Does the moon trigger the whitetail rut?

It’s an age-old, chicken-and-egg question with an answer that seems important because it’s generally accepted by old-time hunters. But likely it’s meaningless.

The question is: “Do moon phases in October affect whitetail bucks’ rutting activity?”

John Mercer of Goldsboro and Danbury’s Joshua Bohannon, who both dropped trophy bucks last November, believe moon phases trigger increased mating activity.

“Most of the time when I’m rut hunting, I watch the moon,” Bohannon said. “The time when the moon changes from a new moon to a half moon is good. The best time is right in the middle of a (waxing) half moon.”

Bohannon repeated information passed down from fathers to sons.

“The old men around here said the rut gets hot when the moon phase changes,” he said. “I’ve watched does get a little more nervous, a little twitchy.”

Many hunters believe that changes in moon phases affect deer movements, but a QDMA study said the timing of the rut is not affected by the moon.

Mercer said he has tracked buck movements via trail cameras and matched photos to moon phases.

“It seems like deer travel the same times on the same moon phases,” he said.

However, the most likely explanation is big bucks get killed during the rut and simultaneous half- to full-moon phases are incidental

Deer biologists know shortening daylight hours change hormone levels in male deer and trigger the rut. A Quality Deer Management Association study showed no correlation between moon phases and the deer rut. In fact, QDMA showed the rut occurred the first two weeks of November, then the first week of December (the secondary rut) — for nine consecutive years.

Sometimes a full moon and those dates overlap — which may cause hunters to think the moon causes the rut — but more often they don’t.

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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