Ok, let’s beat this subject up just a little more. What phase of moon do you like, or hate, to hunt in? Full, crescent, half, waning, waxing? Most hunters have a pretty strong opinion on this. Some of this comes from hunting experience, some comes from sun/moon tables, some comes from observation of breeding animals, etc. Whatever your opinion is, chances are it’s pretty strong, maybe to the point where you won’t hunt, or have to hunt, regardless of other conditions.
I’m going to buck tradition here (seems like my life’s mission), and suggest that it doesn’t matter what the phase the moon is in! Alright, that’s an over simplification. All things being equal, it matters some. I just don’t let it effect my attitude, efforts or scheduling very much. I believe that there are several more important factors that figure into game’s movement that I would weigh heavier than the moon phase.
The theory behind the full moon is that the animals can see better on those nights, so they spend them eating and playing the dark away. This leads to them being less likely to come out early in the evening or staying out later in the morning. My biggest thought on that idea comes from two experiences. The first was riding a horse coming in from an elk hunt. It was so dark, I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. The horse walked briskly down the pitch-black trail with his 230 pound load like it was broad daylight. The next was walking out of a canyon in the pitch dark after an evening of pig hunting. Pigs are supposed to have bad eyesight, as far as game animals go, but here I was, bumping hogs that were out feeding when they weren’t supposed to be. Didn’t they know they couldn’t see a thing? I think what is dark for you and me, is not the same for them. I believe they can get around just as easy on new moon nights as they can on full moon nights.
One factor that does seem to come into play is pressure. This can come from humans or other predators hunting in the area. Pressure can cause animals to decrease their movement, move later at night, or even leave the area. Often times I’ve stalked into my grain fields, bowhunting for pigs, only to find fresh coyote, bear or lion tracks on my travel route. My fields are bare and I can only imagine a big sow with her babies catching a glimpse or whiff of one of my competitors, letting out a big “whoshh” and a growl, sending every pig within 300 yards headed for cover. It also goes without saying that calling in another elk hunter as he works the same canyon as you does not improve your odds, but another kind of human pressure can be equally disruptive. Vacationers! Labor Day in one of my favorite elk spots in New Mexico, which is a large campground, seems to attract every camper from El Paso and Albuquerque. Hikers, bikers, horse riders, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts from every walk of life descend upon this spot. People roam the mountains for miles, and good for them, but it just makes it harder to get away from human activity. Would I rather hunt when the moon is a sliver, early in warm September, or wait and hunt the last week of that two week season, spending my time when it’s cooler, quieter, and closer to the rut? I’de choose the latter.
Let’s talk about the rut. We can debate the best time to hunt elk, but I bet most of us want to be in the field on those magical days when the bulls are screaming their heads off. I think the weather and length of daylight plays more of a role in that than the moon does. As we move toward the middle of September, those cows start coming into heat, moon or no moon. A cold day that keeps those bulls feeling frisky can increase their daytime activity. A couple of years ago I killed two nice bulls on public land on DIY hunts. I shot one at 11:30 in the morning, and the other at 5:30 pm.. Pretty late in the morning and pretty early in the evening respectively. I shot them two weeks apart, one in a small sliver of a moon, one in a full moon. What they did have in common, however, was cool weather and little pressure.
Another factor is how long you can commit to a hunt. If I could only choose one or the other, I would rather have a week or more to hunt with a large moon, than have to hope for success in 2 or 3 dark nights on a long weekend. Dedicating more time to being in the field will lead to a higher probability of a successful hunt.
I know some, or maybe a lot of, people will disagree, but the same goes with white tail deer. I’d rather hunt on a cold 10th of November with a full moon than a dark night on a warm November 1st. There seems to be a whole science behind the whitetail rut and the moon phase, but I feel better being in a tree from the 7th to the 13th, regardless of the moon.
Just last week I shot a nice pig in the morning after a bright night. I saw a lot of hogs early in the evening before, and it was a great hunt. Ten days before, with a small crescent moon, I saw no animals in the same area. What changed? A bit cooler days, less available feed so they had to work harder to eat, and more animals honing in on what food sources there was. The moon was no factor, or at least not one that mattered much.
Don’t freak out when you’re planning your next elk hunt and the full moon is on the 15th and that’s the only time you can go. Have a great attitude, work hard, and enjoy that frosty night under the big ol’ moon as you haul your bull out!
Watch one of our pig hunts from last year to see us harvest an awesome looking boar. Click Here- Harvest: Summer Hog Hunt