Best Hunting Times

James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: January 24, 2020
Best Hunting Times

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No matter how you feel about hunting, we can all agree that the way meat is mass-produced is not working. It’s not working for the earth, the people and it damn sure isn’t working for the livestock. For this reason hunting for food and the best hunting times are topics of interest.

Factory farming has made many converts to veganism. For those of us who cannot surrender to the tempeh and the tofurkey, there are limited ways to acquire quality meant.

  • Pay through the nose at swanky meat markets and grocers
  • Raise your own livestock (if you have the land and skills)
  • Hunt for your own meat

My journey towards hunting for my own meat started in the coolest garage ever.

Long before I thought about blacksmithing I pulled up outside a small home in the east side of town and wandered into a small garage that was more a machine than a garage.

A giant axle rain across the ceiling and powered a number of machines. Some smashed, some heated up glowing red and others ran bands at breakneck speed.

The owner showed me a collection of knives made from railroad spikes. He beamed with pride.

I was blown away by the place but I wasn’t here to see his knife collection or his Transformer garage. No, I was here to buy a recurve bow.

It was a beautiful bow made from a single piece of wood with a worn-out rest. He threw in a couple of archery gloves. Even better, it was $45! I didn’t have the money to buy a rifle so the recurve fit into my meat harvesting budget.

I had no idea what an adventure learning how to shoot that thing would be!

Hunting Seasons

Spring gobbler was the first season I ever hunted. I can only look back and laugh at my pomposity to head into the woods with a recurve, no blind and actually expect to leave with a turkey.

Surprisingly, I ran into a turkey on that first hunt but she was running away at breakneck speed long before I realized what she was.

Hunting seasons are important both for the timing of the hunt and the management of animal populations. If you shot deer up in spring you would likely be killing pregnant females. Thus preventing the next generation of whitetail to proliferate.

There are benefits to all of your available hunting seasons. The types of animals and even the types of hunting can change radically from season to season.

How you find success in one season could vary wildly to the next. For example, bucks in the rut are driven by instinct and they become blind to the world around them. They don’t even eat!

In the winter you are facing a different type of animal who is driven to food sources as starvation and freezing are setting in. In essence, you are hunting two different animals.

The understanding of seasons will always help your odds afield. Of course, hunting times are another layer within each season that deserves your attention, as well.

Best Hunting Times by Animal

Knowing the best times to hunt an animal are very important and while a season dictates the time of year for successful and sustainable management of the animal, the time of day can be critical.

The best example of this would be hunting for nocturnal animals in broad daylight. Some animals move mostly at night and it wouldn’t make sense to set your blind up at high noon.

Hunting times will also vary by area and pressure. So, keep that in mind. If you are hunting land that is heavily pressured the animals will be like ghosts. In low-pressure areas you might happen upon grazing deer mid-morning.

Best Deer Hunting Times

To the nonhunter, the Whitetail deer may seem like an animal that begs to be shot. You might see them in your own yard every morning. Truth is, they can be incredibly evasive.

After a 15 minute creep into the woods I spotted a Whitetail that first spotted me and it slowly and silently crept into a depression. I was silent entering those woods but once the deer got downhill it disappeared completely.

From first sight to the point when it disappeared was a matter of about 30 seconds. These were relatively open woods, too!

For deer, you are going to see the most action at first and last light. Its pretty simple. It’s not uncommon for hunters to spend hours in a tree stand only to shoot their deer moments before the sunsets.

It’s not to say that deer cannot be had in the morning or even in the afternoon but the best time for these creatures to be taken is at the start or end of daylight.

Contrary to what some people think, deer are not nocturnal. I even received a wildlife playing card from my son’s school which characterized whitetail deer as nocturnal.

They have 5 feeding times each day. They have acute senses and know when people are around. The ones in your yard just understand you are less of a threat. This emboldens them.

Best Bear Hunting Times

Bears can grow to be absolute giants. Though Brown Bears get much bigger than Black Bear, an adult black bear is a sight to behold.

Whenever a creature is of massive size they often eat a lot and sleep a lot. Constant movement would require even more caloric needs. When preparing for hibernation bears will eat up to 20,000 calories a day!

The best time of the day to hunt bear is often the afternoon into the evening. This is when they get up and get moving around to feed. They will spend hours a day feeding and in the fall time, they are often found near ripe berries as these make up a large part of their diet.

QUICK NOTE: Have a plan to haul your bear out of the woods and a means of stringing it up to butcher. Black Bears are not Whitetail deer. They weigh much more than deer and you will not be able to handle them with the ease of a whitetail deer.

A large male Whitetail can way as much as 250lbs but a large Black Bear can get up to 600lbs!

Best Turkey Hunting Times

How wildlife reacts to my stepping into their environment is always mesmerizing. These animals that are sought after understand what’s at stake and they move with an almost ethereal flow.

