BIG DEER Moon & Rut Guide 2018

full moon buckFrom Missouri to Virginia to Canada, 90 percent of whitetail does will come into estrous and be bred from November 5-20, regardless of moon phase or weather. It’s been that way for decades in the Northern two-thirds of America, and will continue to be that way forever. Take off anytime from Halloween though Thanksgiving, and you’ll hunt some phase of the rut. Anytime you hunt rutting deer you are going to have a good time, with the potential to shoot a big buck.

While many hunters and scientists don’t put much stock in the moon’s effects on deer movement, I do. I base this on two things. One, 30-plus years of hunting and observing whitetails as they seek, chase and breed each November. And two, my keen interest in all things lunar, and how the 4 phases might affect deer movement. I read all the moon research I can get my hands, pro and con, and then compare that data to my field notes.

The most recent study on the moon and its effects on whitetail movement was conducted several years ago by researchers at North Carolina State University. Researchers tracked GPS-collared deer throughout the lunar phases, and analyzed text messages sent from those collars to determine when the does and bucks moved the most–and the least. I cross-referenced the study’s findings with my field notes and beliefs, and found some similarities and common ground.

I’ll use that to make predictions on how and when the deer will move and rut in November 2018.

November 7, 2018: New Moon

The NC State study confirmed one fact we already know: Whitetails are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, regardless of moon phase. “That fact did not change,” says researcher Marcus Lashley, who headed the study. “But the intensity of movement in each period when the deer decided to move did change.”

In some moon phases, deer were noticeably more active at dawn than they were at dusk, and the new moon is an example of that. “We saw a large peak of movement at daylight during this (new) phase, and below average movement the rest of the day and night,” Lashley notes.

In any given year the first week of November is one of the best times to hunt for a big deer; hundreds of giants are shot this week across North America. If you take off early in November up through the 12th, hunt as long as you can every day, because you never know when you’ll get an opportunity. But remember, with the moon new and dark and waxing crescent, bucks should be most active at daylight. Get on stand extra early and hunt the mornings extra hard.

November 15, 2018: First-Quarter Moon

The NC State study found that during the first-quarter moon, deer move less on average throughout the day than in all the other phases. Researcher Lashley goes so far as to say, “That would be a good seven days to work.”

This is where I disagree. Looking back to my notes, it is no secret that many huge bucks are killed every year during the rut window of November 8-16. This is always a good week to take off work.

On and around November 10 every season, especially in the Midwest, the “lockdown” begins in many areas as mature bucks hole up in covers and tend and breed does. Couple that with the data that say the overall deer activity will diminish during the first-quarter moon this November and things could be tough in some areas. But again, it’s the rut, and a big buck is apt to make a mistake anytime, any day. If this is the week you can get off work, go for it.

November 23, 2018: Full Moon

For several years I’ve been developing a new moon theory—mature bucks move great during the day in and around a full moon in November. Of course this flies in the face of what most of you have read and been told for years and probably believe–that deer are most active at night during a big moon, and therefore the full moon is bad for hunting.

But I believe I’m on to something, because the more I hunt during the “rutting moon” across the U.S. and Canada, the more bucks I see wandering around the woods, or chasing does.

The NC study backs me up, at least somewhat. “A common misconception is that deer can see better at night (and hence move all over the place) because it’s brighter when the moon is full. But according to our data they actually move less on average at night during a full moon and more during the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evenings,” Lashley says.

I see things setting up to be pretty good during the moon that waxes full on November 23, especially in states like Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana and others where peak rut typically occurs later on in November, from the 17th or so and throughout Thanksgiving week and even into early December. And in Midwest states where old bucks will be coming out of lockdown, some of them will prowl long and hard from around 11:00 a.m. until dark each day as they search for more does. Plan to get on stand by 9:00 a.m. and hunt till dark.

November 29, 2018: Last-Quarter Moon

Later on in November is tough and unpredictable any season. Breeding is winding down, and bucks have been pressured by hunters for two months. Simple math says there are fewer bucks in the woods because some were harvested earlier in the season.

But there is hope. According to the NC State researchers, from a moon perspective, the deer movement should be best from November 29 and into the first week of December. “If you are going to hunt the last hour of the day anytime of season, you should do it on the last quarter because that was the most extreme deer movement we saw during the whole study.”

Try this. Set an afternoon stand near a secluded, thick-cover funnel that leads out to a crop field where you know does are feeding. A skittish, weary buck is still ready and willing to breed any last doe that will give him a chance. You might shoot one yet as he sneaks out to check the girls in the last wisps of light.

Good luck and let me know how you do moon-wise.

 

2018 Deer Season Kicks Off With Big Velvet Bucks

manitoba 2018

One good thing about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is that once early deer seasons open up, big velvet bucks start popping up on your phone. From what I’ve seen so far from this anecdotal evidence, 2018 is shaping up to be a good if not great year for big racks across North America.

The buck above was killed in Manitoba, where archery season opens in August. I’ve seen a few big deer from Saskatchewan too, but Alberta has been the best, with hunters having shot several deer pushing 200 inches. This portends more huge bucks will be killed in Canada in 2018 as the rut comes on and rifle seasons open in November.

Tennessee held its first velvet buck hunt in August, and some good deer were shot. Once again, monsters were shot in early September in Kentucky, though I have not seen as many posted as last year. New Jersey, a sleeper state for archery whitetails, has produced some nice bucks.

manitoba 2018 2

It has been an unusual summer of 2018. I’ve talked to hunters across the country who have gotten far fewer big deer on their trail cameras than in summers past, though with the velvet now off more good bucks are starting to show up. It’s been like that here in the Virginia Piedmont, and I think all the rain we’ve has this summer has something to do with it.

