Contributors to this thread:
Your experience with elk and moon phase
Just curious what your experience is with moon phase and how it may have affected your hunt. Also, in the case of a full moon, have you found that clouds or overcast skies changes anything vs. clear skies.
Ha, just came back from an elk hunt during the full moon this past week. Warm, dry and windy did not help im sure. Cant say for sure, but I did not see or hear an elk. You could read a book at night, it was weird.
Moon phase impacts elk behavior a little. However, there are at least half a dozen things that impact it more that you should account for when hunting them.
I shadowed a bull for 3 days on the same bench this Season, he would give his initial bugle about 10 to 15 minutes later each day from the same location, as the days wound down to no moon.
Not sure what that means?
Last year on our hunt the moon definitely impacted us negatively. Asked Cheesehead Mike about it and he felt the same way.
Old School- I'm not trying to be smart A here-- how do you know the moon "definitely impacted us negatively"? Isn't it the case that while the moon was getting bigger, hunting pressure, weather, barometic pressure, the stage of rut, and a dozen other things were changing too? You're probably a lot smarter than me, but I'm rarely able to differentiate the sources of my struggles enough to say what was "definitely" the cause, particularly when it comes to elk hunting.
...and for the record, I do believe the moon has an impact on things. I also believe it's impact is largely overstated and REALLY hard to pinpoint it as a source of ones struggles.
Scoot are you saying the full moon does not affect daytime activity negatively? Its not the ONLY factor, but a big factor imo. I have certainly proved it to myself in the last 40 years of deer hunting, I cant see why it would not be the same for elk.
My experience pretty much mirrors Scoot’s observations. The main difference I’ve noticed is elk tend to start moving off to their bedding areas, and the bulls tend to shut down their bugling activity, earlier during full moon periods. That’s understandable since they tend to be more active during the night. Some of my best hunting, as well as lots of bugling bulls, has come during a full moon. For me, moon phase ranks way down on the list of factors that can negatively effect an elk hunt. As far as whether or not cloud cover effects anything, I’ve noticed clear skies help, especially early in the season. Nothing scientific to back it up, but cloud cover keeps temps from dipping as low versus a clear sky, and in my experience, warmer temps can definitely negatively effect elk activity.
If Mike reads this I’ll let him chime in with his expert opinion. My take was that our daytime activity was not very good. Mike has hunted in that area multiple years and this was the worse year by far according to him. Hunting pressure was very low, so it wasn’t that either. Not much bugling and they weren’t aggressively coming in to the calls. Mike also hunted the entire month of Sept in the area, so he was there from early season bachelor groups to the time when they had their harems. I’d never paid much attention to moon phase before that year either but that did seem to be the reason for the reduced elk activity.
No Knifeman, I'm not saying it doesn't impact daytime activity. But I am saying that it's a pretty small impact, compared to a ton of other things (like temp, as wyobullshooter mentioned). I believe it's a factor, just a reasonably small one. Hunting pressure, temperature, phase of the rut, etc are way bigger deals to me. If you think I'm totally wrong or full of crap, I'm perfectly comfortable with that! :)
My experience, it’s down the list behind hunting pressure, weather and heard dynamics. You might sell me on position in relation to prime times over moon phase. I’m sure it has an influence, just not consistently. Killed two best bulls during full moon, and quite a few others. Take this year, hunting the first week during full moon. They were heading to bed early and up near 5 in afternoon. We had very little bugling and high hunting pressure. But buddy in 61 had bugling and action till 10 and a few during day and again from 5ish on! Warm both areas, just more elk and less pressure in 61. Hunted week following muzzy, still not much bugling and a lot of pressure. Elk active first 3 1/2 hours and last 3 hours. Hunted last 3 days during full moon, better bugling, less pressure shot 2nd biggest bull on best bugling/activity hunt of season. Weather was hot again and lows were warmer in mornings. Movement was good first 4 hours and last four hours. Opposite of first weeks full moon. Farther along in rut was the bigger factor. The only difference I saw was they were heading to bed early the first week, but less into the rut. My biggest bull was shot on an amazing morning hunt first week of September during full moon but frosty. They were figuring the pecking order out really good that morning. And you’ll probably get reports all over the map with different results than mine, that’s why it’s down the list for me! I don’t factor moon phase into my vacation planning, pre-rut for me whether elk or whitetail comes first.
I'm in the camp that thinks moon phases are way over-rated with respect to elk hunting, or any big game hunting, despite what the Drury brothers will tell you.
Grey Ghost's Link
I prefer to hunt them on a big moon. I find really good hunting during the middle of the day during or close to the full moon.
