Big Deer’s 2017 Moon-Rut Hunting Guide

full moon buck compress2017 rut moon phases: Full November 4…last quarter November 10…new November 18…first quarter November 26

As I have said time and again here on the blog and on BIG DEER TV, I am neither a scientist nor an astronomer. But I am a whitetail hunter and have been doing it for 40 years, more than 30 of those professionally. I’m also a moon fanatic. Over the years I figure I’ve spent between 880 and 1,000 days in a deer stand in November, during every imaginable moon phase and all waxing and waning days.

My journal notes and personal observations say that there is definitely something to the November moon and how it impacts the movements of rutting whitetails.

My 2017 predictions:

I like the way this November’s moon sets up. For starters it exposes the seeking phase of the pre-rut, when bucks start to prowl and expand their range for the first hot does. Halloween into the first week of November is a good time to bowhunt in any season. This year, with the moon waxing toward full–91% visible on November 1 to 100% bright on November 4-5–the hunting should be especially good.

If you hunt that first week of November, keep in mind that deer movement will be best near food sources in the afternoons. If a cold front sweeps into your hunt area that week, better yet.

During the full moon week of Nov. 4-11, the best buck movement will shift to the mornings. While it flies in the face of what many scientists and hunters believe, I love hunting a full moon in early November because in my experience, the deer rut hard all day. You’re apt to see a shooter on his feet at 8:00 a.m.…11:00 a.m.…2:00 p.m….any day this week, so hang on stand as long as you can.

For vacation-planning purposes:

If the land you’ll hunt has crop fields and food plots, I’d suggest you hunt the first 5 days of November. Hunt stands near the feed and focus on the afternoons. A stand on a slightly elevated ridge 100-200 yards off a corn or bean field would be a hotspot either afternoon or morning.

If the land is mostly woods with mast and greenery for deer food, think about hunting a little later, say November 5-12. Historically, if you check the record books, these are the very best days in any year to kill a monster buck. Set your stands back in the woods along trails and travel funnels—especially those with smoking-fresh scrapes–and hunt bucks seeking to hook up with does near bedding areas in the mornings.

Again, if you can hack it, stay on a deep-cover stand all day. I expect some giants to fall from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the big moon November 5-10.

Buck movement and rutting activity will vary some according to local conditions and weather, but for the very best chance to shoot a giant I say hunt sometime in the Nov. 2-12 window. But go when you can. You still have a decent shot into the new moon of November 17-18, though in most places the best rut will begin to slow down.

If at all possible hunt ground with minimal or no pressure, which I know is difficult. But even moderate human intrusion can turn mature bucks nocturnal and blow up your moon opportunity.

Hunt hard and safe, and good luck.

Maryland Boy’s First Bow Buck

From our friend Danny, who has been watching hundreds of deer and more than 30 bucks all summer:

MD boy 1

I set up a tent blind a few weeks ago at a spot where I saw some deer hanging out. My nephew Colby decided he would try it out. He passed a few bucks the first night he hunted it, but he was able to get it done the other evening.

Colby had shot several deer previously with rifle and crossbow, but he decided it was time for a compound bow. He saved up his money and bought his first bow last spring.  He practiced all summer and it paid off.  Hope he doesn’t think it’s always this easy!

Around 7:40 that evening I saw several bucks from my stand, heading in his direction.  I could see 6 bucks heading his way, but I couldn’t see the last 150 yards they had to travel. While I was watching these bucks he sent me a text and said he had just shot.  I was focused on the deer that were 300 yards away from me, in the middle of the field; I thought it was odd that he shot and those deer didn’t react. I texted him back and told him not to move, I’d be there in 30 minutes.

About a half hour later his dad picked me up and the three of us got on the blood trail. It got dark on us, but Colby had made a perfect lung shot and the trail was easy to follow by flashlight. It only took a short tracking job to recover Colby’s first compound buck.

He doesn’t know how proud I am of him for doing this. I was with him when he got his first deer when he was 8. He will be 16 next week. He decided on his own that he wanted to hunt with a compound bow. He put in the time practicing, and it paid off.

Md boy 2

Colby’s buck was not one of the many that I have watched for months all summer. It was one of more deer that just showed up last week. He was covered in warts on his face, sides and groin. I cut a few of them open thinking they might be swollen ticks, but they looked like solid fat. I would have recognized that deer all summer from the warts.—Danny

Way to go Colby! By the way, those warts are called cutaneous fibromas.  Biologists say these hairless growths are not all that uncommon on whitetail deer in the summer. But I have spent more than 30 years observing and hunting deer and have never seen an animal like this.Colby’s deer does not seem to have that many warts, so the meat should be fine to eat.


BIG DEER Girls Go For Bucks

MD danny lexi

MD dan lexi

BIG DEER blogger Dan has been watching 30-plus bucks all summer, including the 2 studs above. He writes in an update: None of them have dispersed yet, and there are more bucks showing up… I got over 4,000 pics this past week alone and saw several new bucks!  Some of the regulars were back that I had thought moved on.

