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Field Guide -Deer

Best Time to Hunt Whitetail Deer

Found in almost every state within the eastern United States and various locations west of the Rocky Mountains, the whitetail deer is the most sought-after North American game animal.

However, despite their large population, these intelligent animals can be quite elusive. Knowing the right time to hunt whitetail deer can optimize your chances of bagging that trophy buck you've been eyeing on your trail cam.

So, keep reading about some important variables to consider to help you determine the best times to hunt to increase your chances of success.

A whitetail deer from behind, best time to hunt whitetail deer concept.

Why Hunt Whitetail

We probably don't even need to explain this to most hunters, but let's talk about why hunters hunt whitetail deer – because it's something worth talking about!

There are many reasons to hunt these deer, one of which is simply to eat. Venison is delicious, can be prepared in numerous ways for tasty meals, and is an excellent protein.  

For many hunters, deer hunting is a family tradition – and that tradition has more meaning than simply shooting an animal. It's been a way to put food on the table for generations, build family and community ties, and honor the land and wildlife around them.

Deer hunting is also challenging, requires skill and patience, and is an excellent reason to get outdoors. Overcoming challenges and developing skills and patience translate well into other areas of life, as well.

As far as why "whitetail" specifically, there are more of this deer species to hunt than others. They're also commonly found across public and private land, making it an accessible species to hunt across most of the U.S.

A map of the United States highlighting the states to hunt whitetail, best time to hunt whitetail deer concept.

Where Can You Hunt Whitetail Deer?

Whitetail can be found and hunted in all of the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

What Should Hunters Consider When Hunting Whitetail Deer?

If you've hunted deer (or any animal), you know there is plenty to consider if you hope to come home with a prize. While you can throw caution to the wind, most hunters quickly find that their time in the field is better spent and more rewarding when evaluating different factors to pinpoint the ideal days and times for a hunt. 

Here are a few things to think about before your next whitetail hunt!

A hunter in a tree stand with a bow, best time to hunt whitetail deer.

Their Location 

This one is a given. Most states (minus the southwestern United States) contain plentiful whitetails.

However, knowing the prime hunting locations within your state is also essential if you want to increase your chances of spotting one. Use the HuntWise app to narrow down your hunting areas to the best spots for whitetail and maximize your time in the field.

The Solunar Calendar

Do moon phases affect deer movement? It can! So, considering the position of the move can help you choose better days to hunt whitetail vs. days when they aren't as active during the day.

In general, regardless of the weather or the moon, whitetail deer are more active at dusk and dawn than at any other time of the day or night. However, during the open season, a full moon can encourage deer to sleep a little later because they might have been more active under the full moon's light.

So, depending on the moon at night, you might want to adjust your time in the tree stand or in your ground blind a little later in the morning to catch deer moving about. The HuntWise app can help you predict deer movement with an algorithm that considers multiple factors impacting how deer move throughout the day and night.

The Time of Year

Of course, you know you can only hunt whitetail when the season opens. However, make sure you're also aware of how whitetail (and other American game) activity changes according to the time of year.

The earlier it is in the season, the less likely you are to see much movement. However, as you get closer to "the rut," or the theorized peak week for hunters, activity increases drastically. Hunting the rut can be a busy time on public land, as many hunters may target this time of year to tag a big buck.

The Time of Day 

For whitetail deer, the most active times typically occur around dawn and dusk, with periodic increases in activity overnight. Plan ahead and get out there during the right time of day to increase your chances of success. 

The Temperature

Temperature is another factor that can drastically affect the movement of animals.  Whitetail deer generally like colder temperatures, and studies show that warmer temperatures seem to hinder deer movement. 

However, there are strategies for hunting deer in warmer temperatures vs. colder temps. So, no matter when you head out for a hunt, check the weather forecasting in your HuntWise app and adjust your strategies accordingly. 

Barometric Pressure

Whitetail are very sensitive to changes in barometric pressure and the resulting atmospheric conditions. Deer will bed, feed, and move according to the movements of the barometer. 

Generally, when the pressure is low, deer move less in anticipation of an impending storm. However, deer move about more freely after a storm or when barometric pressure rises.

General Weather Conditions

General weather conditions are another factor to consider when searching for prime hunting times.

Whitetail deer understand the uncertainties and dangers of bad weather. Much like humans, they will seek a safe place during harsh weather conditions. 

The Wind

While wind isn't necessarily an indicator of a bad day to hunt, it's crucial to understand the wind's direction and how it could impact your day in the field.

If the wind is blowing in their direction, a whitetail can smell you from a mile away. Some studies have estimated that the whitetail deer's ability to smell is about 10,000 times stronger than a human's. So, evaluating the wind's strength and direction is vital when determining the best hunting times and position.

Two hunters using the HuntWise app, best time to hunt whitetail deer concept.

Use HuntWise to Find the Best Time to Hunt Whitetail Deer

The insights we've provided in this resource can help you understand different variables that could impact the success of your hunt, but there's no need to guess about the ideal day to get out in the field.

With HuntWise, you have the best tool available to hunters to help predict the best days and times for your whitetail deer hunt. Our WindCast feature helps you understand the wind direction with forecasting for up to 15 days. With RutCast and Hunt Alerts, you never have to miss a great day in the field during peak rut or any other time during the open season.

Don't leave your hunt to chance! Download HuntWise today and explore every feature free for a week.  

Content updated May 28, 2024.

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