How Much Does Moon Phase Really Affect Deer Hunting?
OutdoorHub Editor: Keenan Crow 08.25.20
Over this past weekend, I got sent down a little bit of a wormhole that struck my curiosity and had me scouring the internet for any kind of anecdote or expert opinion on the matter. And it got me wondering; how many hunters out there account for moon phases leading up to their fall hunts?
It was a pretty typical Saturday morning for me; drinking coffee and watching hunting videos while doing my ‘way too early’ planning for opening day of deer season. I was poring over satellite images of the land I’ll be hunting, reviewing trail cam photos, and shopping for any gear I might need to pick up before fall arrives. That’s when I got curious, (or a little overboard depending on how you look at it.)
See, after a search on trusty ole’ Google, I found October 1, 2020 brings the “Full Harvest Moon” and it got me wondering how this could affect our deer hunting for the weekend.
But after a little bit of research, I concluded the moon may actually have very minor influence over deer and their behavior. Instead, I learned it’s all about feeding opportunities, and weather conditions trump moon phase every time. Let’s walk through some of the relevant moon phase information (yes, there is some out there) you may want to take note of leading up to fall:
- First, a rising full moon in the evening could lead to late morning success. In other words; if deer are able to feed into the night by way of a bright full moon, the need to eat during their early morning time slot diminishes. So even though a rising full moon in the evening – like this October’s Full Harvest Moon – can make feeding at first light less of a priority, the late morning feeding window is often much more important. Account for this correctly and you will have early season success in the bag!
- Don’t look to the moon to determine the start of the annual whitetail rut. Studies have shown the whitetail rut in a given location kicks off at the same time every year, regardless of moon phase. So find out when the rut started in your area last year, then five years ago, 10 years ago, etc.. and go from there. Chances are you will find much more consistent results planning your hunts around these times rather than tailoring your hunts around moon phase.
- The third thing to keep in mind, is that weather plays perhaps the biggest role in determining deer movement. So much so, that a case can be made to simply ignore the moon altogether. Instead, pay attention to when cold fronts are moving through and try to hunt during those days, as they are strong indicators for when mature bucks will be up on their feet. If the weather calls for windy, warm conditions, the deer hunting will likely be slow. However, if the weather man starts talking about cold, calm and quiet conditions to follow, get in a tree because the deer action will start to heat up.
Check out this video from Midwest Whitetail on how to hunt early October cold fronts for tips on hunting around these crucial times:
So as fall approaches and you start planning your hunts, don’t let a full moon throw your plans off the rails. Pay closer attention to weather trends leading up to the day you want to hunt, and make your play based on those factors rather than moon phase prediction. This will lead to seeing deer more consistently, and more success overall!