you wanna get rid of some of the local trash pandas you’ll want to head out late evening and throughout the night.
Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so the best time to hunt them is generally from late evening through the night.
Bobcats are one of the only predators that stick to early morning and late afternoon hours. If the weather is chilly you’ll probably also catch them at most hours during the day.
Check out out bobcat hunting guide!
So there ya have it, the best hunting times!
As you can see, with a vast majority of common hunting game you’ll see most of the activity during early morning and late afternoon.
If you have the choice between mornings and evenings, however, I will always recommend going as early as possible. It can be tough to get out of bed sometimes, but I promise that it is way more fun to go hunting without the “time pressure” that the inevitable coming night brings.
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