The Best Days For Deer

Pinched for time this hunting season? Follow this hunter's almanac to zero in on the days when you definitely should be in the woods.

We’d love to tell you, “Hunt around acorns on October 8…watch a scrape line on the 28th…rattle like a wild man on November 10,” but we can’t get that precise. Conditions just vary too widely from season to season and across the country. However, we can narrow things down to some of the best times to take off work this fall. Tailor your tactics to the “big days,” when the weather and rut phases are right in your area, and we {know the odds of tagging a nice buck](https://www.outdoorlife.com/deer-hunting-forecast/) will swing in your favor.

Best Day to Hunt a Buck’s Bedding Area
The best day to hunt a buck’s bedding area is, well, never. If you hassle an old boy in or around his sacred ground just once, he is apt to shift his daily pattern, move to another area or go completely nocturnal. Locate ridge thickets, swampy areas, brier tangles and other cover within a buck’s typical 600-acre core area, and stay out of them. (Mature deer will use several bedding thickets throughout the season.) After studying a topo map or aerial photo, plan an ambush for Mr. Big in travel corridors and around food sources several hundred yards away from his sanctuaries.

Best Day to Hunt Feeding Patterns
On October 6 a few years ago, I sat in a tree stand in eastern Montana and watched 10 does walk down a trail that wended into an alfalfa field. At dusk a nine-pointer strolled down the path like he owned it. I grunted, and a few minutes later I was tagging him.

Last October 6, I sat in a stand 50 miles from where I had shot that deer. It was déjà vu all over again. Another Pope and Young buck, this one a 10-pointer, followed some does down a trail so wide you could drive a four-wheeler on it.

I grunted, the buck stopped seven yards below me and I filled out another tag. October 6, give or take a few days, is the best time to watch a doe trail when hunting for whitetails outside the South. Bucks are still moving freely from bedding areas to feed on those wide, deep doe trails gouged through the grass and brush. Neither warm weather nor a bright phase of the moon seems to affect deer activity much at this time of year, so do your scouting, hang your stands close to feeding areas and stay until the last minute of legal shooting light. Later in October and into November, buck movement along doe trails becomes much more hit or miss.

Best Day to Hunt a Draw
Hunting in a draw, strip of timber or similar funnel in a mature buck’s core area can produce anytime in the season, but the best day to do it is the instant the rut heats up. “I have funnels I simply won’t hunt until November 15, when the rut usually hits high gear and the big deer start moving hard here in the Midwest,” says Mark Drury, founder of M.A.D. Calls. “A few years ago the rut was late, so I didn’t go into one of my favorite spots until November 20. That day I shot a 140-inch buck. The peak of the rut can vary a few days either way from season to season, due to the early or late arrival of cool weather and maybe even the phase of the moon. “You need to monitor all that and hunt your best funnel on the best day,” notes Drury.

Best Day to Hunt in the Oaks
The day after a hard frost in early October is best for hunting around oak trees in the Midwest or East. When the sun comes up and hits the chilled limbs, nuts will begin to rain down throughout the woods and deer will leave crop fields to go in search of them. (Deer prefer white oak acorns to red oak.)

Grab your bow, pack a climber on your back and sneak toward an oak ridge or flat. Set up for an afternoon hunt with the wind in your favor. As acorns patter down all around, some of them bouncing and pinging off your cap and stand, you should see plenty of deer. It is still early in the pre-rut, so you might catch several good bucks running together, though the real brutes are apt to be loners. If the first hard frost occurs during the week of October 6his fall, when the moon will be new and dark, deer should move especially well in the mast at dusk and dawn.

Best Day to Stay All Day
The best day to stay on stand all day is your gun opener, especially if it overlaps the apex of the rut, as it does in Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri and many other states. An eight-pointer might chase a doe past your post at sunrise…a big deer might trot through a funnel at noon…another hunter going back to his stand at 3 p.m. might jump a 10-pointer and drive him into your sights. You just never know what might happen, so you need to be out there.

A clear day with temperatures in the 40s is best. The deer should move and you’ll stay comfortable on post. But sweat it out if it’s hot or bundle up and hang tough in your stand if it’s cold. Don’t pay any attention to the moon phase; the rut and all that pressure will override any negligible effect it might have on deer activity.

Best Day to Lay a Scent Trail
The second-best day to lay a scent trail will occur from around Halloween to early November. Douse a drag-rag with either estrus-doe or tarsal scent and let it drag behind you as you go to your stand. A buck might cut the scent and follow it, looking for one of the first hot does or hoping to encounter a rival buck to butt heads with. A cool, damp, windless day is ideal because the scent trail you put down will likely linger for hours in the grass and leaves.

But I believe the best time to lay a trail is the day the rut begins to wane in your area. During the first days of the post-rut (mid- to late November in most regions), some of the mature bucks that survived the gauntlet of hunters are likely still cruising around in hopes of hooking up with one last doe. Since far fewer does come into estrus during this period, the chances of a buck cutting your fake trail and following it in might actually go up. Once the rut is done, bucks are lovers, not fighters, so forget the tarsal or buck urine and lay down a steaming trail of eau de doe instead.

Best Day to Stay Home
The best day to say “the heck with it” and go to work is during a hot, dry spell with southerly or easterly winds in mid-October. Temperatures in the upper 60s, 70s or even the 80s virtually shut down deer activity east of the Mississippi River. Also, many bucks go into a mysterious mid-season lull, holing up in thickets near food sources and moving mostly at night.

