The Moon's affects on hunting
By T R Michels

The Moon; Lunar Factors and Deer Activity

There have been a number of studies and articles recently by researchers and outdoor writers who are trying to determine whether or not there is a correlation between lunar conditions and deer activity. The articles have stirred the interest of whitetail hunters who would like to be able to predict when deer will be seen during the hunting season. Interest in lunar conditions is not new however, because hunters and fisherman have been using the moon to predict game activity for years. This interest in lunar activity and game movement has led to a variety of Sun and moon related animal activity predictors/tables for hunters and fisherman, and there are more on the way.

Lunar Confusion

The problem with the research, theories, predictors and tables is that there are so many of them; and there are so many lunar factors that may or may not influence deer activity. To compound the problem different researchers use different lunar factors, and combinations of factors, while doing their research and making their predictions, which causes mass confusion among hunters. For example: several popular game predictor tables predict the times of day fish and game are expected to be active or feed. At least one outdoor writer claims to have found a correlation between daytime deer activity during specific times of the day and the position of the moon. One researcher claims to have found a correlation between nighttime deer activity and moon phase. Another researcher claims to have found a correlation between monthly daytime deer activity and a combination of lunar factors; which may or may not include the position, amount of light, declination, distance and gravitational pull of the moon. Some of these researchers and writers are currently trying to correlate estrus cycles of white-tailed deer and peak rut activity with moon phase.

Daytime activity, nighttime activity, monthly activity, estrus cycles, peak of the rut, moon phase, moon position, declination, distance, gravity. No wonder it's confusing, and most of it is theory. Even the researchers admit that although they may find correlation's between lunar conditions and deer activity, they are not sure what the causes are. 

Does The Moon Affect Daily Deer Activity?

Several popular game charts claim to be able to predict DAILY deer activity (not monthly activity, which I'll talk about later) based on the position of the moon in relation to a given spot on earth. We know that the gravitational pull of the moon is strongest when the moon is directly overhead and underfoot, with the greatest gravitational pull often occurring when the moon is directly overhead. This is evidenced by the daily tides, with the highest tide usually occurring when the moon is overhead. Because the earth revolves as it moves around the sun, the moon will be directly overhead or underfoot at different times each day. The game charts take this into account, and predict that deer will be most active/feed when the moon is either directly overhead or underfoot of the animals current position because of this gravitational pull, with predicted major times often coinciding with the overhead position of the moon and minor times coinciding with the underfoot position of the moon.

Game Predictors

The Solunar Table, Vektor Fish and Game Activity Tables, and Feeding Times and Moon Guide all rely on the position of the moon, and claim to be able to predict game movement from a half hour before and after to two hours before and after the predicted times. One of them predicts poor, fair good and best days of the month. I placed all these predictor/tables on a graph and found that, because they all rely on lunar orbit, they paralleled each other within hours. However, I noticed that many of the times that they predicted were during the hours of dawn and dusk. One of the reasons hunters report seeing deer during the times predicted is because the tables predict up to four hours each day as the best times to hunt; and they often predict morning and evening times. In November, when there are only about ten hours of daylight, the chances of seeing deer are obviously fairly high during the predicted times. Because deer are most active in the morning and evening during the fall, and these are the times when most hunters see deer, I decided to check the accuracy of the tables during the predicted midday hours.

Do Game Predictors Work?

In my own efforts to correlate deer movement with weather and moon factors I kept precise daily records from October 1, 1994 through January 8, 1995. To check the accuracy of these tables I chose the month of November, which coincides with the gun season and the rut in many areas. Then I compared the tables with the deer sightings of myself, and four other hunters. Upon checking the results I found very little correlation between the predictors and deer movement other than during the normal movement times of dawn and dusk. Between 10 AM and 3 PM there was very little deer movement at the times predicted by these tables. On several occasions I watched deer lay down and get up, but could not correlate their movement with any of the tables.

All the tables predicted game activity during normal morning and evening movement times on five days in November, and above normal deer activity did occur on two of those days. But, the tables were accurate only 17 percent of the time, and only when they predicted activity during normal deer movement times, in the morning and evening, when hunters see most deer anyhow. There were also four days when above normal activity occurred when it was not predicted by the tables. Overall the tables did a poor job of accurately predicting HOURLY deer movement, outside of the normal daily deer movement hours of dawn and dusk.

The problem with the tables, even when they are correct, and if they work, is that they don't agree on which days or times are best to hunt. So, which table should you use? Is one better than the others? What if the select days don't coincide with the hunting season, or coincide with the days you have available to hunt? What if the select times don't coincide with the hours you can hunt? Then the tables do you no good. By the way, if you choose to use all the tables available you end up hunting almost the whole day for the entire month.

The Deer Activity Index and The Moon Guide

Because I did not know about the Deer Activity Index or the Moon Guide until 1995 I did not check their accuracy that year. But, when I received their 1994 predictions I decided to check their accuracy against my 1994 data. To my surprise I found both the DAI and Moon Guide to be quite accurate. But, there are obvious reasons for their accuracy.

Jeff Murray's Moon Guide predicts not only the time of day, but predicts where to expect deer at that time. Deer activity during the day is fairly predictable. At dawn and dusk deer can usually be found near food sources. During early evening hours deer usually move through travel corridors (what Murray calls "transition areas") on the way to their nighttime feeding sources. During late morning hours deer usually move through those "transition areas" on the way to their daytime bedding areas. At midday deer are generally found in bedding areas. Murray's Moon Guide suggests hunting these areas at those times, which makes it quite accurate. I did find deer in the suggested areas at the times predicted on a regular basis. BUT, that's where I would expect the deer to be at those times of the day anyhow. In other words: you don't need the Moon Guide to tell you when and where to hunt.

Meteorological Conditions, The Rut, Food Availability and Hunting Pressure

The reason why these tables are not more accurate is because they do not take into account the other factors that affect daily deer movement: specifically daily meteorological conditions, food availability, the rut, predatory behavior, distance to and from limited/preferred food sources, and hunting pressure. Some weather conditions cause a decrease in daytime deer movement, while other weather conditions cause an increase in daytime deer movement. Abundant food sources often decrease daytime deer movement, while limited food sources often increase daytime deer movement. The rut inevitably increases daytime deer movement. Predatory behavior and hunting pressure reduces daytime deer movement.

When you use lunar predictors without taking into account the other factors, which may cause an increase in daytime deer activity, you will inevitably miss some excellent hunting opportunities when above normal daytime deer activity occurs. If you don't take into account the other factors that decrease, and in some cases completely override lunar influence on daytime deer movement, you may hunt several days without seeing a deer. The purpose of a deer movement chart should be to help hunters reliably predict the days when deer will be most active, so they can hunt on those days, and then decide whether or not to hunt the days when deer are not active. And there is a way to do that.

Daily Deer Movement Indicator

As a result of my four-year study on deer movement, I devised the Daily Deer Movement Indicator (DDMI) which predicts above normal deer movement based on the time of day, the current weather conditions, moon conditions, the rut and the available food sources. During the same 1994 deer study as mentioned above, the DDMI predicted daytime deer movement on thirty-five of sixty days. There was above normal deer movement on thirty of the thirty-five days predicted, for an accuracy rate of 86 percent. But, there were two days when above normal deer movement occurred when it was not predicted.

The DDMI can also be used in conjunction with other predictors. By using the DDMI in combination with the DAI, or with my own Moon Indicator, their accuracy rate could be increased to 95 percent, almost double their individual accuracy rate. But, there were still those two days when above normal deer movement occurred when it was not predicted. This only goes to show that there will be times when none of the tables will be accurate in predicting daytime deer activity.





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