By: Heath Wood
With today’s technology, hunters have access to many platforms that can help determine the best time to hunt deer. While many rely on these technologies, others base superstitions on the best time to hunt. Some even reflect on past hunting experiences and base their predictions on past success. With many opinions and resources to help hunters, the question still gets debated year after year, when are the best days to deer hunt?
For the past fifteen years, my co-workers and I have each gotten one day off through the week of the Missouri firearms portion of deer season. After having two years of success while taking off on Thursday, I developed somewhat of a superstition of my own, and for the better part of ten years, I have hunted on Thursday each year. Ninety percent of the time, I have harvested a deer on my day. Is it good luck or just great timing?
On November 18th, 2021, I began the morning sitting inside my Hawk Down and Out Blind, watching a small open field that sat perfectly between two large sections of hardwood timber. It was Thursday of the opening week of Missouri’s firearms season, and I had high hopes that my successful streak would continue. I watched two smaller bucks come to a scrape during the mid-morning, along with multiple does. Then, out of the timber came a mature ten-pointer that had appeared on my Stealth Cam Fusion X camera the week before. After the buck pushed a doe around the small field for a minute or two, I acquired an opportunity and made a successful shot on a great southern Missouri buck.
I have been blessed to take a deer on my day off for several years. I’ll keep counting it as a blessing, yet is luck on my side, or is Thursday good timing for deer movement? There are historically good days when it comes to shooting a mature buck. Many apps and hunt predictions also forecast specific days as a great time to hunt. Below are the dates and why they are ideal times for deer hunters to be successful.
October 31st, Halloween Day
Halloween day is historically one of the best days for deer hunting for many hunters. Many hunters have experienced mature bucks beginning the anticipated rut during the last of October. Typically, somewhere around October 15th, scrapes begin showing up, and bucks start leaving their scent for does and other bucks as a sign that they are in the area. Around Halloween day, many bucks begin leaving the scrapes and start chasing does to find which ones are ready to breed. Since bucks are up on their feet, hunters have recorded deer movement as excellent during this time.
Because Halloween is the beginning of the actual rut, younger bucks are also eager to find a hot doe. With eager young bucks nearby, Halloween is a great time to break out the grunt calls and rattling antlers to signify a young buck getting to the does before the mature buck, making elder bucks eager to respond.
Although it is not narrowed down to one specific day, the week surrounding November 12th– 20th is historically when the rut is in full swing in most parts of the country. In this time frame, bucks are locked down with does, chasing is full-blown, and the bigger mature bucks seem to come out of hiding to breed as many does as possible.
During the peak of the rut, hunters should take every opportunity available to hunt. My scheduled day off through the Missouri firearms season often hits close to the peak of the rut for most deer, thus being the reason my day off seems to produce successful hunts year after year. As with last year’s hunt, I try to take the opportunity to sit in a comfortable blind, such as the Down and Out blinds, and sit all day if necessary. By having a comfortable seat, plenty of room to stretch and move, and an area to bring along a few snacks and drinks, I can sit for an extended period.
If I had only one day of the year to hunt, it would be any day from the 12th to the 20th of November.
One of the most exciting and prosperous times for many hunters occurs during the peak of the rut. Bucks are noted as becoming less focused on their survival instincts and only thinking about breeding, allowing hunters to see and harvest bucks when they usually wouldn’t be visible.
The good thing for hunters that missed the window of opportunity to harvest a buck during the peak of the rut is that there is a second chance. Often referred to as the second rut.
Many does who did not get successfully bred come back into estrus twenty-eight days after their first estrus cycle. What that means for hunters is if most does come into the first estrus, around the 12th of November, twenty-eight days later would be December 10th. Bucks begin seeking does again during that time, giving the hunter an excellent opportunity to harvest a mature buck.
Each year, the specific days when hunters have the best chance of harvesting a buck change. Many different factors, such as weather, can play a role. However, historically the days listed above have been noted for producing the best opportunities to harvest mature bucks.