September 09, 2015
Without question, the weather is perhaps the most important factor hunters must deal with during a typical deer season.
Daily routines, habits and patterns can change just as fast as the weather, which means you have to be ready to adjust your hunting strategies and setups accordingly.
This is especially true in the Southeast where the weather can bounce around and go to extremes sometimes.
Here are some tips that will enable you to take advantage of weather pattern shifts, and exploit bucks no matter what the conditions are like outside.
The woods generally come alive with activity anytime there is an approaching weather front. Animals have a very unique ability to sense weather changes particularly as they relate to falling or rising barometric pressure.
As a result, deer become extremely active and often give in to the urge to feed before the front hits and after the weather breaks.
Strategically planning your hunts around these key periods will ultimately improve your chances of seeing and connecting with a mature buck in the Southeast.
Targeting current food sources and major travel corridors that connect feeding and bedding locations is a deadly hunting strategy that can pay huge dividends.
It's also not a bad idea to setup inside of staging areas that are positioned on the edges of a food source.
The trick is to carefully plan and time your hunts to occur right before the front approaches and immediately after it moves out.
Precision timing and the right setup can generate an action-packed hunt throughout the pre-rut, rut and post-rut periods.
Rain, sleet and even the occasional snow in the Southeast will also influence deer behavior and daily patterns.
Sadly, a lot of hunters miss golden opportunities to tag good bucks by electing to sit the "bad weather" days out.
This is a huge mistake, because a combination of decreased hunting pressure and increased daytime activity makes these days very special for hunters who are willing to throw on their raingear and tough it out.
When facing rain, sleet and even snow, always try to focus on relatively open feeding areas such as agricultural fields, food plots and clean-bottom sections of woods. Precipitation creates noise and movement, which weakens a deer's defenses and senses somewhat.
However, the overcast conditions, limited hunting pressure and urge to feed will often get them off the bed early. They feel safer feeding in open areas where they can spot potential danger from longer distances.
Setting up along the edges of open-area food sources or near trails that lead into these prime locations is a lethal tactic under such conditions.
A hunter's relationship with the wind in the Southeast is a lot different than out West or inside of big buck states like Illinois, Kansas and Iowa. Whitetails that live in these renowned areas are generally not as sensitive to the wind as deer in the Southeast.
A 15 mph wind out West is nothing unusual and deer will go about their normal day-to-day business. However, those same conditions will often force whitetails and turkeys back East to go into lockdown mode.
Deer that aren't used to dealing with high winds become increasingly skittish and wary, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should stay at home and call it quits.
Unfortunately, we can't always pick and choose the best days to hunt or only hit the woods during optimal hunting conditions. In order to be successful when the wind kicks into high-gear, you simply have to modify your tactics and setups.
Targeting low-lying sheltered areas that are out of the wind is one option that can be very productive. Setting up on the perimeter of known buck bedding areas or near thick-covered sanctuaries is another excellent choice.
The key is to find spots where deer feel relatively safe and aren't afraid to move.
Extreme Temperature Change
Major drops in temperature can be a deer hunter's dream in some areas, but that's not always the case in the Southeast. On extremely cold days up north, whitetails will often become very active and gravitate toward food.
Cooler temperatures in the Southeast can have a similar effect. However, when temperatures hit rock bottom down South, the deer will sometimes stick to heavy cover and wait it out. If the temperatures drop to extremes at night, then you'll probably have to make some adjustments on how you hunt the following day.
As mentioned earlier, climbing into your stand just before a front or major drop in temperature can place you inside of a target-rich environment. Once the temperatures bottom out at night, you should concentrate your efforts on thickets with dense cover and protected areas near a current food source.
In many cases, the late-morning and midday hours will be the best times to be in the woods. Once the sun pops out and the temperatures rise a few degrees, bucks that were previously locked down all night will get off the bed to feed.
They are likely to browse on green briar, honeysuckle, and young sapling twigs within the thicket or move on to a primary feeding area.
Weather's Impact On The Rut
Once the rut kicks into full swing, whitetails are going to breed regardless of what the weather has in store. On the other hand, knowing how deer generally react to the different weather patterns will tell you when, where and how to hunt a particular area.
The secret is to focus on the does and utilize the weather to your advantage.
Remember, the shortening of days is what triggers the rut, but the weather will dictate when you see the most chasing and breeding activity.
All of the weather-based hunting techniques we've covered here will produce results throughout the whitetail breeding period. However, we haven't discussed what to do when temperatures become unseasonably warm.
If the weather starts to heat up, most of the chasing and breeding activity will take place at night after things cool down. Under these conditions, setup directly on doe bedding areas and along trails that lead to a current food source during the early-morning and late-evening hours.
Secluded watering holes can also be killer spots to watch throughout the late-morning and midday hours. These strategies coupled with some calling, decoying and scent-application tactics are really all you need to bust a lovesick bruiser during the rut.
This season, refuse to allow the weather to keep you on the sideline and out of your treestand. Instead of throwing in the towel, flip the script and utilize adverse weather conditions to your advantage.
Following these tips, adjusting to predictable pattern shifts and modifying your setups will help you connect with a shooter regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you this fall and winter.