The more you hunt during an Indian summer, the more you can actually mess things up by spreading your stink around stands and bumping deer on the way in and out. Save your precious vacation days for November, when the weather breaks and cools and the bucks begin to morph into prowling, sex-starved beasts.

Best Day to Grunt
The best day to blow a grunt tube is any day you spot a buck from your stand that is out of range. Blow a sharp “ack” or two, and 9 times out of 10 a buck will at least stop for a second, perhaps giving you the chance to shoot an arrow or a bullet. And who knows, a buck might even step out of a thicket or turn your way to investigate the calls. I’ve never seen a few grunts spook a buck; don’t be afraid to call early or late in the season or at any time of the day.

Best Day to Still-hunt
Any day in early November is great for still-hunting, according to Harold Knight, cofounder of Knight & Hale Game Calls. “Try to slip around during the morning after a rainy night, when the woods are quiet,” he says. “There’s often a five- to ten-mile-per-hour wind on the back side of a weather front, and that’s good, because you can easily hunt into or across the wind, and it also helps to cover the sound of your movement. Slip along the sides of ridges, inching a hundred yards or so in fifteen to thirty minutes. Stop a lot and glass for bucks prowling for does in draws and bottoms.”

Best Day to Hunt a Scrape
Outside the Deep South, any day from November 4 to November 10 should be pretty darn good for scrape hunting this fall. “A day when a front is approaching out of the west or north will be the best one to hunt,” says David Hale, cofounder of Knight & Hale Game Calls. “The combination of a dark moon and cool weather during the pre-rut should really kick bucks into action around primary scrapes and scrape lines located back in the woods.”

Best Mid-Season Day to Hunt a Food Source
When is it best to go back and hunt a food source? Try a warm day in late October or early November. Temperatures that soar into the 60s or 70s will shut down the initial flurries of rutting activity, and an extended heat wave may delay the onset of breeding for a week or so. When this happens, return to a stand downwind of a food source. Be ready to nail a buck in the last minutes of light.

Best Day to Rattle
Gary Roberson rattled antlers and the 20th Texas buck of the morning bounded over mesquite bushes and mounds of cacti with the speed and agility of a cutting horse. The eight-pointer flew though the air one last time and landed quivering and stamping his hooves 30 yards away, and then I squeezed my .270’s trigger.

When you have that kind of awesome action you know you rattled on the best day of the season. “The conditions were perfect that morning,” said Roberson, who lives in Menard, Tex., and is widely considered one of the best rattlers in the country. “It was late in the pre-rut and the bucks were full of piss and vinegar, but the does wouldn’t be ready for a couple more days. The weather was clear and crisp, in the forties. And the wind was ideal, just hard enough that we could factor it into our setups and predict where the bucks would try to circle in downwind, but not so hard that the bucks couldn’t hear us rattling.”

That hunt occurred during the second week of December, prime rattling time in the brush country of South Texas and also over into Louisiana and Mississippi. Farther north and west, you’ll want to whack antlers together late in the pre-rut in early November. Shoot for a clear, crisp morning and don’t pay any attention to the moon. There’s a right and a wrong time for every tactic. for example, rattling near the rut’s peak can be effective, but rattling early in the pre-rut may spook deer. Read these important tips. [XLINK 355668 “The Worst Day To…”]BR> Best Day to Hunt a Scrape
Outside the Deep South, any day from November 4 to November 10 should be pretty darn good for scrape hunting this fall. “A day when a front is approaching out of the west or north will be the best one to hunt,” says David Hale, cofounder of Knight & Hale Game Calls. “The combination of a dark moon and cool weather during the pre-rut should really kick bucks into action around primary scrapes and scrape lines located back in the woods.”

Best Mid-Season Day to Hunt a Food Source
When is it best to go back and hunt a food source? Try a warm day in late October or early November. Temperatures that soar into the 60s or 70s will shut down the initial flurries of rutting activity, and an extended heat wave may delay the onset of breeding for a week or so. When this happens, return to a stand downwind of a food source. Be ready to nail a buck in the last minutes of light.

Best Day to Rattle
Gary Roberson rattled antlers and the 20th Texas buck of the morning bounded over mesquite bushes and mounds of cacti with the speed and agility of a cutting horse. The eight-pointer flew though the air one last time and landed quivering and stamping his hooves 30 yards away, and then I squeezed my .270’s trigger.

When you have that kind of awesome action you know you rattled on the best day of the season. “The conditions were perfect that morning,” said Roberson, who lives in Menard, Tex., and is widely considered one of the best rattlers in the country. “It was late in the pre-rut and the bucks were full of piss and vinegar, but the does wouldn’t be ready for a couple more days. The weather was clear and crisp, in the forties. And the wind was ideal, just hard enough that we could factor it into our setups and predict where the bucks would try to circle in downwind, but not so hard that the bucks couldn’t hear us rattling.”

That hunt occurred during the second week of December, prime rattling time in the brush country of South Texas and also over into Louisiana and Mississippi. Farther north and west, you’ll want to whack antlers together late in the pre-rut in early November. Shoot for a clear, crisp morning and don’t pay any attention to the moon. There’s a right and a wrong time for every tactic. for example, rattling near the rut’s peak can be effective, but rattling early in the pre-rut may spook deer. Read these important tips. [XLINK 355668 “The Worst Day To…”]