Rut Elk Hunting on a Full Moon

Umpqua Hunter

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Apr 29, 2012
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North fork of the Umpqua, Oregon
I have wrestled with this for months now, so I am going to ask the opinion of the Rokslide members.

I have two elk hunts I could draw in 2013 on points, though I would only apply for one of them. One is a muzzleloader elk hunt in Unit 61 in Colorado. The other is an archery elk hunt in Unit 1 in Arizona.

There are two things concerning me, and so much so that I am seriously considering holding off one more year. The first is that the moon will be very bright September 15 through September 25, so basically a bright moon for the entire season for either of these hunts. The other concern is the drought the west has experienced. In 2014, the moon situation will be just the opposite, a dark moon during those seasons. I have a LOT of years invested in building points, so the last thing I want to do is draw on the wrong year. What are your thoughts or opinions on this?
 

sk1

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Mar 28, 2012
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SE Wisconsin
im interested in what others think as well, i dont have years and years of points.....but plan to draw a general tag next year and hunt during that same full moon period

good luck with your decision hopefully some people here have good insight!
 

RUTTIN

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Jun 5, 2012
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Kamas, Utah
From my experience here in Utah, when there is a full moon the elk seem to be a lot more active at night, and hit there bedding areas before light in the morning. They don't seem to get up until it is almost dark. When faced with this problem we get up around 2 AM and just listen to where the elk are rutting and try to get in front of them and beat them to their bedding area. When that doesn't work we find a wallow close to the bedding area, sometimes the bulls will leave the cows in the middle of the day to take a mud bath. Wish I had your dilemma. Good luck on whatever you choose.
 

wapitibob

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Feb 24, 2012
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3,469
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Bend Oregon
We had this discussion a cpl years ago on another forum. That year I stood looking at a nice 6x bugling his head off, in the middle of a road, at 11:00 in the morning, thinking, yep, they all head to cover by daylight. I have not seen enough, if any, difference to make me change a hunt. I looked for evidence that whole hunt and saw no difference from previous years.
The one caveat, I do hunt a unique place in that particular state.

I have that same AZ hunt coming up and am not changing anything I do. I'm more concerned about the 100+ tags that they added.
 

tstowater

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Apr 26, 2012
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Iowa
I have had the same concerns about hunting during a full moon. I was in Nevada last year during November (not the rut) and you could have hunted at night in the snow because the moon was so bright. Does this affect the daytime movement---can't believe it won't. I'm looking at an end of September hunt this year in Wyoming. My concerns are moon phase (should be okay) and drought continuing. Hate to burn the max. points if antler growth isn't there. Still debating about rolliing to 2014, but will need to decide soon as applications will be due by end of January. Arizona is sorta the same problem based on the due date of the applications. Interested to see what the rest have experienced.
 

justin davis

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Feb 24, 2012
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Colorado
I think the moon def affects animals. That's not to say a bull might not bugle in a road at 11:00. Anything can happen. But I have noticed less movement when there is a full moon
 

Swede

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Mar 24, 2012
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Warren Oregon
I have not seen any measurable difference. Over the years I have kept a dairy of my bow kills. I get as many deer and elk on a full moon as on a new moon. This last season, 2012, my friend and I both killed animals on the evening before the full moon. We shot our animals within ten minutes of each other. He shot a 3x3 buck and I got a 5x5 bull elk. In fact it was so clear and full as we were packing out, I thought it was the full moon until I looked at a calendar. My advice is, go hunting.
 
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

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North fork of the Umpqua, Oregon
I'm looking at an end of September hunt this year in Wyoming. My concerns are moon phase (should be okay) and drought continuing. Hate to burn the max. points if antler growth isn't there.

Tstowater, I'm with ya. The drought may be even more of a concern then the moon this year. There are a few pockets in the west that the drought has not affected too badly. As far as the moon phase is concerned, an October 1 opener this year in Wyoming could be a good option.
 

