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How I Hunt by the Moon.
By Jeff Murray
Jun 30, 2007 - 12:05:59 AM
 

Author with trophy whitetail.

It's no secret that the moon and the weather are the two most significant variables affecting any hunting trip.  While we can't predict the weather, we can predict what the moon's doing on any given date.  Its repeatable orbit is good news for hard-core bowhunters, because it gives us another weapon in our quiver of tricks to help stack the odds.

My personal journey into this captivating subject began in 1992 when the editors of Outdoor Life commissioned me to "solve once and for all" the lunar mystery.  They wanted something fresh but also something scientifically sound.  Up to that point, I knew what everybody else knew - empirical data failed to show any correlation between the four phases of the moon and accelerated whitetail movements.  For example, Deer & Deer Hunting magazine drew a blank when it conducted a 1981 survey in which 7,148 deer were sighted during 13,517 hunter-hours on stand.

Ironically, it was the moon's phases that taught me the value of knowing another variable, the moon's location in the sky.  Interviews with renowned outfitters such as Steve Shoop with J & S Trophy Hunts and researchers such as Bob Zaiglin revealed a key moon phase-moon position correlation that led to a new system of "hunting by the moon."  Shoop is the nation's first-ever whitetail outfitter and annually guides more than 100 hunters.  Years ago, he told me that quarter-moons produce the most dawn and dusk sightings for his hunters and that full moons produce the best midday action.

Here's the science behind Shoop's real-world results: First and third quarter moons are directly overhead at sunset and sunrise, respectively; moreover, first and third quarter moons are directly underfoot at sunrise and sunset, respectively.  In other words, when his hunters hunt hardest - mornings and evenings - the moon is peaking in the sky during these key lunar phases.
The next major clue involved 25 radio-collared trophy bucks monitored from 1985 through 1987 in South Texas.  The study was headed up by Texas Tech University biologist Steve Demarais and whitetail management consultant Bob Zaiglin.  "Big-buck activity most closely paralleled the typical [low light] pattern of dawn and dusk when there was a 1/4 to 3/4 moon," Zaiglin said.
" Interestingly, the moonless (new moon) and bright (full moon) phases seemed to "break this pattern down," according to Zaiglin.  Just as Shoop observed, the position of quarter-moons (overhead or underfoot) encouraged the study deer to be most active in the morning and again in the evening.  
If you plan a hunt, what phase would you choose?  More important, wouldn't it be nice to know the best times to hunt every day of the hunting season?  You can with a good lunar chart such as the Deer Hunters' Moon Guide (www.moonguide.com).  But knowing when is just the beginning.  The moon can also tell you where to hunt.

MOON POSITION REVEALS HUNTING LOCATION:

The moon can help make the complicated task of deciding where to hunt fairly simple.  After all is said and done, there really are only three places you can kill a buck:
1) where he beds,
2) where he feeds, and
3) where he travels between the two. 

Few hunters excel at the sport like Myles Keller, another fan of following the moon.

Thanks to the moon, some days the best strategy is setting up near a preferred food source; other days you're better off along travel corridors within the transition zone; still other days call for setting up close (but not too close) to bedding areas.  The determining factor, of course, is when the moon peaks overhead or underfoot.

Suppose the moon is overhead around sunset.  This lunar period is my favorite bow strategy for hunting near field edges and woods openings.  Now it's possible to hunt feeding deer (or those dawdling near a staging area) because an overhead moon encourages deer to feed before, during, and after sunset.  Simply put, hunters will see more "field deer" now than during any other segment of the 29.5-day lunar month.  Unfortunately, this is a short-lived period that lasts but a handful of days.   

Now suppose the moon peaks in the sky directly overhead at sunrise.  Now's the best time to intercept a buck along a travel corridor as he heads for daytime cover; after spending the night in open, low lying areas, he now instinctively seeks dense cover at higher elevations.  This "morning moon" period comprises approximately 1/3 of the lunar month and, though it can be decent for evenings, is tailor-made for morning hunts. 

When the moon peaks during midday hours, on the other hand, odds are stacked against you.  Though this is the most common lunar period, accounting for nearly 2/3 of the lunar month, it's the most challenging.  Problem is, deer are usually bedded down for the day by the time it's light enough to hunt!  This forces hunters to set up near security cover in hopes of catching bucks "stretching" during midday hours.

Paul Ranft follows the moon.

When "hunting by the moon," take good notes and compare your experiences to the predictions of the Moon Guide.  All I can say is, ever since I first implemented this unique hunting system back in 1994, I've averaged at least one Pope and Young-class buck every year.  Now if I could just figure out a way to predict the weather ...

IT'S ALL ABOUT RHYTHMS OF LIFE:

It's a proven fact that all living creatures exhibit alternating periods of rest and activity.  These patterns are largely linked to the sun and the moon.  Without these biological rhythms, survival of most species is threatened.  Here's an example.  I never sleep well under a full moon; I toss and turn like a door on its hinges.  Why?  Melatonin, the hormone my body produces when the sun sets, induces drowsiness to help me fall asleep, come sundown.  But because I'm a light sleeper, the extra light of the full moon tends to trick my body into thinking it's not quite late enough to fall asleep.  And the older I get, the more frequent restless full moon nights become.   

The day-active, night-rest cycle of humans is known as a circadian rhythm.  It's the opposite of nocturnal animals such as snakes and owls.  Interestingly, deer are neither circadian nor nocturnal; they can handle daylight and dark, but seem to prefer the low-light period of twilight.  More than a decade of experiences has convinced me that the moon's position in the sky, combined with the light it reflects off the sun, explain why deer are "lunar feeders."  Put another way, deer are a lot like fish in that deer are predictably active during key lunar periods. 

Bottom line: You want to time all hunts when the moon is "right" - when it's overhead and 12 1/2 hours later when it's underfoot.

JOIN SOME GOOD COMPANY:

Adam Hays hunts smart and the results speak for themselves.

A lot of respected and successful outfitters use the Moon Guide to put their clients on big deer.  Steve Shoop (Iowa, Missouri) sure does (www.jstrophyhunts.com; 641-724-9150).  The guys at Carter's Hunting Lodge in Pike County, Illinoi) get a Moon Guide every year (www.carteroutdoors.com 217-723-4522).  So does Alberta mule deer expert Darryl Giesbrecht (www.greatplains-outfitters.com; 403-528-4260.  Then there's Illinois guide Joe Gizdic (www.talltinesoutfitters.net; 217-299-0332) and Iowa outfitter Paul Ranft (www.timberridgeoutfitters.com; 269-683-1240).

What about TV celebrities?  Add the following to the list: Scent-Lok's crew; the Drury brothers; Adam Hays (Lone Wolf's Whitetail Addictions); Nate Fenderson and Chris Cobbett (Northwoods Adventures).  Last but not least, add two guys who've arrowed nearly 50 Pope and Young whitetails apiece -- Myles Keller and Mike Weaver.  So when you hunt with the Man in the Moon looking over your shoulder, you're in some good company. 

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