The Hunter’s Moon is the full moon which occurs in October. It immediately follows the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox.
This moon’s name comes from England and Northern Europe. It was also used by Native Americans belonging to the Algonquin tribes of the eastern United States and Canada. This is not coincidence. October was, and still is, the traditional hunting month for most four-season cultures of the Northern hemisphere.
After the autumnal equinox, the days start getting shorter much more quickly. However, the Hunter’s Moon rises in the twilight soon after sunset, giving bright light for hunters to track their prey. There is very little true darkness during these full moon nights. The leaves have already fallen from the trees. Even in the forest, there is little to block the brilliant light of the moon, which is often bright enough to cast shadows.
This is the time when deer and other prey animals are fattest, after months of summer bounty. The new rutting season is just beginning, and the stags’ newly-grown antlers help hunters to avoid killing the females by accident. Rutting scents, which are used to mark territory, as well as the score marks left behind by bucks getting rid of their summer velvet, make it easy to track bucks through bushes and scrub. Many species of game animals have special mating calls used only at this time of year, which the hunter can imitate to entice the animal closer.
This is also the time when more prey animals must be hunted, and their meat preserved, in order to have enough food to eat in winter. After the snow falls, it will be much more difficult to hunt, and prey animals will be scarce. The bounty of the Hunter’s Moon will have to last until the snow melts next spring, and the earliest food plants start to ripen.
Because the Hunter’s Moon follows the Harvest Moon, all the tall crops have been reaped, making it easier to see the prey animal. Many bushes and trees have shed their leaves, so the prey animal has much less cover in which to hide. In October, hunters can also walk or ride over the reaped fields without causing damage to any crops.
The Hunter’s Moon is also known as the Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. This is partly another association with hunting. However, October is also the season of storms. The high clouds can give the moon a reddish color.