Does the Moon Affect Deer Movement?
My brain hurts. I was asked to write about how the moon affects deer movement and I’ve gone over pages and pages of scientific research, magazine articles and deer hunting website forum messages from normal hunters like me, and I’m no closer to a final answer than when I started.
Some discount the moon as a factor. Many more believe the moon phase is directly related to deer activity. Unfortunately, there are contradictions even out of the folks who believe the moon phase affects deer movement. Some say the first quarter moon is best, others believe the new moon forces deer to move more during the day. Some swear the full moon phase is when the hunt’s at its best. And what about the secondary moon factor, that of position. Does a moon directly overhead do anything to deer? Directly underfoot?
The most obvious forces the moon exerts on the earth are gravitational and rotational, which is demonstrated by the tides. This influence is greatest when the moon is directly overhead and directly underfoot, and the next greatest influence is when it’s halfway between these two points. But does this mean that there also is an influence on animals?
In his book Hunting Trophy Deer, Texan John Wootters states: “I’ve seen scientific correlations that tended to show the phase of the moon has nothing to do with whitetail activity, if all other things are the same. Which convinces me that either the deer haven’t seen the same charts or all other things are never the same. I will go to my grave unshakably convinced that exactly opposite is true, and that moon phase is critical to a hunter’s plans.”
Most of the research done on moon phases relates to how it affects the timing of the rut. But what I’m really looking for is how the moon phase, as well as its position in the sky (especially directly overhead or directly underfoot) affects daily movement. Basically, is there any particular moon phase and position that prompts deer to move?
Researching the moon phase as it relates to general animal behavior was just as confusing, although interesting. One study observed hospital emergency rooms to determine if dogs bit more people during the full moon cycle. They found a significant increase in dog bite victims during the full moon; however a research study they cited reported just the opposite – that there was no correlation between the full moon and dog bites. So even general scientific data conflicts on whether or not the moon has any influence on animals.
Charles Alsheimer is one of the foremost researchers of deer behavior and wrote a book called Hunting Whitetails by the Moon. He believes that the second full moon after the autumnal equinox (rutting moon) is the triggering mechanism for the seeking phase, which lasts six or seven days (three or four days before and after the rutting moon), which overlaps into the chasing phase and finally the breeding phase.
Interesting and beneficial information, but still doesn’t tell me if I can expect bucks to move earlier this evening during a first-quarter moon in early October or if I’d have a better shot of arrowing a buck if I wait until the moon is nearing full.
So when scientific research fails to answer a question, I think the best thing to do is to go directly to the hunters for your answer – folks who spend plenty of time on the stand year after year.
I posted the question on www.bowsite.com, a website frequented by many advanced-level bowhunters. Many of the folks on the board have been hunting 20-plus years, and I’ve found in the past that it’s a great place to learn from real hunters. It’s not surprising that the first response I received from my question was something to the effect of: “Here we go again!” Like, get the popcorn and let’s see the opinions get heated.
Looking over the responses to my question supports the assumption that this board is frequented by folks who know what they’re talking about. One prefers a moon on the rise an hour prior to sunset, regardless of its phase. Another suggests that a full moon during the pre-rut screws up hunting even more than the weather. Another suggests that the best hunting is midday during a full moon. Almost all, though, acknowledge that many factors, such as the weather, hunter pressure, time of the rut and others, affect deer movement as much or more than the moon.
So what’s the answer? My suggestion is to do your own research and use today’s technology to gather information to supplement you own opinions. There’s no easier way to research deer movement as it pertains to moon phase and position than with a game camera that lists the pertinent info on each image it takes.
Moultrie’s Game Spy 200 is one of those cameras. It prints the moon phase, time, temperature, date and location on each image. By creating a graph you can tract the deer movement on your hunting area. Add a column on your graph to list moon position and check this off published lunar tables.
Post one camera at a known funnel or crossing, such as a narrow strip of woods connecting two larger pieces or a creek crossing. Post another camera at a food source, whether it’s a food plot or a mechanical feeder. Post one more camera at a secluded mock scrape near a buck trail. Use buck urine and a dripper or Scent Boss to keep it fresh.
Start your test in July and by mid-September you should compile your results and see if you find any patterns.
So form your own opinions and conclusions to this tough question. It’s a fun project I plan on administering this year.
To learn more about the DGS-200 and other Moultrie game cameras please click here.