Moonlight and Hunted Whitetails

Being equally active in darkness and sunlight, the degree to which whitetails begin to favor being most active in darkness during hunting seasons depends on how often they must raise their tails and flee and moonlight. For hunted whitetails that have survived two or more previous hunting seasons, moonlight at night is the clincher (a no-brainer) for mostly limiting activities to nighttime hours only — the period during which they are not normally threatened by aggressive (roaming) hunters and/or alarmed by nearby gunshots. When there is moonlight before sunrise in the morning, even when provided by a mere sliver of a moon, where hunting pressure is moderate-to-great (including hunting pressure attributable to wolves), hunted mature whitetails are typically on their way to bedding areas when the first rays of sunlight begin to stream from the eastern horizon. When there is moonlight in the evening, hunted mature whitetails generally wait until dusk to stir from their bedding areas. When there is moonlight all night, few whitetails are likely to be seen on the move throughout the following day.

The moonlight effect may cancelled by dark, heavy clouds, moderate-to-heavy precipitation and/or winds exceeding 15 mph at night; occasionally by does in heat. Bright northern lights can have the same affect as moonlight.

By no means should you forgo hunting in a morning or evening because of moonlight. Most mature whitetails are rarely completely nocturnal. To improve your odds for stand hunting success, don’t miss a minute of legal shooting time during the first and/or last hour of the day. On a moonlit morning make it point to get to your stand site 30 minutes before first light so there will be complete silence and no discernable movements made by you during the 30 minutes between your arrival and the first legal shooting minute of the day. If you arrive at first light, you will have wasted half of that first hour. If you arrive at sunrise, you probably will have wasted the entire morning. On a moonlit evening, remain at your stand site until 30 minutes after sunset.


Ordinarily, skilled stand hunting is most rewarding during the weeklong period each 28 days when there is no moonlight at night. By skillfully keying on the first and last hours of the day during periods of moonlight, your odds for success can be nearly as favorable. Keep in mind, too, despite moonlight, lone yearlings and fawns (not being led by older experienced does) are likely to be active throughout hours whitetails normally feed in daylight.

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