Why the Best Times to Hunt are Neither Day or Night

When are the best times to hunt? “Whenever I can”, you say.  Okay, but the question is what time of day is it best to hunt? 

The answer is when it’s neither night nor day. The best times to hunt is before the sun comes up (but when it’s light enough to see), and in the early evening, after the sun goes down (again while it’s light enough to see).

Why would those be the best times to hunt?  Because that is when many types of game are most active, and when you are most likely to see what you’re after.  By the time the sun is well up, in most cases, a deer (for example) will be bedded down for the day and out of sight.

If you want to get technical, the term is “crepuscular.”  Crepuscular animals are active primarily during twilight – the period immediately after dawn and immediately before dusk.  That’s opposed to being active during the day (diurnal) or at night (nocturnal).

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Deer are notoriously crepuscular, although big bucks in well-hunted areas will go almost completely nocturnal during deer season.  Since you obviously can’t hunt them at night, the twilight hours may be your best chance of catching a glimpse of a big boy heading for his daytime hiding spot.

The “sweet spot” best times to hunt lasts about a half hour after the sun comes up and then a half hour after it goes down.  In most places that’s also the definition of when you can legally start hunting and when you have to stop.  Better check your state’s hunting regulations to be sure.

Plus, just to make it more complicated – the exact time for sunrise and sunset changes every day.  It might be 6:14 a.m. today and 6:17 a.m. tomorrow. Again, the web site for your state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will have charts telling you to the minute when you can start, and when you have to give it up for the day. So wear a watch.

Migratory birds – dove, ducks, and geese — fall under similar rules.  Not all birds do though – legal hunting time for pheasant in most states is set at mid-morning to noon. Turkey hunting in California during the spring season must end at 5 p.m.  Wildlife areas and refuges may have special rules. Check your state’s regulations before going out.

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Many hunters feel they can see well enough to stretch the rules, but don’t.  Not only will Mr. Game Warden not appreciate it, but also when you’re in the field with other hunters it becomes a safety issue. Remember that other hunters are going to be moving into position in the dark – often well before shooting time. Better to wait until you can absolutely see not only what you’re shooting at, but anything else may be around you.

Twilight is the best time to hunt, but not the only time.  Just remember that is when the game is moving, and that you will have to adjust your tactics during the rest of the day.

Photo credit: Wikipedia