"A more recent study was conducted by Dr. Mickey Hellickson at the King Ranch in South Texas. Hellickson used GPS collars on 43 bucks, and he collected over 42,000 data points by using activity monitors. After two years of work from October to January, he determined peak activity occurred between 7 a.m.–9 a.m., and 6 p.m.–7 p.m. And, even with this massive data set, it showed no difference in buck movement between a new (dark) or full moon. Hellickson concluded, “Although the moon may influence buck movements in other ways, our data did not indicate any patterns relative to the effects of moon phase on buck movements.”
While conducting his graduate work at North Carolina State, Dr. Marcus Lashley compared over 22,000 GPS locations to moon phase. Like Hellickson, Lashley concluded deer are primarily crepuscular, regardless of moon phase. He also compared solunar tables to his data set, and found they were only 25-percent accurate. Although not significant, he found midday movements tended to be greatest during the full moon. But remember, Lashley’s data set was only slightly varied from one phase to the next.
It is interesting the contrasting experiences and opinions people have. Seems to be difficult to truly isolate variables and draw conclusions that can be spread across all scenarios.
I remember hunting elk years ago in Idaho - nobody was seeing or hearing any elk and we were all covering lots of ground. Other hunters were blaming the heat, and elk haven’t come down in elevation yet, etc… I decided that I’d try something totally different since we weren’t finding them where we expected to. I went one morning mid morning to a lower elevation drainage that was mainly open - scattered sage. It was about 11AM and I had multiple bulls bugling back and forth and they were out in the open sage in mid 80 degree temps - the exact opposite of what every hunter around was saying. The old saying “elk are where you find them”. If what you are doing isn’t working - radically change it up.
Moon phase - who knows. Some swear by it and some give it no attention at all.
“It is interesting the contrasting experiences and opinions people have. Seems to be difficult to truly isolate variables and draw conclusions that can be spread across all scenarios.”
So true. So many variables that effect elk behavior day to day, week to week, year to year, drainage to drainage. About the only thing I can think of that you can count on 100% of the time…if they smell ya, you’re done.
The moon phase has never been a consideration of mine when hunting elk or deer. I agree with Old School. Some swear by it, some don't.
I arrowed my best bull on a full moon….so who knows.
I think moon can change a bit but not as much as some think. I hunted a perfect moon phase this year and it was warm and stable weather. Elk were quiet. Hunting was slow. I have had some of my best action on full moons when weather had a dip in temps or disturbances. Can’t plan around weather when traveling far for elk but am always hoping for some. I like certain time frame if rut and will hunt it no matter the moon
49 years of bowhunting elk, kept a journal for many of those seasons. IMO, moon phase is the least important variable.
So I had most of September off for hunting, for me, this last week was the most active for elk. The first week, I had some action, but the second and third week, which happened to be during the new moon phase, it was super quiet. It could've been due to the amount of pressure we had, but even in spots with little to no pressure, it was still quiet. Now, last week, it was the most action I've had, had multiple chances at different elk, but couldn't seal the deal. The elk were talking and actively chasing on the day of the full moon, so to me, it really doesn't matter to much, as the old saying goes, elk will be elk.
I think the phase of the cows matters more
How this translates to elk I’m not sure, depends on which side of the fence you reside. Hope it works.
"49 years of bowhunting elk, kept a journal for many of those seasons. IMO, moon phase is the least important variable."
On almost a daily basis, I'm blessed to be able to watch a large elk herd that winters nearby. They are incredibly habitual, if they aren't bothered. Moon phases don't change their patterns at all. Weather will cause them to change things up, but it has to be fairly extreme, like a heavy snow or high winds. About the only thing that really causes a change in their habits is when the ranchers get a late season 2nd cutting on their alfalfa. The elk will disappear until the ranchers are done, then they'll return and go about their business as usual.
If you haven’t bowhunter elk for at least 10 years then you can’t comment on this thread:)
Came into water last light on full moon, could he have shown up 10min earlier on a new moon? Who knows.
Have had good middle of the day action during full moon’s. This year we did not have good day action as the moon got bigger. Don’t adjust my hunt based on moon
Does the moon have an affect on animal behavior? I think so. But it is one item on a large list that has an affect on behavior.
This year, I bowhunted during the new moon period. 4th time in the area. Toughest elk hunting out of all trips in there.
Do I hunt the same in a drought year vs wet year ? Nope. I just hunt when I can.
I’ve had the best hunts of my life during a full/partially full moon. Not sure why. Seems to be more mid day action to me.
October 14th will be a new moon. The day before colorado's first rifle season. I hate walking in the morning using a flashligh. I would just as soon as a little moonlight and not have to use one. As far as whether it affects the elk or not, I have no idea. But I will post up my observations when we get baccount.
Scoot nailed it early.....hunter pressure is a huge factor...much more than moon phase
I have been out when the full moon was so bright that you didn't need a flashlight and I've been out when it was so dark that I couldn't see my hand when I held it right in front of my face. Didn't see a darn elk on either occasion so my experience is that the full moon made no difference.