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Columns - Monthly : Jeff Murray
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 - 1:11:39 PM
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Hunting by the Moon
By Jeff Murray
Sep 10, 2008 - 6:08:41 AM

    In 1994, I discovered a new way to bowhunt deer and big game - by the position (not phase) of the moon. Back then, virtually nobody had considered this lunar connection in the hunting world. Ironically, savvy anglers had been tracking the moon for centuries to know the best times to fish. Fast-forward to 2008. We now know when the best time is to go bowhunting as well as where to hunt at those times. This column will keep you informed, on a monthly basis, on what you need to know, including some timely tips for improving your bowhunting odds.

    Since I began publishing my findings 15 years ago, the hunting community has been transformed from skepticism to fanaticism. It took awhile to convince opinionated hunters to quit hunting religiously at first and late light. But gradually, tens of thousands of hunters converted to a system that tells us when to go hunting - regardless of the time of day. Some familiar names who do this for a living include:

Steve Shoop (Iowa, Missouri)  (; 641-724-9150);
Carter's Hunting Lodge (Pike County, Illinois) ( 217-723-4522);
Alberta mule deer expert Darryl Giesbrecht (; 403-528-4260);
Illinois outfitter Joe Gizdic (www.talltinesoutfitters. net; 217-299-0332); and Iowa outfitter Paul Ranft (; 269-683-1240).

Adam Hays with one of three 200-inch bucks captured on film. Hays not only hunts by the moon, but he scouts by it, too.

Some TV celebrities who also hunt by the moon include: the Scent-Lok crew (; 800-315-5799); the Drury brothers; Adam Hays (Lone Wolf's Whitetail Addictions); and Nate Fenderson and Chris Cobbett (Northwoods Adventures). Then there's Myles Keller and Mike Weaver, a pair of bowhunters accounting for 100 Pope and Young bucks in the record books.

Point being, when you're hunting by the moon, you're hunting in good company.

Most telemetry studies on whitetails involve does. Hunters are mainly interested in big bucks. That's why a project involving 25 radio-collared trophy bucks, monitored from 1985 through 1987 in South Texas, is so compelling. It was headed up by Texas Tech University biologist Steve Demarais and noted whitetail management consultant Bob Zaiglin. They concluded that big-buck activity "paralleled the typical [low light] pattern of dawn and dusk when there was a 1/4 to 3/4 moon." They also observed the moonless (new moon) and bright (full moon) phases seemed to "break this pattern down." When you convert these phases into moon position, you're left with the inescapable conclusion that deer most active, regardless of the time of day, when the moon is overhead, and again 12 1/2 hours later, when the moon is underfoot.  

    After all is said and done, there are only three places you can kill a buck: 1) Where he beds; 2) where he feeds; 3) and where he travels between the two. Suppose the moon is overhead around sunset. This is the only time to hunt feeding deer (or those in staging areas) because an overhead moon encourages deer to feed just prior, during, and just after sunset. Now suppose the moon peaks directly overhead at sunrise. Now's the best time to intercept a buck along a travel corridor as he heads for daytime cover from nighttime feeding and bedding areas. And when the moon peaks during midday hours, a lunar period covering about 2/3 of the 29.5-day lunar month, you must hunt near security cover during midday hours.

    With the exception of a few states - Colorado, Idaho, Oregon - the bow season is still just around the corner. But the moon can still be a powerful partner in patterning deer for your state's coveted Bow Opener. Here's what to do: Get out and spotlight deer (check local regulations) during on these dates: August 8, 9 and 10; and again August 24, 25 and 26. I've been doing this for nearly two decades, but don't take my word for it. Adam Hays, who hopes to arrow his fourth 200-inch buck on video this fall, shared this insight about the year he was after his second 200-incher:

    "I spent more than 50 evenings in July and August trying to film that buck, and of all those evenings sweating and swatting bugs, he only showed up 3 times with enough camera light. All 3 nights were the best nights to see deer, according to the Deer Hunters' Moon Guide. Imagine that. I even predicted this to my friends, and they still couldn't believe it when it worked! So not only do I plan all my hunts around the Moon Guide, I plan also all of my major scouting trips before the season this way."

    In other words, it's always good to hunt hard, but it's better to hunt hard and smart.
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Editor's note: You can reach Jeff Murray at his two websites, and


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