I’m certain that they will separate and move away very soon, but I’ve never had this many bucks stick around this long. Or, maybe I’m wrong and they will stick around for the whole family to chase all season! This could be an awesome year for us. 

Today is the bow opener for Dan. He’s taking his daughter, Lexi, right after school this afternoon. She made me promise I wouldn’t go Friday morning without her, Dan says.

As you read this, they will be on their way to the stand, or on post.


Longtime blogger Scott sent me this email:

Hi Mike: Checked the cameras last week and still have a big 8-point hanging around, and got this 10-pointer too (above). Second time he’s showed up all year. Not a regular but lives somewhere in the area. I’ll take my daughter Shelbie on the youth hunt in 2 weeks so we’ll see what happens!—Thanks, Scott

These 2 dads are doing it right, and I’m proud of them. Best of luck Lexi and Shelbie, can’t wait to see the pictures!


Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Should You Eat The Deer Meat?

cwd map







Map: Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance

This fall you shoot a whitetail or a mule deer in an area where CWD is known to be present in the deer herds. How do you handle that deer…should you eat the meat?

Research has shown that in an infected deer CWD prions may be present in tissues and body fluids, including blood and muscle, but they are most prevalent in the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. Thus, it is recommended that hunters in a CWD area wear gloves and bone out harvested deer (or elk). Take extra precautions when cutting around or handling organs where CWD prions are most likely to accumulate.

Biologists have told us for years that there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted from deer to humans. But now, meat from deer contaminated with CWD may be more dangerous than originally thought, according to ongoing research conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the University of Calgary.

At this point in that study, 2 test animals that were exposed to CWD by being fed infected meat have become infected with CWD.

The implications here are enormous and game-changing. The CWD Alliance now says on its website: Public health officials recommend that human exposure to the CWD agent be avoided as they continue to research the disease. Accordingly, hunters are advised not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with CWD.

If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, you don’t know for certain if that individual animal is infected with CWD. It may be or it may not be. Experts now say to have your animal tested for CWD before deciding whether or not to eat it. Contact the state/local wildlife agency for info on procedures and submission locations.

Sounds reasonable, but how practical is it for most hunters, especially those in the backcountry? How many hunters will go the extra step to have the meat tested? How is the test conducted, how long does it take, how much of a hassle?

Lots of questions that lead to big dilemmas. Every good hunter wants to kill and process an animal cleanly, and feed the venison to his family. Every good man or woman protects his family at all costs; if there’s the slightest risk that deer meat can be harmful, he or she will discard it.

If you so throw out a deer, is that considered wanton waste, which is illegal as it should be in virtually all states?

Then there is this. Even if you get your deer tested, the CWD Alliance says: remember, while disease testing is an important tool for detecting CWD, it is not a food safety test.

I say research where you are hunting, and know if CWD is a potential risk in the area. If so and you shoot a deer that looks, acts or smells in any way sick, obviously don’t risk the meat. If you shoot a deer that looks and acts normal, have it tested for CWD and go from there and make your decision—safety first

Hunters: Drive and Park Smart to Prevent Fires

montana graws fireMore than 70 wildfires are burning in 8 Western states, dozens of them in hot and dry Montana, where 2017 archery elk and deer seasons are opening up.

Residents and the many out-of-staters that hunt Big Sky are wondering how the dry conditions and fire danger might affect their hunting. As of today, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is not recommending the closure of any seasons. “(But) if a private landowner or an agency such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management makes the decision to restrict or postpone hunting or other activity on their property, that is a decision we respect and accept,” said FWP Director Martha Williams.

Due to fire danger, currently more than 80 block management areas (BMAs) are restricted or closed at the request of landowners. Check the FWP website for more information.

As hunters hit the Montana prairies and woods this week, Director Williams says, “It is critical to be careful, and be safe. Hunters have to take personal responsibility to prevent wildfires and keep themselves and the property and lives of others safe.”

One of the biggest concerns in Western states are grass fires caused by trucks. Every fall as hunters drive off-road, vehicles’ hot exhaust pipes ignite tall, dry grass in roadbeds and parking areas, sparking grass fires that if not contained can spread into wildfires.

Montana FWP asks hunters to follow these fire safety precautions; it is good advice regardless of where you hunt:

Park your vehicle on bare ground or ground completely void of vegetation.
Drive only on paved and well graveled roads.
Camp only in designated camping areas.
Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.
Check on any fire restrictions in the area where you are hunting.

Fire experts from Oregon add that hunters should plan ahead. Have basic fire-fighting equipment in your truck and close at hand–at least 5 gallons of water, a fire extinguisher and a shovel. Burlap sacks are useful; you can wet them down with water and use the wet sacks to beat down flames. Always have way to call for help, such as a cell phone or citizen’s band radio in areas where there’s no cell service.