Hunting Mature, Nocturnal Whitetail Bucks



If you’ve spent any amount of time deer hunting then you probably suspect there are some deer living in your area that you never see. These deer, which tend to be bucks, are nocturnal creatures. All deer exhibit more nocturnal movements at certain times of the year, particularly during the summer when daytime temperatures restrict movement to the after hours, but some deer are just plain wired to be night owls. Hunting well-seasoned mature bucks is tough as well because these deer have learned to identify pressure. Here is what Bill Winke of Petersen’s Bowhunting Magazine had to say about the subject of bucks that are active at night:

“Just because you are only getting night time photos does not mean you can’t kill the buck. You can’t make that conclusion. But if you are getting daylight photos the odds of an encounter while deer hunting are much, much higher, in my experience. I am comfortable drawing that conclusion. So the question is: do you want to hunt nocturnal bucks that you might be able to kill but the odds are against you or do you want to hunt bucks you are likely to encounter?

Hunting Bucks That Have Gone Nocturnal

I know very well, again from experience, which ones are more fun to hunt. We have really seen this over and over during the past few years. The ones we get the daylight photos of are the ones we end up encountering often from the stand. So now I want to see daylight photos (or at least photos near daylight) before I hunt a buck. As you say, the key is to have enough camera coverage to feel comfortable that you are in or close to the buck’s core area.

If you are getting regular photos, you know you are in or close to this area. If you are only getting scattered photos and all at night, it is hard to draw conclusions. In that case, you need to move the camera a bit in the direction the buck is coming from when he approaches the camera in the evening and see if you can get more shots of him at night (or better yet a few in daylight).”


In short, Winke is saying it’s better to focus on what’s available than simply trying to make something happen that is darn near impossible. I guess it’s kind of like going to a bar. You’ve got a solid 8 talking to you, but there is a stone-cold 10 in a little black dress that is dressed to impress and she’s surrounded by a covey of testosterone. Sure, you see the trophy but the odds of you laying it across your tailgate are practically nil. The 8, however, is right in your sights.

Game cameras should be used to monitor the bucks in your area both prior and during the deer hunting season. Pay particular attention to the times when bucks are moving through your area and look for mature bucks that is moving during daylight hours or at least very close it. Once the situation is in your favor, make your move by slipping into the area like a ghost across bare rock. Clean out your truck, setup downwind of the bucks travel corridor and get ready to bring one home. The hunting of nocturnal bucks can still take place, but understand it’s the daytime movers that you are much more likely to see during shooting hours.


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