Actually, the fact that it has been so wet in so many places this year is another reason I predict the hunting will be good this fall. Good moisture years grow big racks.

Better yet, there were minimal reports of EHD anywhere in the country, and with the first frosts coming on that threat has largely passed.

Bottom line: You have a good to great chance to shoot a big deer this season, so hunt hard and safe. Good luck!

Deer Rifle Sale: Get A Remington Model 783 For $300 At Cabela’s

Model783Crossfire

If you are in the market for a new deer rifle for 2018 head to the nearest Cabela’s or Bass Pro until August 26 and grab a Remington Model 783 for a tad over $300 with tax. This is an unbelievable deal for one of the most accurate and dependable deer rifles I have shot in the last 6 years.

I was the first blogger/hunter to shoot and test the Model 783, back in the fall of 2012. Later that November my friend John, who at the time worked for Remington, shot the first buck ever with the 783 on a hunt with me in Saskatchewan. We filmed the hunt for that 160-inch giant for my show Big Deer TV on Sportsman Channel.

When I posted my first review on the Model 783 in January 2013, I had shot the rifle in .30-06 quite a lot, but I had never killed a deer with. I have since shot 10 bucks with the 783, 4 with one chambered in .30-06 and 6 with my favored .270.

north texas buck

I tell you from experience that the no-frills Model 783 is a functional, reliable, accurate and affordable rifle that is designed: 1) to shoot MOA groups all day with Remington or Barnes factory ammo; and 2) put venison on the table. At $300 it’s the best rifle bargain I’ve seen in years.

Click here to research the Model 783 and see the specs before you buy.

BIG DEER TV Hunts Feral Hogs in Georgia

spartan pigs

I’ve shot my share of wild hogs over the years, mostly in Texas and Florida. I knew this invasive species was a general nuisance that rooted up crops and competed with deer for food sources. But it wasn’t until I went down to South Georgia and talked with the locals and hunted pigs for a few days on TV that I realized what a serious problem expanding populations of hogs are in many parts of the country.

“Somebody rides through this property every day, looking for and trying to eradicate hogs,” says landowner Robbie Barkley. “Hogs are in our feed patches, in the yard…they’re everywhere.”

“People who don’t have hogs in their area don’t realize how destructive they are,” says Georgia hunter Jay Chambless. “It’s a 24/7 effort 365 days a year just to try to control them a little bit.”

I hunted and filmed and talked to the locals for 3 days, and then came home and researched feral hogs for a week as I wrote the script for the episode “Hog Wild,” which will first air on the Sportsman Channel on Wednesday August 22 at 7:30 PM Eastern Time. Here’s some of what you’ll see and hear on the show, written in random fashion.

de soto

In the 1500s, explorers like Hernando de Soto brought hogs to America as a food source. In the 1900s, wealthy landowners introduced the Eurasian wild boar into parts of the U.S. for sport hunting. Today’s feral swine are a combination of escaped domestic pigs, Eurasian boar, and hybrids of the two. This invasive species has greatly expanded its range and numbers, into the millions, over the last 35 years.

aaron thermal

I’ve shot most of my hogs from deer stands and on stalks, or with dogs. But I’d never hunted them at night with thermal technology. Aaron Adkins (above) of Trijicon Electro Optics is here to show us the ropes. I am now addicted to thermal hunting!

ga hog jay and i

For pig firepower, we used and tested and DPMS GII .308 Hunter rifles, and they were both a pleasure and a blast to shoot (super accurate, no recoil). Aaron topped one of the AR rifles with a thermal Trijicon REAP-IR, and I topped the other with a 2.5-10X Accupower scope for last-light shots at hogs. We shot Remington HTP .308 168-grain ammo.

According to the U.S Dept. Of Agriculture, feral swine cause more than $1.5 billion in damage each year to property, crops and livestock. To a local farmer, hogs are not just a nuisance, but a threat to his livelihood.

In 2014, in response to the increasing damage and disease threats posed by expanding populations of hogs, Congress appropriated $20 million to the US Department of Agriculture for the creation of a national feral swine damage management program. Control efforts range from trapping and euthanizing hogs to aerial gunning where legal and practical. Everyday hunters like you and me can play a key role in the ongoing efforts.

Feral hogs breed year-round; a sow can have 2 litters of 4 to 8 piglets a year (some say as many as 12 piglets).

A feral hog can run 30 mph.

We ended up killing a few pigs and having a blast at night with the Trijicon thermals. Again “Hog Wild” airs August 22 at 7:30 PM on Sportsman, set your DVR.

5 Things About Summer Deer Antlers

sask oneill 2017 2Velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels which causes them to be hot to the touch. Top whitetail scientist Dr. Grant Woods notes, “There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers this time of year that even small antlers are easily detected by thermal imaging devices. Antler tines show up like neon signs when flying over with thermal cameras in summer.”

(Note: True and amazing how velvet antlers glow in a thermal imaging device. Last week on a nighttime hog hunt on a managed property in Georgia, I scanned the woods for hours with Trijicon’s IR Patrol thermal monocular and looked at a lot of good bucks; the hot-blooded antlers shined twice as white and bright than the deers’ bodies!)

Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make the antlers look thicker than they are. The hairs act as a radar system so a buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.

Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on those hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also supposedly acts as an insect repellent to keep gnats, biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.

In early August antlers will begin to change from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter,” notes Dr. Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 20 bucks will shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and the velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.