Sneaking from the cover of a wooded path into an open field, I myself was moving like a ninja. Hunting the Briery Creek WMA is a lot of fun and when the hunting is bad the largemouth bass fishing is always good!

There were turkeys in the field but they were not in a place where I could engage them. The flock was about 5 deep and I stopped to watch them through the treeline. The moment they caught my movement the birds slowly slunk away.

As I moved out of the trees they moved into them and it was a ballet of incredible timing, silence and that wild animal awareness that these creatures possess.

They did not run to the wood line. The flock moved like they were on some kind of conveyor belt that moved right to safety.

Early and Mid Morning is the most effective time for bagging that turkey. This is because they wake up, call to hens, take care of business and then feed. It is the most active the birds will be.

This time is also the most receptive turkeys will be to calls and decoys. Both are a tremendous help when it comes to success.

Utilize your morning wisely by setting up near a roost. You better be head to toe in camo, up against a tree, or in a blind, because these birds have incredible eyesight.

Your chances fall substantially after the morning “rush” is over. You could bust up a flock but that’s only in areas where big flocks are prevalent.

Best Predator Hunting Times

Predator hunting is a different animal, literally and figuratively. You hunt these animals in the dark and you use calls to bring them close to you. There is also the inherent danger of being attacked yourself if you are hunting things like mountain lions or wolves.

Nighttime is always going to be the best time for hunting predators. This is when they hunt. Remember, your calls and your lures will be to bring those hunters to prey.

You are not calling these animals to mate. You are mimicking an injured animal to bring the hunting predator towards you. A good injured prey call will go a long way.

Best Small Game Hunting Times

Hunting small game is the most underrated hunting of all. Small game hunting is plentiful, affordable and pretty easy once you get the hang of your weapon.

You can take small game with a traditional bow or a .22 but I think the very best tool for hunting small game is the pellet gun. It’s effective and cheap to operate. You can also get a great scoped weapon for half the price, or more of a simple hunting rifle.

Identifying the homes of these animals is always going to be key to success. Small game hunting is unique in that you can have tremendous success when animals emerge from their nests or dens in the morning and just as much success in the evening as they return.

The best hunting time for small game is a toss-up. It truly depends on the hunter. If you are the type of hunter who prefers evenings to mornings, you can have great success watching nests and dens as the evening takes shape.

It pays to learn about small game because in a true survival situation you are going to eat much more small game then you are bears for example. These are animals that you will trap and animals that you will hunt.

To study their eating and living habits is an investment in your future. It’s an investment in the wild food of a possible future collapse.

Best Water Fowl Hunting Times

We eat lots of birds in our house. On Christmas, we prefer a duck or goose to a standing rib roast. However, I have never ventured into a duck blind to take aim at waterfowl.

Its something my son Carter and I have discussed on several occasions. Because of his affinity for a good fire-roasted duck, he seems insistent on taking this angle.

Hunting waterfowl here in Virginia requires a hunting license and waterfowl license. However, there are great opportunities statewide to take advantage of waterfowl.

If you are interested in getting your limit of waterfowl the mornings are going to be the very best times for success. Your blind and decoys can be set in the cover of darkness and flyovers can come in waves if you are in the right spot.

Midday often lends itself to lazy waterfowl behavior and the best you are going to do will be to jump shoot meandering ducks in side creeks and streams.

The evening can be productive but you are on a time table and it gives you very little options for resetting your decoys or changing locations.


To step foot into the quiet woods with a hunter’s intent will teach you so much about yourself and the creatures that live there. Each season brings a new landscape, food source, and hunting opportunity.

The best hunting times are great tools to remember and put into practice. The planning of a hunt most often dictates the success that you will have and these hunting times are part of that planning.

While there are many who frown at the idea of shooting animals, I should remind you that factory farming is a far worse fate. Responsible hunters kill animals swiftly and many times the animal has no idea what they are experiencing.

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3 Responses to “Best Hunting Times”

  1. Know your Butcher! Or at least shop where there is a butcher that doesn’t process and reward food.

    Also know your Hunting Regulations, by the year! Don’t assume last year regs.. are the same for this year. Game Wardens have the broadest arrest abilities in the Nation! You can lose your game, gun, and vehicle plus fines etc.

    Pellet guns may Or may not be legal in your state. Turkey hunting in Calif. spring is till noon and Only for Toms. Jack Rabbits and Pig are legal year round (5 tags a year for pig). These are just examples.

  2. “we can all agree that the way meat is mass-produced is not working.”
    Wrong. This just means you don’t like it. Meat products have never been safer, cheaper, or more plentiful.

    • Well said. Sometimes I wish that this site had the option to “vote” on articles. There is a wide gulf of quality between authors.

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