Peter Jones examines the affect of Moon phases on Deer Stalking and takes a look at some of the research.


Last month a good client of mine emailed me to put a couple of dates in the diary. Thumbing through my diary I took a look at the dates in question. In the top corner of one of the particular dates there was a little full moon symbol.

Emailing him back, I suggested that he might like to re consider that particular date, as in my experience deer activity in the evenings during a full moon was reduced.  

It is interesting I think that my comments at this stage were not based on any prior reading of literature, but were instead based purely on my own observations.

As a professional stalker I am out frequently hunting in the evenings, maybe three or four days a week, every week in all seasons, year on year.

It is my experience, that on some outings I feel as though I am tripping over deer and on others that they are almost completely nonexistent. These phases in deer activity are beyond coincidence and must surely I feel, be determined not by my stalking methods but by other factors.

 It is my firm belief that one of these factors is moon phase. I firmly believe that deer whilst influenced by countless other variables, are in fact also influenced by the moon.  

So why so surprised? Fishermen have long been conscious of the powerful influence of the moon and have been known to chart their outings based on its phases. Is it too much of a leap of faith to suggest that deer, who spend their whole lives in tune with their natural surroundings, are influenced by this huge orb in the night sky!  

Whilst we humans are not so in tune with nature, many have argued that we too are influenced by lunar activity. After all, where else does the term lunatic come from? It was always of some amusement to me, when first setting out for a career in the police, that many of the older Constables would arrive at the parade room, on the evenings of a full moon, at the start of ‘night duty’, with a deep frown, shaking their heads in apprehension, only to announce it was going to be a busy night!

So we suspect that moon phase affects deer activity, but how? It is in fact a reasonably well researched topic. There are even ‘apps’ you can get on your phone that predict deer activity based on variables such as the moon. However is there a consensus of opinion?

There are many studies carried out on this subject, one of the most well respected is that of John Alden Knight,  who combined folklore and research, to come up with the ‘Solunar Theory’. Knight found that the sun, moon and tides affected wildlife activity. His research was published as the Solunar Tables in 1936 and still forms the basis of many predictions for the optimum fishing and hunting times.

Put simply the ‘Solunar Theory’ states that the closer you are to the sun or moon, the stronger the influence. The day of a full, or new moon, provide the strongest influence.

What is important to remember however, when Deer Stalking, is that we are not legally permitted to hunt at night. High levels of night time activity do not help us. If deer are highly active during night time, under a full moon, they may be equally inactive in the hours of dusk and dawn. Indeed it is my firm suspicion, that this is in fact the case. It is important therefore to consider activity levels during the periods when we are actually allowed to stalk deer.

Personally I have found that with this in mind, it is the highly respected author and deer expert Richard Prior to whom I refer, in one of his more ancient tomes, ‘The Roe Deer of Cranbourne Chase’ (1968) Mr Prior details research that he carried out in 1962, when during the period April to September, he was out every morning for three hours at first light and every evening for the last two hours before dark.

Mr Priors research concluded......wait for it.........that during these time frames deer activity peaked around the time of a new moon and declined during the full moon phase.

Well that’s all folks!......That’s enough for me! My own impressions of activity without any external influence were revealed in my own scribbling to a client i.e. that activity declined around the time of a full moon, indeed I had emailed my client stating this to be true, before having read any of the countless lines written on the subject.

Added to this, the great Mr Prior found the same to be true and there are few whom I respect more.

I may find that in time I regret this article. I wonder if I will now be able to carry out a study in which I trace my bookings based on the lunar cycle!

A proviso might be wise. There are of course a vast number of variables in any study concerning the behaviour of wildlife. The truth is they remain an enigma. Deer are delightfully unpredictable beasts and that, after all, is the joy of hunting, so don’t let’s get too hung up on this subject and please do keep those bookings coming in, irrespective of the moon phase!  



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