By Chris Eberhart
There has been a lot written about the effect of moon phase and predicting the rut and the intensity of the rut. Most of it is pseudo science mostly written to have something to put in big letters on the cover page. The moon certainly has an effect on deer, but I believe it has no effect on either timing or intensity of rutting activity, at least in the North. Photoperiod is the most important factor that determines rut timing, which is within a week or two every year. It has to be because there is only a certain window of time that allows for fawns to be born and grow large enough to survive the following winter. In the South things may be different. The rut happens at about the same time every year, and the bucks get the job done, no matter the moon phase. The intensity and amount of chasing is based on other factors.
In my experience the moon phase effects are far more short term. Under a full moon deer move overall less, with far less movement particularly in the evening. There is also a decrease in early morning activity, though it isn’t as pronounced as in the evening. Midday activity, however, increases. This should give you a clear idea how to focus your efforts during a full moon and clear skies. Your opportunity certainly doesn’t diminish, you just have to adapt to an ever changing environment. When the moon is full concentrate on midday hunting in areas close to bedding, or, better yet, hunt in travel corridors between bedding areas. During conditions like this I like to do what I call second shift hunting. I might stalk out to such a stand at around 9:30 am and hunt until around 3:00 pm, or until dark if I am so inclined. You’ll be surprised at the amount of deer movement you’ll encounter if you are hunting in an area with good cover.
Far more important than moon phase concerning deer activity is the momentary weather situation. Even under the biggest full moon imaginable, if the weather changes to thick cloud cover and, particularly good, rain the deer will be up moving. The same holds true for snow, and even unseasonably cold weather. The slowest moving rut can change at the drop of coin, or should I say raindrop. Several of my biggest bucks have fallen during full moon phases during the pre rut and rut when the weather suddenly changed. Momentary weather conditions trump moon phase every time.
No matter what the moon phase is, when a good rain is in the forecast plan on hunting one of your best locations. This is a good time to hunt primary scrape areas, or morning staging areas. The bucks will be moving, moon or not.
The most important thing about whitetail hunting is spending time on stand during the intense month of season surrounding the rut. No matter the moons phase, you will get your opportunities if you hunt smart and put in your time effectively.
- Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com
If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way