Best Moon Phase to Hunt Deer: Do Moon Phases Affect Whitetail Movement?
Are you gearing up to go out in the woods this hunting season? If you're planning your schedule and wondering when is the best time to find deer, you've come to the right place.
There are a lot of factors that go into influencing a deer to walk by you. Bait piles, trail cams, and deer sign in the woods can all help you figure out the best place and time to sit and wait for the big game to appear.
One specific factor that hunters can't seem to agree on is moon phase. Is there a best moon phase to hunt deer?
Here is everything you need to know about moon phase and how it affects deer movement patterns.
What Are Deer Movement Patterns?
Whitetail deer are shy creatures, which is why hunters love to pursue them. Their elegance and grace are topped only by how elusive they are. Part of this is their camouflage, with only a white tail to give you a clue that they're present in the woods around you.
Range of Movement
The other part of their camouflage is that they don't move very far from home. When you're hunting whitetail deer, you need to learn their movement patterns.
Most deer stay within a specific range. Bucks in the rut travel outside that natural range because they're looking for a mate.
Weather doesn't affect the deer movement patterns as much as you would think. Rain doesn't bother them, although they do move more when a cold front comes. That's because they're searching for more food to help them keep warm in the severe weather.
The biggest weather concern you need to worry about is the wind. Whitetail deer have excellent noses, so they'll smell you if the wind is blowing their way.
The main reason deer move at all is to find food, moving only twice a day. The rest of the time they're bedding down and digesting their food. Dawn and dusk are typical feeding times, which is why hunters favor those times to be out in the woods looking for their next buck.
Understanding Moon Phases
How good is your understanding of the phases of the moon? You probably know that as the moon grows bigger, it's called "waxing" and as it grows smaller, it's called "waning." You also know that moon phases affect things like tides in the ocean, and you've heard the rumors about it affecting human behavior (that's not true, by the way).
To understand how the moon phases affect whitetail deer, you need to know a little more about them.
Not all full moons are created equal. The moon affects ocean tides, but some tides are very low (neap tides) and some are extremely high (spring tides). In the same way, full or new moons won't always affect deer the same way, and there will be variations to account for no matter which study you're looking at.
Dr. Mickey Hellickson is a wildlife researcher whose significant body of research throughout his career has influenced much of what we know about deer movement patterns. He spent two years studying over 400,000 deer movement observations at King Ranch in Texas. His conclusions were that during the day, bucks don't seem to move differently whether there's a full moon or not.
Yet Hellickson only studied bucks, and he only studied them during the day, specifically between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., although the moon shines at night.
Researchers Beier and McCullough in the 80s studied temperature and other weather conditions, along with moonlight, and their correlation to deer movement patterns. They also concluded that moonlight didn't have any significant effect on how the deer moved. Note that they didn't specifically study moon phase, just moonlight, although there's naturally more light when the moon is full.
In the 90s, Solving the Mysteries of Deer Movement was published, an important work by Kroll and Koerth. They observed deer activity during four main moon phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter.
They stated that there wasn't a significant difference in deer movement between the four phases, yet their definition of significant must be loose. The data showed that the deer moved about 33% during new moon and last quarter, while it drops to 26% during first quarter and 19% during full moon.
Remember that most of these studies were conducted with Southern whitetail populations, not Northern whitetail populations. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the two populations behave differently.
When Is the Best Moon Phase to Hunt Deer?
So the question remains: what is the best moon phase to hunt deer? If there is any correlation between moon phases and deer movement, then it seems new moon phases are when deer are most active during the day.
While science is still waffling about the reasons why, if you're looking for your next big buck, try hunting when there's a new moon.
Tools for Your Best Hunt
Solunar tables and solunar calendars are tools that predict moon phases and times of sunrise and sunset. Fishermen and hunters use these to decide when the best times to hunt or fish are. Yet other things affect the deer movement besides moon phases.
The spot you choose has a big impact on the deer you'll see. Minimize the movement and sounds you make. Don't wear any scented products while you're hunting, from shampoo to deodorant and everything in between.
Bow hunters need more camouflage than firearm hunters. You have to be a lot closer to the deer if you're using a bow, so there's more of a chance they'll see you. For more hunting tips, check out our other post to help you make the most of this hunting season.
Whether you believe that moon phases impact deer movement or not, the benefits of hunting are incredible. Keep spending time outdoors looking for wildlife, and you'll get your buck eventually.
Making the Most of the Season
Whether you're a veteran hunter or a newbie, you want to take advantage of all the tips to make sure you have the best chances at taking home some venison. Looking at the best moon phase to hunt deer, along with other factors, will help you make the most of the season and increase your luck out in the woods.
For more tools to help you bag a buck this season, check out the gear at BeyondHunt.