January 29, 2020
Driving through the ranch access gate, we met the second half of our predator hunting gang returning from an early-morning sojourn. The seasoned group of hunters hailed from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio and knew how to hunt. The early risers were feeling slightly beaten up, as they hadn’t seen a single critter or solicited any response to calls. To make things even worse, we bragged about sleeping in, enjoying a big breakfast, and heading out to hunt feeling fresh and enthused.
Most predator hunters will tell you “the early bird gets the worm,” but that isn’t always the case. Basing our hunt times on solunar information, we planned on being in the field from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., the predicted peak times for game movement. The solunar theory is that animals and fish move depending on the location of the moon in comparison to their bodies. The concept was recognized by John Alden Knight in 1926.
We shot a double on foxes our first set and followed that up with a triple on the next. It had the early risers asking more questions about the moon phase and what it means to animal movement and prime feeding times.
If you aren’t familiar with the effects of moon phase on all animals, you can get it instantly at your fingertips, by downloading an app to at least tell you the major time movements of game on any given day based on gravitational pull.
Have you ever been sitting on the couch at night and get a craving for snacks? It hits you without warning, and we often blame it on the advertising we see on television. But your body may have been reacting to the moon phase and moon positioning. It may sound like hocus pocus, where you pull out the Ouija board and tarot cards, but solunar information was collected and proven long before we had trail cameras or computers and was based on actual observations rather than theories.
Larry Weishuhn is a well-known biologist, writer and television host. Weishuhn says, “The moon no doubt influences animals, predator/prey, and we humans. We as humans have been ‘trained’ or programmed to eat breakfast early in the morning, lunch at mid-day, supper or dinner late afternoon/early evening. But, when we get away from such routines for a few days, we become hungry at essentially the same times “solunar” activity charts show a peak movement or feeding periods same as fish and animals.”
Weishuhn studied at Texas A&M University and started comparing deer movement to charts designed for best fishing times and noted deer movement coincided with what were major and minor fish feeding periods. The fish feeding predictions were “built” around moon phases and moon positioning.
He found beyond a doubt, all movement or lack of movement had to do with the gravitational pull of the moon, not unlike the tides, which is the only constant. Weishuhn also noted the same sort of thing in armadillos, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and bobcats.
Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Smartphones have simplified our lives and our ability to manage time. Being in the field during prime feeding times equates into more success with less time afield.
KNOW YOUR GROUND
The mapping features in hunting apps help pinpoint predator hotspots. Observations, kill sites, trap locations and vegetation cover types can be combined with current weather and wind direction, available at your fingertips.
Once you start mapping your predator hunting spots, you will see patterns and themes that can be used when you find new ground. The digital maps can be updated in the field and managed on your computer at home.
Adding a hydrology layer to your map can show natural travel routes for some species. You hunt armed with the information to put you in the right spot—every time.
THE SCIENCE OF SOUND
Calling predators has come a long way since the first live jackrabbit was staked to the ground by its ears. Calling is an effective way to attract and draw predators, but what calls should you use and what is most effective?
Predators listen for sounds that are representative of potential food, which generates an instinctual reaction. It would best be described as opportunistic feeding. There isn’t always an animal in distress to take advantage of, but when it occurs, it is an opportunity a predator doesn’t want to pass up.
Sound is the energy things make when they vibrate. The energy moves in waves and big sound waves have what’s called a high amplitude or intensity. In layman terms, it means we hear them louder. Predator calls are high intensity and reach farther to draw a critter’s attention.
The other part of the sound you need to pay attention to with sound waves is their pitch, also called their frequency. An opera singer makes sound waves with a high pitch, while bass singers, like the old country band Alabama, make waves with a much lower pitch. The frequency is simply the number of waves something produces in one second. The opera singer produces more energy waves in one second than a bass singer. The translation to predator hunters is that pitch helps reach distant animals, while frequency adds realism up close. The high pitch of a wounded jackrabbit, for instance, carries quite far, but the deep frequency growls and snarls are what finishes a predator when close.
We are fortunate to have realistic sounding calls to work with, and we’ve seen a progression from audio tapes to electronic, then digital and now HD. Most modern predator calls likely sound better than the first stereo you owned. Most importantly, the range of pitch and frequency will offer the technological advantage to call in more predators. Eastern hunters chasing wary predators can sound more realistic than ever before and will outsmart and convince predators that have seen and heard other hunters.
Can you imagine life without your cellphone? Today’s society would be lost without the convenience of a smartphone. The savvy predator hunter does not need to calculate solunar activity, as it is readily available on your phone, along with mapping and information logs for any hunting.v
There are two apps worth looking into. The first, HuntStand, is a free app that allows you to diarize hunt information and use it to get the tech advantage we are all looking to find. Your phone can also be used to operate new high-tech calls through the Bluetooth feature.
TAP INTO PREDATOR TECH
HuntStand has many features useful for predator hunting like Predator and Trap Markers and the ability to add lines indicating game routes. The high-tech product also has several different map base layer options including satellite, topography, trails and tree cover. You can log your scouting and hunting info for future reference, and the moon phase and peak game movement data is invaluable. All of these come together to provide essential tools that will help identify likely predator locations, travel routes and food sources.
Besides being a tool for hunting area management, the app also provides weather info and forecasts. The wind direction in a planned hunting area can be checked before you even leave home. HuntStand is a free download and offers in-app purchases for things like land ownership overlays. For more details, go to huntstand.com.
The OnX app will help keep you where you’re supposed to be while hunting. OnX displays property boundary lines, and land ownership is prominently shown on an aerial map.
While in the field, OnX pinpoints your physical location on the map. With the topographical overlays, you can read the lay of the land to plot courses or search for candidate hunting areas. Premium ($29.99/yr.) and Elite ($99.99/yr.; onxmaps.com) services are available with varying features.
FLEXTONE FLX 100
The FLX 100 features a bidirectional speaker system that broadcasts calls better than single speaker systems for increased realism. The FLX 100 is pre-loaded with 100 calls, making selecting the right call for individual application easy. A long-range remote lets you control the unit while remaining concealed ($150; flextonegamecalls.com).