ElkNut1

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Feb 25, 2012
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Idaho
During Full Moon times we really get excited as this is one of our favorite times to hunt elk as long as the skies are fairly clear & not overcast. We generally will locate elk from 10pm to 2pm in the morning off dirt roads we drive or if packed in we call at these times for location of elk, at night bulls will bugle from very long distances, this gives us a starting point come morning! We then get to our hunting area an hour or so before light & sit & listen, the elk are generally vocal at this time & you can really narrow down right where they are, moving in towards them with good wind & getting good positioning will give you an edge come daylight, the moonlight sky helps so you don't need a headlamp.

It's up to us as hunters to use the best possible methods to either ambush them or lure them in with calling that fits the encounter & phase of the rut! Phase of the RUT is extremely important here, this helps us decide what tactics we will employ! At this time I personally like taking care of business while they're still in their feeding areas. You have about one hour generally to get in there & get it done before they head off to their daytime bedding areas, after that time you'll find yourself "dogging" the herd! If it doesn't pan out then, do your best to keep tabs on their movement as they head to bedding areas, many times bulls will bugle their way to them with the lead cow leading the way & avoiding possible confrontations with other vocal bulls. Finding those bedding areas is a great key to our success. If not real sure where they are or where the elk bedded, we then stake out the higher peaks within reason & sit & listen many times for a couple of hours, elk will eventually get up midday/afternoon for light feeding & watering or reposition bedding to stay out of the moving sun especially on hot days, we like being within earshot of these areas.

At this time it's possible for bulls to sound off, this will not only give away their immediate position but also his aprox bedding area as bulls will bugle right from or very near from their beds at this time! Make mental notes of bedding areas, they use the same ones yearly. Be willing to use Location sounds early afternoon to trigger a response! Once elk are located we move in & work our magic! (grin) We took these bulls in 6 days during Full Moon times!

ElkNut1 View attachment 4895
 
Last edited:
OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2012
Messages
341
Location
North fork of the Umpqua, Oregon
During Full Moon times we really get excited as this is one of our favorite times to hunt elk as long as the skies are fairly clear & not overcast. We generally will locate elk from 10pm to 2pm in the morning off dirt roads we drive or if packed in we call at these times for location of elk, at night bulls will bugle from very long distances, this gives us a starting point come morning! We then get to our hunting area an hour or so before light & sit & listen, the elk are generally vocal at this time & you can really narrow down right where they are, moving in towards them with good wind & getting good positioning will give you an edge come daylight, the moonlight sky helps so you don't need a headlamp.

It's up to us as hunters to use the best possible methods to either ambush them or lure them in with calling that fits the encounter & phase of the rut! Phase of the RUT is extremely important here, this helps us decide what tactics we will employ! At this time I personally like taking care of business while they're still in their feeding areas. You have about one hour generally to get in there & get it done before they head off to their daytime bedding areas, after that time you'll find yourself "dogging" the herd! If it doesn't pan out then, do your best to keep tabs on their movement as they head to bedding areas, many times bulls will bugle their way to them with the lead cow leading the way & avoiding possible confrontations with other vocal bulls. Finding those bedding areas is a great key to our success. If not real sure where they are or where the elk bedded, we then stake out the higher peaks within reason & sit & listen many times for a couple of hours, elk will eventually get up midday/afternoon for light feeding & watering or reposition bedding to stay out of the moving sun especially on hot days, we like being within earshot of these areas.

At this time it's possible for bulls to sound off, this will not only give away their immediate position but also his aprox bedding area as bulls will bugle right from or very near from their beds at this time! Make mental notes of bedding areas, they use the same ones yearly. Be willing to use Location sounds early afternoon to trigger a response! Once elk are located we move in & work our magic! (grin) We took these bulls in 6 days during Full Moon times!

ElkNut1 View attachment 4895

An excellent post Elknut1! Thanks for the reply. I have wanted to use this technique of locating bulls at night. You helped fill in some of the missing pieces for me.
 

KMT

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Aug 3, 2012
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608
I wouldn't let the moon phase dictate when or if I would hunt. Elk can be loud and active one day and completely silent the next, regardless of the moon cycle. Or they can be on your mountain or in your drainage in the afternoon and 10 miles away by the next morning. I've never given any thought to whether there is a full moon or no moon.
 

buglelk

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Joined
Mar 29, 2012
Messages
32
I, too, kept a journal for over 10 years and found no significant relation between moon phase and activity. However, that was in Idaho.

