Ohio hunter and DIY big buck slayer Adam Hays III became an ardent believer in the moon’s influence on deer movement early in his hunting career. In fact, using the data gleaned from the late Jeff Murray’s Moon Guide, Hays has claimed as many as three 200-inch and up bucks he has located, scouted and then hunted all on his own — one of only two hunters to ever achieve such a feat. He has also claimed a good number of trophies that have broken the 170- and even 180-inch barrier.
His initial success using Murray’s moon charts stoked a thirst for learning more about how the Earth’s circling orb kicked deer movement into overdrive, and he reached out to Murray to help satisfy that thirst. A close friendship between the two developed — so much so that several years after Murray’s untimely passing at the age of 59, his family asked Hays to pick up the Moon Guide and take it where the late, great hunter had left off.
Hays couldn’t say “no.” He still believes in the power of the moon as much as he ever has and through his efforts on Team 200, a television show dedicated to teaching hunters how to tag big bucks, and other outlets, he truly wants to help everyday hunters achieve the same success he has enjoyed. Hays and a business partner rechristened it the Deer Hunter’s Moon Guide and are now working diligently to educate hunters on the value of understanding the moon. He recently shared some insight on how to use the guide to find success during every phase of the season.
Early season deer are among the most at ease and most predictable to hunt. They are on regular feeding patterns, looking to satisfy that last nutritional burst as their antlers quit growing and begin to harden and before colder weather sets in and the energy-draining rut ensues. For this reason, many hunters don’t pay this time of year the respect it deserves and go into the early season armed only with one tactic — find where a buck is feeding.
Hays says while that is important, noting it is critical to scout available hunting lands for big bucks moving and feeding in the open right before dark, there is a little more for a hunter to do than that. First, big trophy deer are more apt to be hanging in one remote niche or pocket where they can feed undiscovered and feel safe. They don’t move far this time of year. Locate a good shooter in one of these spots, watch him from a safe distance to determine his daily routine and then consult the current Moon Guide to see which day is the right time to slip in and hunt him.
“I used to think the Moon Guide was just a good tool for later in the season, but I’ve learned more since then and have come to understand that no matter what time of season it is, there are specific days each month that are much better than others,” Hays says. “It’s best to wait until that perfect day. You can’t afford to bump him or you risk changing his whole pattern — that’s what the Moon Guide helps you predict.”
He said there are only a few days each month where red days — or rather red moon times — occur. Those days are where the moon is either directly overhead or underfoot, which has the most influence on deer movement. When those times coincide with the times a deer would normally feed, look out — your odds as a hunter with a big buck located and ready to hunt just went up drastically.
“For early season bucks, you want those overhead and underfoot times to coincide with the time deer would be moving in the afternoon to feed,” Hays says. “Get in there early, make sure the wind is right and stay alert.”
When the rut is on and bucks are seeking and chasing hot does, anything can and will happen. Many hunters subscribe to the rut-time philosophy, which is in order to kill a trophy, you need to be in a stand and sit all day. However, that’s not necessarily all there is to it.
“I used to think you could throw that Moon Guide out the window during the rut,” Hays says. “Not anymore.”
After seeing if the guide could help him pinpoint a successful stand location, he’s re-evaluated his initial assessment.
“The last two big deer I killed during the rut was at 10 a.m. and at noon,” he says. “You can’t predict big buck movement at this time, but the moon will affect when does are feeding. When they are feeding, big bucks will be moving in search of them.”
Hays says he identifies when the best moon times will put deer feeding during daylight hours and then tailors his hunt strategy and stand choice to what that information tells him.
“I was always a field hunter during the day, but I killed both of those bucks way back in the cover because it was the middle of the day and deer are going to be in cover at that time — even during the rut,” he says.
Although Hays claimed all three of his 200-inch bucks in the last days of October, during that lull between early-season feed patterns and the explosion of deer movement in the rut, he has enjoyed increasing big buck success during the late season — particularly since turning to the Moon Guide to choose the times he hunts. Food is scarce, deer have been pressured, the easy deer to kill have already been taken, deer are worn out from the rut, they are moving very little, and when it coms to big, wary survivors, a hunter can’t afford to make a mistake lest they never see that buck again.
“Food sources are more scarce, but you still need to key [in] on them,” Hays says. “This is when you want to identify a good moon time in the evening where you can be on a field edge just before dark. The moon at this time might be the only thing that encourages an otherwise nocturnal buck to move when it is still legal shooting time.”
Hays urges hunters to pay attention to where deer are coming from as well.
“You might need to get back off the field edge [and] more toward where deer are bedding because they are coming from farther away this time of year,” he says.
Pay special attention to those days when the Moon Guide says deer will move in the early morning or late evening and where the leading edge — and to a lesser degree, the back edge — of a storm front coincides.
“The weather effect can actually supersede the moon’s influence at such times,” Hays says. “But if you have a day with a front coming in and the moon is right, it could be the perfect storm for filling your late season tag with a nice trophy.”
To learn more about the new Deer Hunter’s Moon Guide or to purchase your own for $24.99, visit moonguide.com.