The Harvest Moon

Did you happen to notice the fall sky last evening? Did you even know there was a full moon? Maybe you knew that the first full moon of the fall sky was called the Harvest Moon.

You know, I don’t think a lot of sportsmen seem to care about it…but I am fascinated by the moon and stars and the role it plays in all of our outdoor lives. Often times when I am sitting quietly in the deer stand waiting for daybreak it is too damn dark to even see the palm of your hand. But glance up into the heavens and you’ll see a sky filled with curiosity and wonder.

Oddly enough, I think many of today’s modern citizens have lost their connection with the lunar cycles. If they happen to notice there’s a full moon…about the only meaning this has to their life is they can probably see the keyhole at night when unlocking the door to their house. But what a shame…because the moon plays such an important role in the life of most everything around us.

According to Indian legend the moon closest to the autumnal equinox was referred to as the Harvest Moon. It was aptly named because with the shortening daylight as we move towards winter, a full moon would give those extra hours of plant harvesting opportunity. Thus, the first moon of fall (or technically the first full moon closest to the AE) was known as the Harvest Moon. Many folks believe the Harvest Moon is the fullest and brightest moon of the entire year.

So, do you know what the other moons are called? Well, the next moon in succession after the Harvest Moon is called the Hunter’s Moon. Stands to reason…when cold weather has abruptly ended the growing season it hearkens a time in the lifecycle to focus efforts on building up the meat resources for those upcoming winter months.

How about the next full moon? Well, this one is commonly referred to as the Trapper’s Moon. This year, the Trapper’s Moon will occur on November 26th. Are you beginning to see a pattern here on how the names seem to correlate with what is happening in the Native American lifecycle? Other moons in the Native American lifecycle have names such as Snow Moon, Starvation Moon, Planting Moon, Worm Moon, etc. With just a little bit of imagination I’m sure you can figure out when most of these months occur.

But as a sportsman, my interest in the moon goes far beyond the cutesy little names that our forefathers and native folks gave the lunar cycle. For me it’s the mystery of the moon that holds the most intrigue. It seems as though the more mankind learns about the effects the moon has on the earth…the more questions that seem to arise.

Case in point. When waterfowl researchers started studying the migration patterns and habits of waterfowl, they soon discovered the moon and stars played an integral role in the movements of ducks and geese. In some mysterious sense, the stars acted much like a GPS guidance system allowing these birds to traverse thousands of miles to locate the very spot they migrated from only months earlier. Likewise, the moon acted almost like an atomic clock that would trigger an alarm for these birds to make the big trek.

So what are we to do about using the moon as a guide for us hunting? Well, Jeff Murray, an outdoors writer from Duluth, has some ideas. In fact, he’s taken the moon and its effects on nature to a new level. Murray believes if you are not paying attention to the moon you are not serious about your hunting. Check out more here.

Personally, I’m less interested in the moon’s apogee and perigee than I am in just seeing a beautiful full moon illuminating the night’s sky. Then last night, with the Harvest Moon burning bright…and the first killing frost of the season here in Minnesota…in my mind nature has now “officially” turned the page welcoming in the new fall season.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.