By Mark Kenyon
I know this won’t catch many of you by surprise – but guess what? The rut is coming. Yup, in just a matter of a few weeks, that greatest time of the deer hunting season will be upon us. But still, I know that many of us will be obsessing over these next weeks trying to dissect and guess exactly when those best days of the rut will be. That said, the more I look into it, the more I’ve come to believe that the moon phase and position might be worth paying attention to when it comes to determining the best days of the rut to hunt.
Now, I’m not saying that a specific moon phase is triggering breeding or the rut itself – although some theorize that maybe it does (if you’re interested in learning about the 2015 rut prediction theories and predicted times for this year – CLICK HERE). Rather, I’ve been hearing more and more about how the phase/position of the moon can simply exaggerate or amplify the daylight activity that we hunters care most about. So, how exactly does this work?
How Moon Phase/Position Impacts Deer Movement
We’ve talked a lot about this on Wired To Hunt and the podcast over recent months, but I’ll recap briefly.
When the moon is rising or setting during those prime-time dusk/dawn periods of movement, it seems that deer movement will be amplified or potentially triggered earlier than usual. These daylight rising/setting times for the moon typically occur around the full moon. The days leading up to the full moon have a early visibly moon in the sky in the evening, the days following the full moon typically have a late moon in the morning.
A similar movement trigger seems to occur if the moon is directly overhead/underfoot at these time periods too, something that hunters like Podcast #69 guest Adam Hays plan their hunts around.
So with this being the case, when these moon triggers occur during those dates that we expect increased rutting action, we can expect an even greater intensity of movement due to the moon’s influence.
In Episode #63 of The Wired To Hunt Podcast, Mark Drury explained this very concept and said it’s something he pays close attention to as well. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation.
Mark shared with us that he believes that “the rut happens at the exact same time each and every fall.” But, he went on to say, “what part of it is exposed is based on when the full moon hits within that month, based on daylight activity … The moon, in my opinion, exposes the daylight portion (of the rut) different each year depending on how the full moon falls. That’s why you see the variance in ruts that are intense versus not. If it exposes during the seeking phase, you’ll go oh man, this was an awesome rut. However if the moon exposes the lockdown, you’ll think it’s a terrible rut.” That said, if you want to predict the best daylight movement during the rut, look for those dates during the traditional pre-rut or rut (late October into the first two weeks of November) that coincide with the days surrounding the full moon.
Another serious whitetail hunter and outdoor writer who believes in this type of trigger is John Dudley, who recently penned a great article on this topic in Petersen’s Bowhunting Magazine. In the excerpt (read the full article here) and video below, John explains the specific dates during this year’s rut he’s expecting will be impacted by the moon phase/position.
“This year, there are two full moon phases that will fall within the traditional rutting period — the first occurs on Oct. 27, and the second on Nov. 25. This means that the days leading up to the full moon will be dynamite in both months for evening hunts. The October full moon aligns perfectly with the days when the big bucks typically make their first daylight appearances to check fields for the area’s first estrous doe.
Here in the Midwest, I typically start seeing mature bucks the last three days of October, but with this year’s moon phase, I predict some great bucks will fall from Oct. 24-26 … On the flip side of the full moon phase is the dark of the moon, which is ideal for the rut because it reduces nighttime rutting activity when bowhunters are out of the woods. This year, the last quarter of the moon starts Nov. 3, with the New Moon falling on Nov. 11. This is perfect timing for bowhunters, who should see some great morning hunts during the peak of the rut.”
So What Does This Mean For Your Hunting Plans?
So how can you actually apply this information to your plans this year? Here’s what I’d recommend. I do believe the traditional theory of the timing of the rut that says that peak breeding will happen essentially at the same time every year (in the North that’s typically around mid-November). That said, the majority of chasing/seeking (this is what we hunters typically think of when we dream of crazy rut action) will typically be occurring during that 2+ weeks preceding. So, if you have the vacation time, make sure you’re hunting as often during those weeks as possible. Those weeks, late October through November 15th, are the timeframe I’ll be focusing most of my efforts – but I’ll be doing this with the knowledge that certain factors such as the moon and weather could make some of those days better than others.
On the other hand, if you can’t get many days off during those best couple weeks, you can use this moon data to further narrow down the best dates to spend in the field.
With the early Full Moon predicted to enhance evening deer movement in late October and morning movement in early November, be sure to put a priority on those hunts – especially if you get the cold weather we all hope for at this time too. If these types of factors all line up – do whatever you can to make sure you’re in a tree for as much time as possible and stay ready.
Rutting action can come fast and furious – you just need to make sure you’re there when it happens.