Bleech: The Moon and the Rut

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than … Continued

Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.

We are now getting into the period when rutting changes start happening fast, at least if you are not paying attention. You are probably not as fortunate as I am, in that I get out to scout just about every day year-round. But that’s my job. I have seen two significant things happening over the past week. And from contacts with serious deer hunters all over the region, I know these, for practical purposes, can be said to be regional observations.

Most entertaining, bucks have shed the velvet from their antlers. This does not mean that you absolutely will not see another set of antlers in the velvet this fall, but we can summarize that the bucks have shed the velvet from their antlers.

Bachelor groups have broken up. Like shedding velvet, this has been a process spread over a couple weeks. Since the antlers are hard, bucks get in the mood to fight, and not to pal around together. Or, since antlers are hard it is practical for bucks to fight. As you will see, we must be careful to avoid deducing too many conclusions. Doing so very often leads hunters astray.

The news is that the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which does more serious research on deer than most state game agencies, has concluded after years of studying radio-collared bucks and calculating the time of conception in comparison to moon phases, that the moon does not affect the rut. That same conclusion has been drawn by wildlife biologists in other states.

For eight years the PGC looked at fetuses in the spring, which gave them information on conception dates. These dates were compared with the full moon, which supposedly triggers the rut. The full moons occurred from October 24 through November 20, while the peak of the rut occurred from November 11 through November 17, and to a great extent the two dates did not coincide.

In another study, GPS-collared bucks did not change movements between full moons and new moons.

Let that sink in. I know a lot of very serious hunters–a lot of hunters who have spent years studying whitetails–will not believe this. I had, and still have, a hard time accepting it. I think that the perception of hunters may be related more to ways the full moon may affect the times of the day when deer tend to move.