November 27, 2019
By Terry Madewell
Weather has a dramatic impact on deer movement. Bad weather can decrease deer movement and decrease how effective you are as a hunter. But for hunters with limited hunting time, staying at home on nasty days is not an option.
Fortunately, tactics exist that not only help hunters cope with bad weather but can turn the bad weather’s influence on deer to the hunter’s advantage.
First, deer will move, just not necessarily in the same places they would on calm or dry days. Rain and wind are normal occurrences in the life of a deer.
They impact the movements of deer but don’t change their lives.
Rainfall impacts deer movements, sometimes in ways that give you an advantage. A light rain with little wind impairs a deer’s sense of hearing but does not overwhelm it. They’ll frequently move out of the bedding areas earlier in the afternoon to the edge lines of cutovers, fields, food plots and into small openings.
In fact, rain at the leading edge of a cold front can result in a period of increased deer movement just prior to the front. Heavy downpours limit deer movement, but when the rain slows to a drizzle I want to be in the stand.
Rain reduces the ability of deer to use their sense of hearing to detect danger: the rain itself is noisy and makes it harder for deer to sort out sounds that might indicate danger. Scent detection is also impaired. That leaves vision as a primary defense and that’s why I like open areas and edges for deer movement during a rain.
Wind is an issue that can also be dealt with based on intensity.
Light winds are seldom an issue; in fact, a steady, light-to-moderate wind is your friend if you set up to play the wind correctly.
Moderate-to-heavy winds reduce a deer’s ability to hear danger. The swaying of trees and other objects impacts a deer’s vision in dense woods. So, hunting open areas and edges where deer do have some benefit of sight protection against predators is one potential remedy.
Scent can also be diluted by high winds and one tactic I use with success is to select a stand where the wind is not only in my favor but is a reasonable distance away from where I expect deer to be. The lee side of a large woodlot can disrupt high winds enough to make a difference and can be a prime place to hunt. Typically I’ll want it to be in a stand where I have a large field of vision, particularly in gun season.
If the land has some topographic relief you can often improve the odds by getting into a creek bottom or “hollow” where the wind is buffered. Deer work these areas because their hearing is improved and objects move less than in the open-wind areas.
The problem for hunters here lies in scent control. The wind in these areas is broken up by the landscape and may shift from one direction to another over the course of a single hunt. Learning to plan for this is a critical skill.
On the land I hunt, I try to plan for windy days and have potential stand locations pre-selected. I’ve always loved climbing stands because they promote adaptability in an instant. A climber used in this instance can be lethal to a big buck. Play the wind as best you can, climb as high as you feel comfortable, and a creek bottom shielded from the brunt of a heavy wind will usually have deer activity. This works for a bow or gun hunter.
One final consideration is hunting in bad weather conditions during the rut.
Some hunters believe enduring the nasty stuff is not efficient because, during the rut, the hunting will still be good “tomorrow.” My thinking is I may not be able to go tomorrow.
By hunting in nasty weather during the rut, I’ve learned that deer are going do what they need to do to make more deer, regardless of the weather. If does are pushed to open areas or creek bottoms because of weather, the bucks will follow. If the bucks follow the does, you can kill the bucks.
Finally, with modern raingear, hunters can hunt in reasonable comfort even in poor weather. Experience has taught me to invest in the good gear. It’s worth it if you’re serious about deer hunting.