Western Hunting Lessons

deer3Hunting out west can be a challenge. Terrain, thickness of vegetation and weather can all play a role in how a hunt plays out, but special circumstances call for special tactics. Adapting to your surroundings and conditions is important when it comes to finding success. 

What about the moon? During almost every year of my hunting career, I have heard conflicting opinions about whether to hunt with or without the moon. After decades, I have finally figured out my own opinion on how the moon affects hunting. It doesn’t, but let me explain.

Most people assume that deer must certainly be up feeding and traveling during a night with a large moon. In fact, it is not outside the norm to also assume that when the night is well lit, a deer surely will bed down right before first light and stay bedded all day due to being up all night.

Sometime in the 1990’s, the state of California did a study on the movement patterns of Blacktail deer. They set up trail cameras on migration trails and other known travel areas. They found that deer movement was not greater or more prevalent during large or full moon phases.

So to put it plainly, the best time to hunt the moon is anytime you can get time to hunt regardless of any moon phase. Forget the moon and forget all the hype and rumors about how terrible it is to hunt during a large moon. Coincidentally, the best Whitetail deer I ever killed was during a full moon and I shot him in the early evening.

Everyone knows that human scent is an automatic deer repellent, but is it? I say no. My great uncle who was one of the very first hunters to legally kill a buck in Pike Country, Illinois had many successful hunts occur because he violated the no scent rule.

He would often sneak into an area where he knew bucks were bedded and he would purposefully walk upwind so his scent would waft right into the deer’s faces. He told me that more times than not, a mature buck would simply stand up to verify (by sight) the stinky intruder. It often presented a short moment to make a shot, but he did make several of those shots over the years. For the really stubborn bucks who would not budge, he would light up a cigarette on those special occasions and that worked too.

Don’t always believe what you hear.