Thus far into the archery season, I’m hearing lots of great success stories, but I’m hearing more often that the heat and poor moon phase are making the hunting times more difficult. Trust me when I tell you that my hunting has suffered from both. With the new moon restricting illumination during the night and the moderate heat of the day, deer are highly incentivized to do the majority of their feeding and traveling right in the middle of the day while most of them are out of the stands or at work.
As far as the daytime temperature goes, I believe it has far less of an impact on the feeding patterns as do the phases of the moon. Patience and time will bring about some cooler weather, but the moon will continue its cycle regardless, so let’s focus on that. Here are three critical moon phase deer hunting tips that you can use not only for whitetail but to improve your swine success as well.
The quarter moon rising in the early evening offers a heavy feed just before dark. Deer are rhythmic pattern feeders and forage at varying levels of intensity up to five times per day, regardless of sun or moonlight. But one of those feeding sessions always seems to be the primary or most active when deer feed heavily and can be highly social while their bellies become full. This means that although an evening rising moon can place a low priority on the daybreak feeding time, the intensity of the late evening is your best chance to connect.
Conversely, a quarter moon rising in the middle of the night will put it high in the sky at daybreak, bringing the intensity of the primary feeding period to the early morning hours. Quarter moons, five days before and five days after the full moon, are always best for morning and evening hunts.
Third best on the list of primary feeds? The new moon is when the moon is straight up overhead at noon. Primary feeding will take place through the lunch hour while most hunters are already out of their stands. So watch the moon patterns and remember a rule of thumb my Shawnee ancestors used to go by: If the moon is straight up in the sky, go hunting!
Now, I’ve heard throughout most of my life that the rut amongst the whitetail herd is triggered by the full moon each fall. It turns out that the phase of the moon has very little to do with the timing of the rut. In actuality, the amount of sunlight as the days get shorter is what causes it. And when the rut is on, bucks pay no attention to feeding times, much less feeding, but they do retain their normal patterns, so pay close attention to the off-feed times when the bucks are up searching and the does are bedded down. Downwind sides of bedding areas are where you can find horny rascals sneaking about.
Weather can compete with the moon phase to trigger the feeding times, however. I hunt whitetails, study whitetails, and teach whitetail strategies for my full-time career, and although I always acknowledge that the moon has a major influence over deer behavior, those influences are not always enough when it comes to hunting inclement weather.
A cold front sweeps through every so often throughout the season, and it can be a highly defined indicator of when a mature buck will be on his feet. If the weather is noisy, windy, and warm, deer hunting will most likely be extremely poor. If the conditions that follow are cold, calm and quiet, the deer hunting opportunity will be extremely high. It is that simple, and that is a good thing!
While you can’t plan the best days to deer hunt months in advance according to the weather, you can at least watch the moon and know exactly which days will be the best to climb your treestand. That will lead you to success a whole lot more often than not. And if that moon phase prediction just happens to fall on a great weather day during the rut, you’ll need to call Simms Taxidermy in Brooksville shortly after climbing down from your tree!
I’ve been out for several hunts now and have a pair of trophy boar hogs added to my freezer. But this coming week, the third consecutive Supermoon phase of 2023, is calling for heavy evening feeds. I’ll be out beneath the oaks waiting to intercept one, and I hope you will be, too!
As always, if you have any questions or comments on this week’s column, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God Bless, and good hunting!