On The Ridge: Buck moon

Published: 7/21/2021 6:22:59 PM
Modified: 7/21/2021 6:23:05 PM

A recent read of the 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac enlightened me to the fact that the full moon in July is the “buck moon.” I might have already known this and simply forgotten, as I’ve never been one to know the name of the full moon during every month of the year, however, I do enjoy reading and hearing about it and, occasionally, answering that question when asked.

Why exactly does the Almanac say the July full moon is the buck moon? The Almanac states that in July, the antlers of a male deer (bucks) are in full-growth and can be spotted from a distance in the moonlight, which makes perfect sense to me. However, other names also describe the full moon in July perfectly, such as thunder moon, salmon moon, and raspberry moon. Every name is appropriate in their own right.

For me however, the full moon has different meanings than just its name in any given month. And when a name like the buck moon appears anywhere, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that my head is going straight into the direction of deer hunting, deer movement, and the full moon.

But before we jump into this, it’s important to understand deer movement in general. A deer’s objective in life is to find food daily, and they typically feed twice a day. You know deer will be up and moving during this feeding period, so what does the moon phase have to do with it? Well, most serious hunters are familiar with the facts about the moon phase, but a little well intended refreshment on the subject won’t hurt. The moon rotates on its axis at the same rate it orbits Earth. Because of this, only one side of the moon is visible from Earth, though moon illumination varies by degrees of sunlight over the course of a month. That depends on its orbit position, which is broken into four lunar phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon, and the third quarter, and they are divided based on the shape of the moon and the phase it’s in.

Many people don’t realize just how much the moon affects our daily lives. For example, when we have a full or new moon, the earth, sun, and moon are in alignment, and the combined gravitational force of all three creates high tides and low tides. During quarter phases, when these gravitational forces of the moon and the sun become perpendicular to the earth, there is less tidal change.

Most animals consist of about 50 percent water, so you might expect the moon would somehow influence behavior in both animals and humans alike. And with that in mind, there are numerous reports on how the full moon affects human reproduction, admittance to hospitals, emergency units, crimes, etc. Just ask a nurse and they’ll be happy to give you the lowdown on this phenomenon.

I know I always toss and turn at night during the full moon, especially during deer season when I lay awake in bed, looking at the moon, wondering what they’re doing and itching for first light to appear. But as interesting as all that might be, unfortunately most of the hard research on this topic shows no correlation whatsoever between the lunar cycles and deer movement. The reality is there simply is no real evidence to be found, though virtually all marine animals are influenced by the tides, and since the moon controls the tides, I suppose you could say the moon affects the behavior of marine animals, for sure. 

In comparison, whitetail deer behavior is more influenced by changes in the amount of daylight, than anything else. But could the moon, in any possible way, affect their movement? I know hunters who believe in this religiously, and I believe it does have some merit, especially during the new moon and the last quarter. In my own personal observation from over 50 years of whitetail deer hunting (and you might include study), deer activity does seem to decline during the full moon. To be clear, I see less movement during typical peak periods of dawn and dusk during a full moon and even though very subtle, I’ve observed a slight increase in movement during mid-day.

The same thing is true during the rut, but again, there is not a stitch of scientific evidence that supports this. Zero! In addition, because the full moon does not occur at the same time annually, the thought is that peak breeding dates will change from year to year, or even from region to region, possibly by as much as a week. But even that common sense opinion, to date, has no professionally stamped evidence to support it.

So, think about it before you start scheduling vacation days based on the moon phase. Remember that light is light, no matter how long or short the days become. Keep in mind that most deer movement occurs at dawn and dusk during every phase, and non-phase, of the moon. Yes, movement may, and I do mean MAY, change ever so slightly during certain phases, all other things being equal. But unfortunately, in hunting, all other things are seldom equal.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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