Ever hear of solunar tables?  Many readers, especially younger ones, haven’t, but lots of old veterans have and believe in them so fiercely that they plan hunting and fishing trips around the tables.  For those unfamiliar with the tables, sol means sun and lunar means moon, and the basic idea is that the two together influence animal movements just as they influence tides and other earthly phenomena.

 The idea is so long standing that once upon a time Sports Afield Magazine published a chart of the tables each two months, showing the two “highs” in each 24 hours when animals and fish were most likely to be active, and the two “lows” when it was hardly worth going out.  As a zoologist with a masters degree from Ohio State as well as a hunter and fisherman I was once very interested in the solunar periods, enough that I ran a few brief and simple studies and their result came close to making a believer out of me.

One that I remember well came on an early October squirrel hunt.  It was a perfect morning, cool, crisp, and sunny with almost no wind, the kind of morning when squirrels are out early and feeding.  It was a good woods too, one I’ve hunted a number of times and always found plenty of bushytails.  But this morning the woods was dead, with hardly a bird call, and nothing moving.  I quit around 10:30 a.m., went home and called a friend who was hunting that morning, too.

“Did you get any this morning?” I asked.  “Didn’t see a single thing.” he replied.  “I stuck it out until about 10:30, then quit.”  Another friend had a different story.  “I didn’t see a thing until about 11:30 a.m., then suddenly they were all over the place.  I got four.”  The table said the solunar period would peak around 11:30.

On another trip I was ice fishing an area lake, checked the table and saw that the high would come around 10 a.m.  I usually have best luck on any brand of fishing in the two hours after dawn, but not this morning.  Then suddenly around 9:30 they started to bite and continued on until 11 before they shut off.  In another simple little study I watched my bird feeder and noticed that bird number seemed to increase around the highs and diminish drastically during the lows.

Did it always work?  No, it didn’t, and I finally decided that if  all factors were stable, no storms moving in, no low pressure fronts, etc. that there might be something to solunar tables.  Now, it appears I was wrong and seemingly so were many thousands of others and the inventors of the tables.

In the last October issue of Petersen’s Hunting, an article discussed in part the tables and told of a study conducted at an Illinois wildlife refuge.  The two researchers used consistent methods to study free ranging deer, songbirds, and semi-captive cottontail rabbits to see if there was any correlation between the sun/moon cycles and wildlife activity.  The pair used tower blinds in high deer density areas and binoculars to map deer activity over a nine week period. 

The rabbits, kept in a 3 acre enclosure,  were monitored every hour using neck collars, and songbirds were checked at a feeding station.  Their conclusion, after months of analysis and observation, was that there were no distinct or predictable patterns in wildlife activity during various phases of the moon. They did note that further study may be indicated, but decided that the tables were not an accurate or consistent predictor of wildlife activity.

So, there you have it.  Fishing and hunting trips should be decided by when you can go and if the weather is right, rather than the sun and moon.  I’m still wondering about those squirrels and even why my dog gets suddenly active and starts playing with his chew toys at certain times of day.  But science triumphs.  Or does it?

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