I was lucky enough to draw unit 1 in AZ with 4 points, then drew another AZ tag with 3 points 3 years later. It is a completely different story in AZ.

In Idaho, I love full moons. The elk get restless during the middle of the day and are more active, which makes hunting them in their beds much more effective. The majority of the bulls I've killed in Idaho the past 15 years have been between 10AM and 3 PM. In Arizona, both times I hunted were during full moons and it has a huge effect on elk activity. The difference is, the elk are not nearly as responsive to calls during the day. What I found was the elk are very vocal first thing in the morning. Once they bed down, it's like a light switch was turned off. It goes from 8-10 bugles all around, to silence, in a matter of minutes. Where we typically have great luck getting bulls to respond midday in Idaho, we got almost no replies in AZ. An hour or so before dark, the bulls fire back up and the action is insane.

During the full moon phases in AZ, the action is cut shorter in the mornings and starts later in the evenings. It is still there, and the rut still goes strong, but the window of action is smaller each day. Hunting during the day (which is generally one of my favorite times to hunt) is not nearly as effective in AZ.

Similarly, southern Colorado was slower during the day for us when we hunted there. Wyoming, on the other hand, was lights out in the middle of the day. Every state, and even areas within the states are definitely different.

Another thing that was mentioned was the drought. Unit 1 is high in elevation (up to 10k) and gets a ton of snow each winter. It is much less dependent on water than most AZ units. There is typically plenty of green grass in September and the rut is strong there...one of the most action-packed hunts I've been on. If it were me, with the burn 2 years ago and the moisture/green grass, I wouldn't let the full moon or additional tags scare me off. You will have a GREAT hunt in unit 1.
 

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OP
Umpqua Hunter

Umpqua Hunter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2012
Messages
341
Location
North fork of the Umpqua, Oregon
I, too, kept a journal for over 10 years and found no significant relation between moon phase and activity. However, that was in Idaho.

I was lucky enough to draw unit 1 in AZ with 4 points, then drew another AZ tag with 3 points 3 years later. It is a completely different story in AZ.

In Idaho, I love full moons. The elk get restless during the middle of the day and are more active, which makes hunting them in their beds much more effective. The majority of the bulls I've killed in Idaho the past 15 years have been between 10AM and 3 PM. In Arizona, both times I hunted were during full moons and it has a huge effect on elk activity. The difference is, the elk are not nearly as responsive to calls during the day. What I found was the elk are very vocal first thing in the morning. Once they bed down, it's like a light switch was turned off. It goes from 8-10 bugles all around, to silence, in a matter of minutes. Where we typically have great luck getting bulls to respond midday in Idaho, we got almost no replies in AZ. An hour or so before dark, the bulls fire back up and the action is insane.

During the full moon phases in AZ, the action is cut shorter in the mornings and starts later in the evenings. It is still there, and the rut still goes strong, but the window of action is smaller each day. Hunting during the day (which is generally one of my favorite times to hunt) is not nearly as effective in AZ.

Similarly, southern Colorado was slower during the day for us when we hunted there. Wyoming, on the other hand, was lights out in the middle of the day. Every state, and even areas within the states are definitely different.

Another thing that was mentioned was the drought. Unit 1 is high in elevation (up to 10k) and gets a ton of snow each winter. It is much less dependent on water than most AZ units. There is typically plenty of green grass in September and the rut is strong there...one of the most action-packed hunts I've been on. If it were me, with the burn 2 years ago and the moisture/green grass, I wouldn't let the full moon or additional tags scare me off. You will have a GREAT hunt in unit 1.

Corey, a super post. Thanks for sharing some examples from your past hunts.

Personally, I have decided to hold of on Arizona one more year, and likely will delay Colorado for another couple years, and maybe draw the NW corner. Next year I should have enough points in Arizona to pull my son up on a party app so we can both draw a tag in Unit 1.

Keep sharing your experiences guys with the effect of the full moon on rut elk hunting.
 
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