Is deer hunting better under a new moon than a full moon phase? Should you change your hunting patterns due to lunar phases? Perhaps sleep in and spend late morning and noon on stand? These are common deer hunting questions that have been debated over campfires for decades, maybe centuries. Until now, conducting scientific research on deer movements has been difficult, yet GPS tracking and motion sensor cameras have changed the ability to monitor deer movements.
During a full moon when lunar rays light up woods and fields like a weak LED light, animals can see much better and it makes sense that they will feed at night. On the other hand, animals develop feeding and traveling patterns much like cattle and other livestock. Wouldn’t it make sense that they would follow the same movement pattern regardless of moon phase? Both arguments make sense, but what does science say?
Here’s the Science
Conventional wisdom has long held that deer are more active on moonlit nights, and most active under a full moon. The day after, the conjecture followed, deer move around less in the daylight.
Some hunters staked their outdoors reputations in support of the theory, as well as their ability to fill a freezer full of venison. Companies that publish solar-lunar tables for the use of hunters bet their businesses on it. One week before the moon made eclipsical news, the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences published research suggesting that the moon and its phases have little to no impact on deer mobility by night or day.
“People have been trying to address this issue for 40 years or more,” said Duane Diefenbach, adjunct professor of wildlife ecology and leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State. “There have been equivocal results in the past with some reports saying [moon phase] makes a difference and some saying it doesn’t.”