If you have been hunting for more than a few years you have heard that bucks become nocturnal due to hunting pressure, moon phase, and temperature…. For the most part this is all true.. Yes full moons will often spike deer movement during the night hours, yes hot dry days will cause deer to move during cooler hours often this is after the sun goes down and yes hunting pressure will cause bucks to seek deep cover and show themselves less…. But the key lies in to that last statement “show themselves less”.
There is no such thing as a completely nocturnal buck… there are a number of reasons why but lets pick the obvious.. deer need to eat an average of 4x a day this can not all be accomplished during the night hours.. I don’t want this to be a whole article on biology so I’m going to stick to what you came here for…”how do I Hunt Nocturnal Bucks?”
Deer have an exceptional memory and ability to learn they store sights, scents, and sounds in a way that allows them to instantly recall weather or not that sense that’s being triggered is made by friend or foe… And they remember within a few days when hunting season starts because every year an influx of predators hit the woods at the same time.. How many times have you had tons of trail cam pics of bucks during daylight hours and then boom opening day… the pics cease or become night shots…
So how do we hunt them…Going back I mentioned that deer show themselves less but do not disappear entirely… so now it becomes a new game of chess…. depending on the time of year we are hunting really determines what we need to do..
Early season…bucks sometimes become nocturnal in early season because it is hot and in conservation of energy and water they will move more at night or at the fringes of daylight.. This is one of the toughest to over come but you can still be very successful with some ingenuity: 1) build yourself a portable water hole that you can set up very close to thermal cover or thick bedding areas. 2) set your self on the fringe of bedding on a corridor leading to water 3) enter your stand or blind 2-3 hours before light and leave 30-60 mins after dark 4) you should be doing this anyway but be absolutely critical about your scent control and wind direction
Moon Phase: Deer often will increase their movements during a full moon especially during the warmer months and often during the rut.. if its the during the warmer months I would stick to the above tactics but during the rut I like to hunt all day and utilize corridors that link one bedding area to another mainly because bucks may lay up a bit in the morning and in the evening what normally would be the peak hours but eventually testosterone and drive to mate is gonna get them up on their feet and checking bedding areas for does… If you can find tight funnels that link bedding to bedding you can guarantee eventually a buck is gonna come cruising through…
Hunting pressure: Often bucks in heavily hunted areas will go nocturnal but again they need to eat and need to drink and if its the rut they want to mate… so if you think of ways to avoid your other 500 buddies hunting in the woods you are hunting you are already one step ahead… because that’s what the deer are doing using areas routes and times your hunting cronies aren’t.. some tactics are:1) in early season find thick cover with faint trails leading out of them especially those with old rub lines .2) set up stands a month or more in advance 3) as in the early season tactics, minimize your footprint and only enter and leave stand at night.. 4) set up trail cameras within daytime bedding areas at night and only check them at night 5) once you have a good idea of the pattern they are on you will know when and where to hunt them…
In the end its all a mater of figuring out what the needs are of the deer for the given situation and developing a plan sound plan to intercept them during the course of their route… I’ve said it once… I’ve said it a hundred times learning what deer do in your area in any given situation is the most important tool you will ever need in hunting.. Spend time watching and learning what the deer do in reaction to your movements…you may have to forgo some hunting but it will be worth it in the end and you will be more successful for it.