As a research biologist I’ve spent a lot of my career studying deer activity patterns. As a hunter, I wanted this information because I thought it would help me be a more successful hunter (that’s one reason I became a biologist!).
Through the years I’ve learned a tough lesson - hunting when bucks are most active is not always the best strategy. Usually deer, especially mature deer, are most active when conditions are best for them to survive. Remember that survival is the primary motivation for deer – even over food or rutting. So hunting when the conditions are best for deer means they have the best chance of detecting my presence.
We all know that deer use their nose to detect danger more than their eyes. In fact, deer commonly are the most active when conditions are best for detecting scent. This occurs when the air has an adequate amount of moisture – humidity. This is easily illustrated by considering hunting dogs. Quail dogs almost always do the best job of smelling birds early in the morning when the humidity is higher and there is still some dew on the ground. Likewise, my wife’s lab, Crystal, finds shed antlers better early during the morning when there is still some dew on the ground and more moisture in the air. This is because moist air carries more scent than dry air. Humidity is a BIG factor in a deer’s ability to detect hunters!
Unless there’s some funky weather occurring, the humidity level is almost always lower during the afternoon, especially during the early afternoon when hunters are going to stands, than during the morning.
I enjoy watching the sunrise from a deer stand I enjoy hunting during the mornings, but I’m very selective on stands during those early hours. I realize that when the humidity is higher deer have a better chance of detecting me long before I see them. I must use my “A” game on odor control when hunting during the mornings and select stands where I’m less likely to alert deer during my approach.
Remember that deer are usually most active when the conditions are best for them, and hunting when the deer are most active means they are more likely to detect you before you see them.
Growing and hunting deer together,
Dr. Grant Woods, GrowingDeer.tv